Thursday, December 31, 2009

How to Perform Occult Rituals on Frogs and the Occasional Princess

The Princess and the Frog: Not at All a Re-telling of the Beloved Fairytale, but Rather a Beautifully Animated Infomercial on How to Start a Career in Black Magic and Be Your Own Voodoo Priest. With an Occasional Princess.”

I saw The Princess and the Frog with my wife and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. We went with friends who had three daughters. I had already been warned that the movie was “going back to Disney’s roots” and that it was a little “over the head” of the carefully targeted young, purchase-decision driving Disney audience.

Many key plot drivers were missing throughout the show and I was often left wondering and confused. I wasn’t confused at any moment about WHAT was going on in the movie, but I often wondered WHY it was going on. Some of those questions include:

  • Why is the prince making deals with a voodoo priest?
  • Why is the prince’s servant suddenly such a willing accomplice in fraud, kidnapping, deception and eventual attempted homocide?
  • Why is this kid’s movie telling me so much about how to work voodoo magic, make deals with evil spirits and otherwise begin my own practice in the dark arts?

This last question occurred time and time again during various voodoo magic scenes in the movie where I saw beautiful animated sequences set to catchy songs filled with chorus girls and colorful flashing lights while characters performed blood rituals, fortune telling and otherwise sold their souls to the underworld. I kept tapping my feet and fighting the urge to shout, “Boy, black magic sure looks fun!”

At least there was an overt moral lesson near the end of the movie where the voodoo practitioner’s soul is violently, albeit colorfully, harvested by his demonic overlords. A valuable scene that clearly states to viewers of all ages, “Black magic isn’t ALL fun and games.”

On the ride home, while curtly checking the offspring over for signs of long-term mental and emotional injury, I determined she survived unscathed. I believe her two-year-old mind was confused during the film as well, but her recurring questions may have been more along the lines of:

  • Why aren’t there more princesses?
  • Why are we watching these boring frogs so much?
  • And What happened to the princesses?

Interrupted by the occasional thought, “When Genie did magic in Aladdin, he did it without human blood, voodoo dolls or apparent soul bargaining. Was that even REAL magic or was it just pretend?”

My overall rating for the movie is 3 and a half shrunken head voodoo talismans on a scale of five shrunken head voodoo talismans.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tony Hawk Wants to be Your Friend

Are you lonely? Unpopular? Looking for a world-famous, professional athlete to hang out with? Do you have a couple of extra grand you're willing to spend for a friend? Then Keep Reading!

For $2,000, professional skateboarder and videogame character Tony Hawk will call you, answer any question you have or change the outgoing message on your voicemail. For a little more, he will go Go-Kart racing with you, play mini golf, escort you to Disneyland, or even show up at your school.

From his website
“For the first time ever, you can spend the day with Tony Hawk and his friends in some of the most unique places. The Tony Hawk Experience is your exclusive opportunity to have a personal experience with you and your friends with the world's most famous action sports figure and to benefit the Tony Hawk Foundation while you do it.”

This is Genius! Professional athletes and celebrities have been doing things like this for years. It is typically labeled under something foggy like "Guest Appearance," includes a hefty appearance fee, and is trafficked through their agent. But most people don't know about it or think of it. The brilliance behind what Tony Hawk is doing is that it is posted as a prominent link on his website. He is putting it right out in front of his audience! Hawk recognizes that fame is directly tied to having fans, and he is offering himself up to those fans in the places they spend the most time - the internet.

Tony Hawk's online popularity, augmented by the release of his 11th video game title, is evidenced by his more than 1.4 million Twitter followers, ranking him 24th most popular on the site. It is the old maxim of "Go Where Your Fans Are" and he is using his fame to augment his fame. The more kids that can afford his phone calls and Go Kart races, the more people will be buzzing about him online, the more video games he will sell, and the more kids will pay for his phone calls and Go Kart races. It's a vicious circle.

My favorite is this for $75,000 - “I will pick you up at LAX in my 620hp Jeep SRT and we will visit cliché tourist spots” around L.A. That's a bargain, folks. I would charge you at least twice that and I'd pick you up in a Honda Accord.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

26% of People Don't Know What Twitter Is

I joined Twitter on 27 June 2007. When I first got there, it was a fairly empty place and I left after just a few minutes. My first tweet, like so many others', was something like:

Since that fateful day, I have watched as many others jumped on board the Twitter Train and made it "mainstream." People like Robert Scoble and Guy Kawasaki and Oprah. Here I made a chart:

So with all this new press, the internet is becoming full of articles touting "why Twitter is a great new social media site." But I want to draw attention to what Twitter REALLY is.

