Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Great Example of an Ideavirus

I just finished reading marketing guru Seth Godin's manifesto Unleashing the Ideavirus (you can download it here), probably one of the most relevant pieces on marketing ever written. While reading it, I thought of a great example of a successful Ideavirus.

I'm sure by now everybody on Facebook is familiar with the application Mafia Wars, an application created by Zynga. The growth of this application has made it one of the most popular on Facebook ever. After reading Seth's thoughts, I understand why.

First, Mafia Wars was without a doubt remarkable (worth remarking about). How many other things do you have going on in your life that allowed you to pretend you are a mafia kingpin- killing, maiming, and extorting money?

Second, the application was incredibly viral. Every time you log in to the application, it gives you a prompt to "invite people to your mafia." This turned its users into promiscuous sneezers spreading the ideavirus for their own personal gain. The more people you invite, the bigger your mafia got and thus the more powerful your mob became. This scalability of Mafia Wars made it so that the more people that joined Mafia Wars, the better the individual user experience became.

Third, it had a hive with a definite vector. It became big with college kids first who then gradually started running out of people to invite, so they started inviting family and friends who were out of college, bringing Mafia Wars across the early adopters chasm to the general public.

Fourth, it had a great amplifier, Facebook. 'Nuff said...

Fifth, it was incredible persistent. People logged on more than once a day (I was one of them) to use their points and check their bank account. Foolish yes, but persistent, definitely.

Sixth, and probably most importantly, Mafia Wars traveled through a virtual vacuum. There were other applications you could download on Facebook, but none that allowed you maim your friends and amass a fake fortune. Utter genius.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Emotional Intelligence

It seems today's corporate cultures often frown upon emotions in the workplace while 'objectivity' is prized. Probably because emotions are some of the most misunderstood things we experience, and where there is uncertainty there is a perceived element of risk. The very essence of emotions is what drives us, gives us passion, and integrity. So why do we as a culture take something that is evolutionarily hardwired into us for granted? Why do we squelch the very things that pervade through all human beings everywhere?

A new term being thrown around today in the corporate world is Emotional Intelligence. In fact, some employers are starting to adopt standardized testing to assign an E.I.Q (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) in order to assess their potential employees. However, knowing your EIQ doesn't help you raise it. How do you study for a test that you don't know the content of? There's a disconnect here on what people are being tested on and showing them how to prepare for it.

The fact of the matter is emotions are a biofeedback system. They are a set of neurological electrochemical signals that change our state and resulting physiology. Their sole purpose is to serve as a assessment system as to how we are interpreting our reality. Emotions are not to be squelched because they tell us whether we are moving towards or away from what we want in our lives.

Humans operate off of the simple fact that they gravitate away from things that cause them pain and towards things that cause them pleasure. Our emotions are an assessment as to if we are moving towards our goals (pleasure) or away from them (pain).

In Anthony Robbins' Awaken the Giant, he provides an excellent description about 10 call to action emotions people experience on a regular basis. These emotions tell us valuable information about our actions and how we are perceiving the situation. I thought I would share them here with you.

1) Discomfort - (impatience, mild embarassment, boredom) Message: How you're perceiving things is off or actions taken are not producing results you want. Solution: Change how you think about things or change the actions you are taking.

2) Fear - (anxiety, worry, nerves) Message: anticipation of something that may happen that could cause pain. Solution: Preparation is key. Prepare yourself mentally and physically to deal with the situation at hand. Come up with multiple solutions to increase confidence and diminish the intensity of the fear.

3) Hurt - Message: expectations have not been met and a feeling of loss is at hand. Solution: Ask yourself if something has really been lost and if the person is really trying to hurt you. Know also that your expectations are not the expectations everybody lives by. Change your expectations of others and maybe communicate calmly to the person why you're upset. Try to understand their side.

4) Anger - Message: An important rule or standard you live by has been violated by someone else. Solution: Perceive the situation differently and know that everybody does not hold themselves to the same standards. Communicate your standard to the person and find out the motivation for their actions.

5) Frustration - Message: you believe you could be doing better than you are. Solution: Be excited about the learning that is to come. Find out other possible solutions or seek a mentor. Also know that you are so close to reaching it which is why you are experiencing this.

6) Disappointment - Message: a goal or an expectation that you have is probably not going to happen. Solution: Change your immediate expectations or break the larger goal down to smaller goals. See what you can learn from the situation. Also it may be too early to judge. Develop patience and evaluate your approach and procedure. Helfpul quote: "God's delays are not God's denials."

