It's hard to resist making this a looooooooooooong post, so instead I'll do my best to be as brief and succinct as possible, so here goes...
My good friend and ex-client, Maarten Albarda and I are co-authoring a book together. It's my 4th book (after Life after the 30-second spot, Join the Conversation and Flip the Funnel) and Maarten's first. Besides sharing the same vision and passion for the subject, we're bringing a 1-2 punch to the table in the form of advertising-agency perspective on the giant elephant in the room: media or rather paid media.
The book is called z.e.r.o. and the sub-title, "zero paid media as the new marketing model" kind of says it all (and in less than 140 characters).
The book posits that in a perfect world, your paid media budget would be z.e.r.o. - literally, but also figuratively in the form of an acronym which stands for Zealots (advocacy), Entrepreneurship (innovation), Retention (customer centricity) and Owned Assets (moving from tenant to landlord)
On one hand, it's me returning to my "Life after" roots, but on the other other (and more poignantly), it's our set up of our premonition of a perfect storm approaching in marketing; one in which the bottom could conceivably fall out of the media model. Fortunately, the world is not perfect and change takes longer than we expect, but then again...just look at how your world has changed in the past few years to validate the fact that sitting and doing nothing is not a viable solution.
For me, it's a bold move for two reasons:
I've made the move from being a 3-time published author to self-publishing (thanks to Richard @ Wiley for everything to get me this far and props to my new home, Archway Publishing)
Review the various pledge rewards and become a backer. We've named them after famous misers.
From the Hetty Green and Warren Buffet (digital and hardcover copies respectively) to the maximum reward, which delivers 10 autographed books and an in-person keynote from either Maarten or myself (only 2 available per person)
The no-brainer and value rewards are the Mr Burns and Mr Krabs respectively, that also include a 140-character acknowledgement (plug) in the book itself
We just pre-launched the book and Kickstarter campaign at the Festival of Media in Montreux, but here's the crazy part...in just over 24 hours after I hit the publish button (in stealth mode), we've almost hit our initial funding goal of $10,000. With your help, we'll push this over the edge and see how far we can take it.
The wild thing is that the book will become it's own case study insofar that it will demonstrate how we were able to self-publish our book for "z.e.r.o." by tapping into our advocates and leveraging our owned assets. It's U.N.M.2.P.N.M. circa 2005 retooled for 2013.
So...if you're part of my community and/or appreciate my content, show your support on Kickstarter with the pledge amount (or more if your heart desires). I will post regular updates over the 6 week period to acknowledge my backers (which would be you)
And all things being equal, Z.E.R.O. will launch in September of 2013 and will contain the 10-point action plan towards implementing this bold vision towards helping marketing evolve, normalize and allocate scarce resources to a re-prioritized hierarchy of connection points.
I began my thought leadership/writing career with a column on Mediapost and so it is fitting to return to the scene of the crime so to speak for a new weekly column on all things Innovation.
My primary focus will be on technology-led innovation, which is about as wide and deep as the blue ocean (digital, social, mobile, emerging, startups etc), but I hope to also dial into true originality, disruptive thinking and creative flair as it relates to the ability to tell stories, surprise and delight (some might call it classic advertising...or at least my good friend Don would)
Mediapost were very kind to write up this piece, which outlines my return to weekly thought leadership columns and also gives a pretty good update on my update so to speak.
Its crusaders are the passionate pioneers that represent a new marketing reality never seen before in history. This is the story of the evolution of the Internet -- and its progression from a superficial flavor of the month to quite possibly, the most profound weapon ever presented to the treasure-chest of the marketing community.
The war in question is a war against ignorance and those who resist change. It is being fought on two playing fields, by two very different armies. Their insignias are the head and the heart. Progress has been varied.
The infantry of the head, earmarked by research, data, metrics and media has emerged victorious.
The warriors of the heart, however, have not fared as well. Along the way, there have been many casualties, but when the dust settled, the brave and the dedicated creative community stood firm, supremely focused on their prime directive: to win the battle for the heart.
I wrote that blurb in 2004 when I put together a roadshow called “The Battle for the HeArt”. You’ll notice that I capitalized the A in Heart, as this was about art; the right brain; creativity…or the lack thereof in the online space. My position was that online was dominated by science; the left brain; analytics; metrics.
And in the vacuum, was an infinite void of desolate inspiration.
Battle for the HeArt was a Creative Roadshow, designed to celebrate, uplift and showcase the best online creative you’d never seen or perhaps had, but you couldn’t quite articulate or put your finger on exactly what made it unique or special.