"Social Media Site" is the term invented for MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Orkut and others to describe online networks where you create a profile and fill it with pictures and quotes and articles and friends. Social Media Sites were built on the idea of mutual friendship and willingness to exchange information. They are the most recent step away from the long-held traditional media pattern of broadcast communication of the few to the many. Now, with Social Media Sites, people, including bands, brands, and companies, are communicating one-to-one.

Well, Twitter is not a Social Media Site. It is not a static page consisting of a user-defined profile stocked with photos, quotes, links, and lists of friends. The very protocol defies the Social Media standard. You do not "Friend" or "Add" on Twitter. You "Follow." There is no implied reciprocation. The list of people that you follow on Twitter is much more akin to the traditional media measurement of viewers or "eyeballs." And we are again using a broadcast medium, the few to the many. If this were MySpace or Facebook, the numbers for "Following" and "Followers" would all be equal. (i.e. - "Friends follow each other"). Instead they look like this:
Those ratios defy the one-to-one idea of Social Media and are akin to the one-to-many target numbers of several forms of traditional media. So what is Twitter?

Twitter is the fastest form of user-generated broadcast media.

I found this last week by Stan Schroeder on Mashable: "Yes, we all know that Twitter is great for tracking conversations. [However, there’s also] been a lot of talk that its biggest strength is precisely its search. But sometimes it’s hard to fathom just how important this is. Google is the biggest entity on the Internet. It is synonymous with “search”. It feels like it’s been around forever. It is also not able to compete with Twitter."

He does not say that Google can't compete with MySpace or Facebook. Google owns a Social Media Site. What Schroeder says is that people are using Twitter as an ALTERNATIVE to Google. A peer-to-peer, unmonetized, predominantly unarbitrated search alternative in order to quickly gather information. This is not a new Social Media Site. This is a passing-of-power in the broadcast media field.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A True Universal Profile

Uh-oh for the King and Queen of Social Media Sites, now Google is looking for a non-proprietary way for people to join and create social networks. In the article Google Wants To Be Your Universal Profile Too..., Stan Schroeder explains how Google's “Friend Connect” service will make online profiles completely portable.

Here's Google's own explanatory video and Schroeder's definition:

"Friend Connect is a tool which enables any website owner to add some code to their site and get a number of social features. You know, all that stuff you usually can’t be bothered to install plugins for: user registration, invites, members gallery, reviews, message posting, and - most importantly - third party OpenSocial apps.

In practice, this means that anyone will be able to log in, for example, with their OpenID on some blog, and converse with their Gtalk, Facbeook, or Plaxo friends. The web as a platform, it’s finally happening, folks."

The idea of an Open Web is not without opposition. Zuckerburg's Facebook again shows its monopolistic bent by obstructing Google's initial launch of the service. So, in the battle to control the newest online medium, while Facebook and MySpace square-off over proprietary profile info, Google leaps both by creating a universal profile open app. The future of social media may be in another Google mashup. To truly achieve the effect of rubbing their noses in it, I think they should call it "MyFace" or "SpaceBook".

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Future of Social Networking Sites

The Future of Social Networking Sites is that most of the Social Networking Sites Have No Future. MySpace and Facebook have battled for new users, climbing up the demographic food chain. MySpace has struggled to hide the migration of their user-base over to Zuckerburg's much more hip interactive site. All the while, the giants of online have been eyeing the now-established online phenom and have plotted their own fast-track into the social media cash pool.


Much like XM and Sirius, this will become a market where only one can survive. Social media users have watched as the two majors, MySpace and Facebook, each reporting over 65 million U.S. monthly viewers, revamped their user profiles and interactive applications into a strikingly similar format. Both now incorporate FriendFeeds, both incorporate (limited) customizable layout options, and both feature a Twitter-like status update.

Facebook boldly steps towards the next obvious plateau in social media networks, the Universal Profile. Rather than creating multiple individual profiles or even cutting and pasting your favorite quotes, pictures, and About Me's from one site to the next, you will be able to create one profile and export it across platforms. Right now, Facebook only offers this feature with "partner sites" (see highlight), but soon it will have to expand the service to their top competitors, like MySpace, Bebo and Google's Orkut.

