From the home office in Greenville, South Carolina, here are
the Top 10 Things I Learned (at Brains on Fire) …
10. Blogging is a Muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.9. Meetings should be used strategically & sparingly.8. No one will die if you leave your laptop at the office.7. Nurture long term client relationships with ideas. (...) The way to keep (things) fresh is to proactively brainstorm and share at least 1 new idea a week with your client. It keeps everyone energized and focused on the future.
6. Like brands with true personality, Popcorn is Polarizing. A lot of great people love it, but certain people find it abhorrent. If no one hates you, chances are no one is moved to be passionate about you either.
5. Sow 10,000 seeds (this was originally a Guy Kawasaki principle). Small gracious acts will (always) come back to benefit you tenfold.
4. There is no greater way to instill ownership than by giving fans a piece of a brand to give away.3. Everything is your brand.2. Don’t be a chameleon. I personally have a bit of a chameleon tendency – I can echo back tone, topics and language of those I am trying to reach or persuade. This is not always a good thing in the agency business. While chameleon behavior can help land new business, staying true to your identity no matter what will attract kindred spirits. Working with partners who have been attracted to you as you truly are is a strong foundation for long term success.
1. Have fun. Fun is contagious and attractive. All things being equal, people will always chose to work with people who are having fun.
"It's always possible to find a reason to stay put, to skip an opportunity, or to decline an offer. And yet, in retrospect, it's hard to remember why we said no and easy to wish that we had said yes.
"The thing is, we still live in a world that's filled with opportunity. In fact, we have more than an opportunity -- we have an obligation. An obligation to spend our time doing great things. To find ideas that matter and to share them. To push ourselves and the people around us to demonstrate gratitude, insight, and inspiration. To take risks and to make the world better by being amazing.
"Are these crazy times? You bet they are. But so were the days when we were doing duck-and-cover air-raid drills in school, or going through the scares of Three Mile Island and Love Canal. There will always be crazy times.
"So stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand. There has never been a worse time for business as usual. Business as usual is sure to fail, sure to disappoint, sure to numb our dreams. That's why there has never been a better time for the new. Your competitors are too afraid to spend money on new productivity tools. Your bankers have no idea where they can safely invest. Your potential employees are desperately looking for something exciting, something they feel passionate about, something they can genuinely engage in and engage with.
"You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It's never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment -- just one second -- to decide.
"Before you finish this paragraph, you have the power to change everything that's to come. And you can do that by asking yourself (and your colleagues) the one question that every organization and every individual needs to ask today: Why not be great?"
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How America Lost the War on Drugs, a history of the United States government's efforts to stop its citizens from using illegal substances, primarily crack, heroin, and methamphetamines. Quite long but worth the read.
"All told, the United States has spent an estimated $500 billion to fight drugs - with very little to show for it. Cocaine is now as cheap as it was when Escobar died and more heavily used. Methamphetamine, barely a presence in 1993, is now used by 1.5 million Americans and may be more addictive than crack. We have nearly 500,000 people behind bars for drug crimes - a twelvefold increase since 1980 - with no discernible effect on the drug traffic."
It's not that hard to see how things got off the rails here. Dealing with the supply of drugs is ineffective (it's too lucrative for people to stop selling and too easy to find countries which seek to profit from it) but provides the illusion of action while attacking the problem from the demand side, which appears to be more effective, comes with messy and complex social problems. What a waste. The bits about meth & the lobbying efforts by the pharmaceutical industry and the medical marijuana crackdowns are particularly maddening.
Logic: "We're spending almost $200K on this new tagline and mission statement! Of course we'll see some results!"
This kind of reminds me of some of the political solutions you sometimes find in failing companies with deep pockets - like hiring some high-priced Marketing "consultant" to rewrite the Mission Statement and the company tagline while pretending that the more money is spent on the project, the more likely it is to have positive impact on the company's bottom-line.
I am not making this up. Here's more:
"In August and September, as his company is racking up the largest quarterly loss in its 93-year history, Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal squeezes in 20 rounds of golf, including three rounds on three different courses in a single day. In October, O'Neal announces his "retirement," walking away with a compensation package valued at $161.5 million."
"Just hours after US Airways comes up short in its $9.8 billion bid to acquire Delta, CEO Doug Parker is pulled over by police in Scottsdale, and arrested for drunken driving."
"In July, as Bear Stearns executives futilely attempt to prop up two hedge funds that ultimately collapse amid the subprime meltdown, CEO James Cayne spends ten of 21 workdays out of the office, playing golf and competing in a bridge tournament in Tennessee. According to The Wall Street Journal, his fellow bridge enthusiasts claim that Cayne sometimes smokes marijuana at the end of tournament sessions."
"John Griffin, CEO of a Livermore, Calif., startup, pockets about $750,000 of seed capital after lying to investors lured by the company's promise to develop a "dirt eater" to clean toxic soil. After reportedly spending the money on such necessities as a Ferrari, Super Bowl tickets, and steroids, Griffin is sentenced to 30 months in prison. The name of the startup: VaporTech."