The show lasted two years and save for the fact I founded my first company, crayon, it would have continued. Interestingly enough, 2006’s Battle (the third year) would have been sub-branded as Madison + Mountain View (I even registered the URL www.madisonandmountainview.com, with a positioning that the future of advertising lay in technology.)
It’s kind of sad and even pathetic that we’re asking the same questions today. We're questioning the lack of creativity and innovation in the online space. It’s not too late for an intervention though, but I fear that soon enough, it will be unless we inject a good dose of truly game-changing digital whoopass into the mix.
My antidote is the intersection of technology and advertising; Mountain View meets Madison Avenue. I’ll use Albert Einstein's famous quote to illustrate my point: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."
Dictionary.com defines creativity as “productive originality.”
Originality = Doing things Differently Productive = Getting a Result
“Doing things differently to get a result” is, in fact, the exact opposite of doing the same thing over and over again to get a different result. So it hit me: Creativity is the solution to insanity; the remedy to mediocrity and status quo.
Similarly, the dictionary defines innovation as new approaches that achieve positive outcomes. Is it coincidence that this is a synonym for creativity? I think not.
I think this underscores that the future of marketing is a digital one, a tech-laden one. Brands have got to innovate in order to evolve and arguably, survive. I believe that the intersection between marketing and start-ups is one way to mix together creativity and innovation into a powerful cocktail.
The catch perhaps is that innovation is typically associated with product or packaging R&D, as opposed to marketing itself. It’s time to change that.
I always like to quote photographer Diane Arbus who said: “It's what I've never seen before that I recognize."
Our consumers are the same. They ignore what they’ve seen before time and time again. And they notice the unanticipated. They crave the unexpected, the unpredictable, the surprise and delight. They long for the intellectual sparring that comes with an idea that provokes, irks, challenges or dares them to think or act different.
And they’re not insane, although we might be if we don’t rethink the way we go to market, or the way we utilize the full potential of the Internet and its social portfolio of gizmos and gadgets. The way we partner with our consumers -- and the way we combine what we do best (creativity) in a form, function and utility-laded service that truly delivers transformational (innovation) value.
I just finished recording one of my monthly "debates" with my industry colleague and friend, Mitch Joel. I had two topics I wanted to discuss - the first of which was #occupywallstreet. We had a really terrific conversation around the movement and right at the end of the conversation, Mitch innocently brought up my second topic, which we very briefly skirted.
So now I want to discuss further...
Steve Jobs. Legend. Icon. Visionary. Dreamer. Ideal Client. Over the past few weeks, we've said good bye to a business genius. To be sure, Steve Jobs grew, turned Apple around and then extended this leadership by transforming it into the world's most valuable company, taking over from Exxon Mobile (at least this was in August)
And then, as if by some grand design, Steve Job's commissioned Biography, aptly titled, "Steve Jobs," comes out days after Jobs passes away and rockets to number 1 on Amazon.com. Hot on these heels are a number of press appearances, including the book's author, Walter Isaacson, making an appearance on 60 minutes.
And as I'm watching Isaacson and listening to various accounts of Jobs' life, I'm deeply troubled. The fact remains, Jobs does not appear to be a very nice man at all. In fact, he comes across as a proper son of a bitch. Denying paternity rights to his child, refusing to give options to one of his long time colleagues and when a sympathetic co-worker offers to give some of his options if Jobs matches him, Job says, "good idea...I'll give zero and you give zero".
Jobs also critiques Bill Gates in the biography, calling him "basically unimaginative" and someone who "shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas". Not that we needed a book to see Mac vs PC commercials which did likewise. This to a man who has pledged to give away half his fortune to charity.
I'm confused. I see the iconic Apple commercial that talks about the people that are crazy enough to change the world and they are all good people.
Or maybe there weren't, but chose not to commission a biography.
I wonder if this commercial was briefed by Steve Jobs to be about Steve Jobs i.e. his future legacy.
I'm confused because I wonder if being a visionary genius and being a mensch are mutually exclusive.
I'm confused because I wonder why Apple doesn't bring all those jobs back to America as it continues to manufacture luxury products at bargain basement prices and charge a fortune to an endless sea of willing lemmings.
I'm confused because the same sea of lemmings are probably occupying wall street right now with a 110% incidence of owning at least 1 i-product.
...and I'm probably one of them as I have my iPad, MacbookAir, iPhone, iPod and about to make the permanent switch away from PC to Mac. And I bought the book as well.
So am I a hypocrite? Probably. A confused one, because I'm not sure if it's fair or right to mix personality with profits - or at the very minimum, a person's private life with their business leadership.
Was Steve Jobs a right ole meanie? Most likely, but the people around him adored him and look back on even the public displays of displeasure with pride. The honor of getting to work with a true legend...