What Facebook says about its new Exportable Profile:
Real Identity
Facebook users represent themselves with their real names and real identities. With Facebook Connect, users can bring their real identity information with them wherever they go on the Web, including: basic profile information, profile picture, name, friends, photos, events, groups, and more.

Friend Linking
People count on Facebook to stay connected to their friends and family. With Facebook Connect, they can take their friends with them wherever they go on the Web. Developers can add rich social context to their sites. Developers even can dynamically show which of their Facebook friends already have accounts on their sites.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Who You Need to Run a Company

I have heard it too many times to even know if this needs sourced, but you need three things to run a successful company:
  1. The Right People
  2. Product(s)/Service(s) that Customers Want
  3. Customers
Although all three are worthy of a blog post (and have been written about ad nauseum) I want to write my current ideas on the 1st one. Who are the Right People?

I believe that every company really needs people who fill these five roles:
  • Idea Guy
  • Legal Guy
  • Numbers Guy
  • Sales Guy
  • Get Stuff Done Guy
Now, I don't believe these need to be five different guys (or even "guys" at all, so don't get hung up on the gender-specific pronoun, obviously these can be girls, too). What I DO believe is that these skill sets need to be represented in the company leadership or out-sourced to someone that can handle it competently. Here is what each role should be bringing to the table:

Idea Guy needs to have strategic long-term thinking. This would be a Marketing or Strategic Planning title at a big company. Someone with vision and lots of imagination. He sees opportunities in places that other people haven't even thought to look. When you're like, "What about an online video contest?" he's already saying "And they can call in on their mobile phones and vote for their favorites-- for $1.99 per call. Bam! Digital revenue stream."

Legal Guy needs to love the law. He gets fired up about reading contracts, licensing, intellectual property ins-and-outs and any print smaller than 10 point font. Legal documents, IP/patents, and law suits are a common part of business today, so someone at your company needs to love it. LOVE IT!

Numbers Guy should also be Spreadsheet Guy. He doesn't just like tables, charts and numbers, he has general ledgers printed on his bedsheets. This guy understands that money is making money even when it isn't creating revenue from assets. He does percentages and long-division in his head, can give your company's current cost per sale ratio in his sleep, and feels physical pleasure when the monthly account balances just right.

Sales Guy is your best friend and your worst enemy. He knows everyone and would rather be on the phone or in a meeting than working alone on his projects. Don't ask him to do paper work, just let him create relationships and get other people excited about what your company does. The people who are best at this are True Rainmakers, not salesman-types looking for a quick deal or taking advantage of customers.

Get Stuff Done Guy is the Executor. It needs done, he finds a way to get it done. He is to a Gantt Chart as a 13-year-old girl is to WhateverLife. Put him in charge of your projects, your staff or your whole company and he will make sure it all gets done within scope, on time and under budget. Do you need to have a presence at a trade show in Albuquerque in 3 days? Give it to this guy and get out of the way.

In this essay by Paul Graham, he refers to Good People as "Animals" and illustrates them as: "A salesperson who just won't take no for an answer; a hacker who will stay up till 4:00 AM rather than go to bed leaving code with a bug in it; a PR person who will cold-call New York Times reporters on their cell phones; a graphic designer who feels physical pain when something is two millimeters out of place."

I think he's on the right track. I would call these people Passionate, but that's because I'm a soft/squishy Idea Guy and not a hardline Sales Guy or a straight-shooting Numbers Guy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Marketing and Passion

Yesterday a co-worker asked me how I became so passionate about marketing. The answer to the "How" question was rather boring: 4 years in undergrad, 2 masters programs, 5 years in corporate marketing with brands like Home Depot, Rubbermaid and Georgia-Pacific...

But the interesting answer is to the question he didn't ask: "Why am I so passionate about marketing?" Here is my answer to the unasked question:

- Because I love the psychology of buying; answering "Why do we purchase the things we do?" and "What makes this non-necessity item more desirable than another?"

- Because the symbols of the products and services we buy become more important than the Prod/Svcs themselves.

- Because "Consuming" is today's Socio-political Religion. Like the Ancient Greek, who identified a fellow worshipper of Athena by the image of an owl or an olive branch, today's Versace-wearer or Porsche-driver can quickly identify others of similar lifestyle and belief system.

- Because we are living in the era of the shift from Professional Advertising to Authentic Promoting. This excites me to no end. I have blogged before that consumers are no longer waiting around for Madison Avenue to identify the next must-have product, as they did four decades ago. Today, we each turn to our peers, to other people that we know and like--that we identify with--to gather opinions on the products that we choose to purchase.