'"I like Mackey's haircut. I think he looks cute." -- Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, posting under the screen name Rahodeb, on a Yahoo Finance stock forum. The Federal Trade Commission reveals that Mackey authored this and numerous other posts over an eight-year period, hyping his company and himself while trashing the competitor he hoped to acquire, Wild Oats. "
"HBO President Chris Albrecht allegedly punches and chokes his girlfriend while drunk at 3 A.M. in a Las Vegas parking lot. "
"In July, bankrupt Northwest Airlines begins laying off thousands of ground
workers, but not before issuing some of them a handy guide, "101 Ways to Save
Money." The advice includes dumpster diving ("Don't be shy about pulling
something you like out of the trash"), making your own baby food, shredding old
newspapers for use as cat litter, and taking walks in the woods as a low-cost
"After Bank of America announces plans to outsource 100 tech support jobs from the San Francisco Bay Area to India, the American workers are told that they must train their own replacements in order to receive their severance payments."
"In April, just nine months after a Business 2.0 cover story trumpets the wisdom of Raytheon CEO William Swanson and his folksy hit book, Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management, a San Diego engineer makes a shocking discovery: 17 of Swanson's 33 rules are similar - and in some cases identical - to those in The Unwritten Rules of Engineering, a 1944 text by UCLA professor W.J. King. While conceding that he failed to give proper credit, Swanson insists he didn't intend to plagiarize, suggesting that old photocopied material may have wound up in his "scraps." By way of punishment, Raytheon's board freezes Swanson's salary at its 2005 level of $1.1 million and cuts his restricted stock grant by 20 percent.""In April, while under investigation for allegedly establishing a slush fund to bribe public officials, Chung Mong-Koo, chairman of South Korea's Hyundai-Kia Motor Group, says "I am sorry" more than 30 times during a brief encounter with reporters. To make amends, Chung and son Chung Eui-Sun, president of Kia Motors, offer to donate $1 billion to charity. Spirit of giving notwithstanding, Chung Mong-Koo is jailed for two months and tried on charges of misappropriating hundreds of millions of dollars.""Dodging investors angry over the pay received by Home Depot chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli, who took home at least $120 million over five years as the company's stock price dropped 12 percent, Home Depot's board fails to show up at its annual shareholders meeting. The session is presided over solely by Nardelli, who sidesteps all questions ("This is not the forum in which we would address your comment") and cuts the meeting short after half an hour. The event's negative fallout, highlighted by demonstrators wearing chicken costumes and orange Home Depot aprons, leads Nardelli to announce days later that, for next year's meeting, "we will return to our traditional format ... with the board of directors in attendance." Nardelli resigns in early January, walking away with another $210 million in severance.""In the midst of corporate America's scandal du jour - the backdating of stock options to enrich company executives - the Wall Street Journal discovers that William McGuire, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, received options on dates coinciding with the company's lowest share prices of 1997, 1999, and 2000. After a company inquiry finds backdating to have been "likely" (the odds of this happening by chance are around 1 in 200 million), McGuire steps down and agrees to give up about $200 million in proceeds.""In an effort to top UnitedHealth in the annals of backdating, executives at Comverse Technology are alleged not only to have backdated their own options but to have invented fake employees to receive grants as well. In a 35-count federal indictment, prosecutors claim that CEO Jacob Alexander used a slush fund under the name I.M. Fanton to make awards as he saw fit. Alexander flees the country but is taken into custody in Namibia after a six-week international manhunt.""Not to be outdone by UnitedHealth and Comverse, cable-TV operator Cablevision Systems admits in a regulatory filing that it granted stock options to a corpse. The company awarded the rights to purchase thousands of shares to former vice chairman Marc Lustgarten, despite the fact that he died in 1999; the options included provisions that allowed them to pass to his estate.""After leading videogame-console startup Gizmondo to nearly $400 million in losses and a bankruptcy filing, edgy entrepreneur Stefan Eriksson wrecks his $1 million Ferrari Enzo in a crash in Malibu in February.Eriksson tests above the blood-alcohol limit but tells police that he wasn't driving, and that the driver, "Dietrich," ran into the hills after the crash. It's soon discovered that Eriksson's wrecked Enzo is actually owned by a British bank, and two more cars he claims to own, another Enzo and a Mercedes McLaren, have been reported stolen in England. Eriksson pleads no contest to embezzlement and drunk driving charges and is sentenced to three years in jail.""Former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin - whose compensation from salary, bonuses, and stock grants totaled several million dollars per year - is discovered to have cooked up fraudulent expense invoices in a scam to siphon off $500,000 over the course of seven years. Coughlin, who reportedly told enabling subordinates that he was using the funds for a secret antiunion initiative, pleads guilty and is sentenced to more than two years of home confinement.""Mike Smith, mayor of New Lenox, Ill., pays a $1,462 tab at a strip club with his official village credit card. By way of explanation, he says none of the other attendees had the means to pay the bill."