7) Guilt - Message: you have violated a high standard that you hold yourself to. Solution: Evaluate what standard you violated and commit to not violating it again. Once you have committed, you may release the feeling of guilt, do not wallow in it.

8) Inadequacy - Message: you do not presently have the skills, knowledge, or tools to deal with the task at hand. Solution: Evaluate if the standard you are holding yourself to is too high at the moment. Lower your immediate expectations and begin to search for ways to improve. Untrained or unskilled does not translate to unable.

9) Overwhelmed - (grief or depression) Message: you are trying to deal with too much, too fast, and all at once. Solution: Reevaluate whats most important to you and prioritize what to deal with first. As you begin to conquer one problem, your brain will gain momentum which will make each subsequent task easier and easier. Change your focus from what you can't change to what you can change.

10) Loneliness - Message: you require a connection with another person, often to objectively confirm or reject a belief or attitude. Solution: You can reach out anytime, there are caring people everywhere. Identify what your needs are: intimacy? friendship? To laugh? Recognize that loneliness is the showing of your true belief that you care about people and need them in your life.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Net Present Value of Integrity

I read in a Yahoo news column today that sports marketing expert Robert Tuchman walked through an airport a few days ago and saw what he calls surreal: an Accenture billboard advertisement with Tiger Woods. Around it, people joking about it and taking pictures. The whole thing Tiger Woods is going through is actually quite remarkable. Not in the sense of infidelity, but in the value of integrity.

The Dalai Lama once mentioned in a book he wrote about the law of interdependency, commonly referred to as "the butterfly effect." Its the idea that seemingly unrelated phenomena are actually inextricably linked together. Its interesting to see how this phenomena is playing out in this situation. Two seemingly unrelated aspects of Tiger Woods' life affecting one another. He cheats on his wife, he loses sponsership. Wow! It seems a butterfly somewhere is flapping its wings...

There is something the rest of us can take out of Tiger Woods' admitted mistake. Its the fact that our integrity does have value (in Tiger Woods' case, his was worth millions) and we should treat it and care for it the way a business coddles its brand. In every decision we make, we need to evaluate how this is going to affect our personal brand and how an outsider may perceive it.

Any business owner knows the hard work that goes into building brand equity. Building a brand is comparable to pushing a boulder up a hill with a cliff on the other side, you need to be careful and calculate your moves because any slip up could send you right back to where you started or worse. We need to calculate our moves in building our character just as precisely as a business builds its brand.

Luckily, Tiger didn't lose everything and will return to greatness soon enough. He just needs some time to get his priorities straight.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Root Of All Genius

Malcolm Gladwell said is his book Outliers that genius is the passionate love that a person has for a particular activity, that through their efforts and permutatations, inevitably tranforms the activity itself for all those who follow. He makes a point in an interview with Robert Krulwich of NPR that people are always quick to regard genius as a result of immense talent. Gladwell says that though talent is an integral part of genius, it is by no means the end-all, be-all of genius. I would like to take this even further to say that natural born talent is not necessary at all. After all, Elvis Presley at first was told by a record station owner to stick to truck driving because his musical talent was awful.

I would like to give a glimpse into the root of all genius and say that the very element of genius itself seems to always come in the form of being a substitution for love and intimacy. Examples include Michael Jackson, Mozart, and Beethoven just to name a few. If you look at the childlife of these geniuses, they were constantly either beaten or neglected by their parents, which had a profound effect on their psychology. They substituted the love of an activity for the love they needed to express to a human being. Their expression through their chosen activity resulted in a conditioned response of feelings of love and intimacy that they lacked from others.

A troubled homelife isn't always the case, this love and intimacy substitution can come from something such as not fitting in with other kids or being an outcast. This lack of social calibration causes outward displays of love to be rejected and thus not returned.

The basic need of a human being to feel accepted and loved is vital to our social nature. When it is rejected, people often turn to a form of mental masturbation, a form of self-pleasure by engaging in an activity. This constant engagement in the activity serves as an outlet for these repressed feelings and inevitably produces feelings of love as a conditioned response.

The greatest modern day example of this would be Lady Gaga. In interviews, she always said when she was younger she always felt like a freak and didn't fit in with other kids in high school. Therefore, as a result of social rejection, she turned to music as an outlet which became the activity that produced a conditioned response of feelings of love and intimacy for her.