Seth Godin said yesterday: "It's quite possible that the era of the professional reviewer is over. No longer can a single individual (except maybe Oprah) make a movie, a restaurant or a book into a hit or a dud. Not only can an influential blogger sell thousands of books, she can spread an idea that reaches others, influencing not just the reader, but the people who read that person's blog or tweets."

No Bastilles are being stormed and no shots will be fired, but there is a revolution occuring in the way and reason that we purchase and consume. Rather we are informed or not, rather we are proactive or not, we will all be a part of this. That is exciting. For me, that is something I can get passionate about.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Value of Being Amateur

I recently wrote about professionally-produced videos and music being passed off on YouTube as amateur work and I labeled it "Promateur" creation. I also labeled it as "Inauthentic."

This morning, Seth Godin wrote that there are four ways to offer professional quality service to clients in the marketing business:

1. Hire a professional.
2. Be as good as a professional.
3. Realize that professional-quality work is not required or available and merely come close.
4. Do work that a professional wouldn't dare do, and use this as an advantage.

What Seth is talking about in number 4 is what I called an "Amfessional," and this is an exciting concept. An Amfessional is the person that is doing something that would normally be done by a professional and doing it at the professional level because he or she loves it. It's the MySpace fan site that has more friends than the Athletes own page. It's the YouTube video that is getting more views than the TV ad. In the past, Amateur Work was looked at as shoddy and second-rate. But today is the day of the Amfessional.

Because of advances in technology and the availability of professional-level production and editing tools (i.e. PhotoShop, Final Cut, DreamWeaver) the non-pro "regular guy" can now create and interact at the professional level. And now, more than ever, the mainstream audience respects and assigns value to work at this level. Watch as the model is reversed in businesses where, instead of hiring a spokesperson and trying to create a brand around them (Nike's Michael Jordan, the Snapple Lady) brands are finding individual fans that live their brand and then bringing them onboard (Microsoft's I'm a PC, Coke Zero's NCAA Fans, Jared for Subway).

Watch as Target adds more and more Mompreneur brands and hand-made boutique items on their shelves and erodes Wal-Mart's annual sales of store brands and imports. Watch as the heavy-consuming 12-17 year-old category moves from stocking their ipods with big label movies and music and creates playlists of homemade videos and songs from their friends and connections.

Corporations and Marketers right now are not giving us what we want: Authenticity. In a few more years, maybe they'll get it, but right now is a perfect time for the person in the trenches-- that is closest to the product, the brand, the experience-- to create the meaning for the product his or herself. Now is the time of the Amfessional.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Go See Benjamin Button, Unless…

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a great movie to see, unless you feel like you have already seen it. Or have already seen another schmaltzy/romantic time-traveling film like it. Or if you are in the mood for something funny. Or you’re on a date. Or you’re a teenager. Or you’re really old. Or if you’ve recently lost a loved-one. Or if you get emotional over hurricane Katrina footage. Or you’re kind of sleepy. Or you have anything else to do for the next 2 hours and 45 minutes.

I’m not saying I didn’t like it, because I did, I’m just saying that it is not a great movie for everyone to see. Disclaimer Moment: I am a marketer, not a movie critic; for a professional’s opinion, go here. IMO, the demographic for this movie is Middle-Aged Women. You know, the same people that loved The Notebook, The Lake House, or The Bridges of Madison County.

If you’re the kind of person that loves going to movies with the intent to cry through the whole second half, then this is a great movie for you. Or if you like the idea of seeing Cate Blanchett age before your eyes. Or if you love hummingbirds. Or if you are in the Somewhere in Time Fan Club. Or if you believe Brad Pitt is an Oscar-worthy actor.

Now, I’m not ruling out Brad and Cate for Oscars for this one, in fact, they’ll probably get Oscars for it the same way Charlize got one for Monster and Nicole Kidman for The Hours. We all know that getting ugly gets the Academy’s attention. I’m just saying I’ve seen better movies come out this year and I’ve definitely seen better film adaptations of books.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 24-page original story is here and it is a great story in its own right. However, besides the title and the lead character’s name, it has little in common with Fincher’s film. My wife says it borrows heavily from the 2003 novel The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I haven’t read it, so you’ll have to take her word for it. Or, if you don’t feel like reading it, you could just wait a few month’s and see it in theaters. I just read that Brad Pitt’s production company has picked up the title, which is set to release later this year. I, for one, won’t be going to see it. Unless I decide I’m in the mood for another romantic time travel film.

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