A couple of weeks ago we were following the latest viral marketing campaign online for The Dark Knight pretty closely. An online version of the fictional newspaper The Gotham Times arrived and was followed by numerous websites, including a defaced Joker version of the paper called The Ha Ha Ha Times and even a website for the Gotham City Rail with a subway map of the city. This whole campaign is on the other end of the spectrum of the teaser poster - this stuff is absolutely brilliant. I followed up on this whole viral campaign earlier today and discovered I'd missed something HUGE! The Joker has been recruiting, and I mean quite realistically!
After the bevy of new websites came online and messages started appearing where the result was to wait a number of days, most of us lost the ability to keep track of everything going on. Well a few hardcore fans have been keeping track and they've got one hell of reward - they're now members of Joker's army. This reminds me of the that scene in the Matrix, where Neo gets that phone from the FedEx envelope and it rings right away. Except this is real life folks.
On December 3rd a new page appeared at whysoserious.com/steprightup with a hammer game and some teddy bear toys. Each toy had an address on it located in a number of cities around the US. The note on the game told people to go to that address and say their name was "Robin Banks" (get it, "Robbing Banks") and they'd get something there. It was first come, first serve, and each location was a bakery. What they were given was a cake with a phone number written on it. Now here's the best part: inside the cake was an evidence bag (complete with Gotham City Police printing) that contained a cell phone, a charger, a Joker playing card and a note with instructions.
"Wow. You really took the cake! Now put the icing on it. Call [number] immediately from this phone and this phone only. Do not give this phone number to anyone else.
Let's hope your fellow goons come through as well as you. Once all the layers are in place, you'll all get your just desserts. I'm a man of my word."
When the person called the number, a lady answered from Rent-a-Clown to thank the caller. Apparently she said she knew who the caller was and then after hanging up, they received a text message. It read:
"Good work, clown! Keep this phone charged and with you at all times. Don't call me. I will call you … eventually."
If you can believe it, the Joker now has real, live people recruited to his army sitting with a phone awaiting his call. I thought this stuff only happened IN movies, not FOR movies!
Additionally, once all the cakes were handed out, a new page was linked where users can sign-up to receive a free screening pass on Thursday night at 7PM to see I Am Legend in IMAX which will include the first 7-minutes of The Dark Knight that was filmed specifically for IMAX. Another link also revealed the first teaser poster.
My first reaction to all of this: HOLY SHIT! That is the coolest thing I have ever seen in terms of viral marketing! They've got people armed with cell phones ready to go out and do whatever the Joker asks. Now I'm just frustrated that I wasn't keeping up with this close enough to grab the cake and cell phone from Denver. However, now I'm armed and ready the moment another clue comes up (at any time of the day) to head out and be the first one.
This viral marketing for The Dark Knight is really getting quite "real" and I mean that it is really picking up and getting tangible. I can't wait to see what happens next! There's still 7 months until the movie even comes out!! Thanks quite a bit to HollywoodChicago.com for the photos and info on this.
The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins, is directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Prestige) and co-written by Christopher Nolan, his brother Jonathan, and David S. Goyer. The movie arrives in theaters next summer on July 18th, 2008.
6. Club Penguin (wtf?!?!?!)
8. Heroes (NBC)
10. Anna Nicole Smith
(Visibly absent from the list were Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and the rest of the "make bail by noon" celebutante gang.)
Compare this to the 2001 list (the first from Google):
3. World Trade Center
4. Harry Potter
6. Windows XP (woohoo!!!)
7. Osama Bin Laden
10. Loft Story
Good bye Nostradamus, harbinger of doom and gloom! Hello iPhone, prophet of the second coming of the Digital Age in My Pocket.™ And oh yes, I'm happy to see you too. So long CNN, harbinger of news tickers and dumbified news! Welcome Webkinz, you stuffed rascal that connects to a social networking site you! World Trade Center? Unless it appears in TMZ next to Nicholas Cage and his wig, I say no! And screw that flying broomstick and get me drag queen transforming truckers on YouTube.
I mean, is this really what tickles the human race? Who can possibly remember stupid TV reality shows like Loft Story, Osama and the Talibans when we can entertain ourselves with MySpace, Facebook and Club Penguin? For shame! I would rather play topless Wii. [Reuters and Google]
Retailers and marketers rejoice: You have our complete and undivided attention. Every single item on the list is a brand name (yes, even ANS). Well played.
Mother Theresa and Al Gore, sorry: War, famine, poverty, terrorism, substance abuse, ethnic cleansing, corruption, pandemics and the slow choking death of our little blue planet aren't cool enough to grab our attention anymore.
For better or for worse, I think brands can pretty-much claim victory in the bandwidth war - at least this past year.
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