But being social creatures, what purpose does 'genius' ability serve? Does this mean in tribal days, those who didn't fit in were cast out of society and left to die in the wilderness? Or could it be that genius serves a societal function after all?

I think that 'genius' is an evolutionary response to social awkwardness. If we place ourselves in the position of a socially awkward person in a tribe of twelve people approximately 20,000 years ago, our inability to socialize could inevitably have lead to us not being able to find a mate. Because we are unable to gain the social value of being accepted into a group, finding a mate would be inexplicably hard because if someone within the tribe were to mate with us, they too would be outcasted.

Therefore, as a survival mechanism the brain uses love/intimacy substitution within a specific activity in order for that person to get their needed feelings of love/intimacy. In the process of this, the person becomes well practiced and masterful within that activity, which thus translates into a huge amount of social value because of their usefulness and thus possible acceptance from the tribe.

I think it'd be safe to say that Lady Gaga doesn't feel so outcasted anymore...

Monday, December 7, 2009

If You Plan on Making a Clothing Line, Don't Sell It Cheap.

Watching Cramer on CNBC talk to the CEO of Macy's and some designer named Rachel. She mentioned something about catering to the demographic that can't afford Prada or some expensive brand...I kinda tuned out a second, but it got me thinking about cheap clothes.

As a designer, why would you market your clothes to WalMart or Target? Has anybody remembered the clothing brand of anything they've bought from these places? It just seems self defeating, how do you expect do develop any sort of brand equity among consumers if the only thing you compete on is price? The next thing that comes along that's a dollar cheaper gets you ousted in the mind of the buyer...

If I had a clothing line, I'd use the finest quality materials, jack the prices and do a lower volume. The sales over time would be more predictable because the people who would be buying it would be repeat customers. I say this because if they're willing to pay the high price, they're going to rationalize the purchase to themselves as being worth it, generating repeat business and word of mouth. All this works to pump my brand equity and start the cycle all over again. Yahtzee...

The think a lot of designers have the post-hoc fallacy that selling cheaper clothes to frugal people would be an easier sale than expensive clothes to the affluent. Its not, and I think its just the opposite. If you want proof of this just go into a Bloomingdales and watch the numbers fly. Their clientele will drop a $1000 on one piece of clothing like they're buying bubble gum. Not to mention, if I want to make $1000 profit, what's easier, making one sale at $1000 or a hundred sales at $10?

Methinks we may be rethinking our pricing structures...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Psychology of Advertising

Saturday morning, it just stopped raining as I waited it out so I could walk down the street to the gym. Problem now is that I've been sitting still for two hours feel like a sloth. So I needed to start moving around and getting pumped up.

I figured some music might help me, so I put on something on YouTube while I stretched out and jumped around. As I was waiting for the song to load, a STUPID advertisement for some GMC truck came on and wasted 15 seconds of my time. It wasn't long but it felt like an eternity. It wasn't until the end of the advertisement that I realized something...

Yesterday I read an article about how Cadillac is having problems shaking the stereotypes American consumers have about their brand. First it was a car for people between the ages of 80 and deceased, then it became the iconic ride of pimps all over the world. They further whored out their brand when they offered the Escalade to cater to this demographic. They recently just fired their advertising firm because they weren't able to change the public's perception of the brand with the new "sexy" commercials.

The problem is as simple as the advertisement I just saw. It seems that GM is anchoring negative feelings to their brand. I already think that GM cars are crap quality (from family members transmissions being fried on multiple occasions) and their advertising scheme is just putting them into a deeper sinkhole. I heard their quality is getting better, but I'm the general public and we're always justified for the feeling the way I feel.

The whole point of advertising is to anchor positive feelings to a product or service. This is why Coca-Cola is sponsoring the World Cup in 2010 because they want to anchor the feelings of excitement and celebration to their brand. Its also why advertisers pay millions of dollars to advertise during the Superbowl, because the emotional ROI is priceless.

So what did GMC accomplish by advertising to me on YouTube? They've managed to frustrate and piss me off and successfully anchor those feelings to an already tarnished brand. Awesome...

My advice to GM and the other American auto companies is this. If you want to change the public perception of your brand, advertise to us when we need a break from something positively intense. Advertise to us at weddings, parades, or maybe even AFTER the YouTube song has finished playing. At least then you'll be taking the positive feelings I just got from listening to Michael Jackson and some how associating it to what you're about to show me, albeit on a subliminal level.

Now its back to Michael Jackson (Ghosts is HAHT!), and off to the gym...