So is all of this irrelevant? At the end of the day, isn't it just about manufacturing the world's greatest suite of products? Perhaps and perhaps not. The world is certainly blurring and younger consumers in particular are not separating the products the buy from the companies' ethics, morals and business practices that manufacture them.
Personally, I will choose to divide Steve Jobs the man, CEO, business leader and visionary into two buckets. I will discard the things about him that I don't identify or agree with, or approve and I will integrate the practices, principles and ideas which I can learn from.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
Steve Jobs was a complex man to be sure. I'm not sure it's fair to hold him to a higher standard, after all he was human. Very human. Sadly so. I also don't think it's right to worship him as an idol - false, American or otherwise. That too ends badly for all.
I guess I will continue to support the company, based on my - along with seemingly everyone else's - inability to "force quit" this addiction to design, functionality and sexiness in general. Although I'm not sure how long this may be the case if the company chooses not to adapt, evolve and be a better company in the wake and shadow of its creator, who might not always have been as such.
You can quote them.
Disagree with them.
Glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do it ignore them...
In this episode, Mitch and I discuss the oft maligned "social media expert" (12.9 million results on Google!) and make the case for and against the importance of specialization and subject matter expertise versus the "one size fits all" approach of the larger players (agencies).
To be sure, there are several key benefits and shortcomings of "one throat to choke" i.e. single point of contact versus the peacock approach. And visa versa.
It's less about the size of the agency than it is about making sure:
Brands are able to deploy an integrated approach
Execution. Execution. Execution to balance all the strategic and creative ideas
Honesty and management of expectations
I'm fairly certain you know which end of the spectrum I sit, but why not take a listen and weigh in with your perspective? @jaffejuice on Twitter and @mitchjoel on Twitter.
And be sure to forward this to any brand marketers you think would benefit from the discussion and ultimately give their perspective on the theme at hand.
Listen to it LIVE (left click) or download it here (right click)
Is it just me or does this feel too desperate? Kind of feels like the whole weblebrity craze on YouTube falling all over you for "subscribes"...which is fine for them, but pretty tacky for brands.
I also have a strategic concern about the fact we're creating closed walls around our brands and their content which can only be unlocked (or perhaps I should say un-liked) by "liking" them. In this case I expect the Like button to be immediately replaced with an "Unlike" button and a Thumbs down icon which allows me to opt back out after I've "unwrapped my chance to win prizes".
My friend, colleague, peer and fellow thought leader, Mitch Joel, the man behind Twist Image, Six Pixels of Separation (book, blog) and I have decided to hold monthly conversations, debates and back-and-forths that will dive a little deeper into the Digital Marketing and Social Media landscape. This is our eight conversation and this one focuses on the if we're really having any semblance of a conversation at all in Social Media, or if Marketers have done a great job of selling the invisible (once again).
A little more context (follow the links) can be found here
Marketing podcast, The Beancast - the latest episode just posted in which host Bob Knorpp and panelists, Ken Wheaton, Erik Proulx, Jeff Cutler and myself discuss Facebook's location-based announcement and privacy in general, TBWA\Chiat\Day's digital stumbles, whether mobile has arrived or not...and much more
Poolside chat with David Armano (@armano), where we discuss thought leadership and the difference between "thinking" and "doing"
Sooooooo......after 3+ years after founding and building crayon into a social media strategic playa, today I get to announce that crayon is now the "powered crayon" (hat tip to Forrester's Augie Ray) AKA crayon has been acquired by Austin-based Powered, Inc.
Along with crayon, Powered has also acquired Portland-based StepChange, gurus extraordinaire in all things social networking and mobile apps, widgets and presence (fan pages etc) and New York-based Drillteam, demons in engaging brand loyalists and advocates in the form of offline and online seeding and activation programs.
I should probably also tell you that Powered itself is a leader in terms of creating, building and sustaining branded communities online.
You don't have to look too hard to connect the dots and see that the concept of "community" is an incredibly strong common thread that brings all four companies together - whether this lives in the form of social networking or a tupperware party.
We don't want to resort to the usual plethora of poppycock and bravado (other than solely mine of course) and we're mindful of empty promises - especially in the social media space. So for now, let's just say that the four compaines have combined to build - what we believe is - the first full service social media agency with scale.
Let me stress this is a work-in-progress and that we intend to prove ourselves and let our collective work speak for itself. We already have an arsenal of case studies, but now it's time to let 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 30.
I'll be constantly updating a list of resources that you can refer to for more information, including the social media press release and various blog entries from both inside our company (CMO Aaron Strout's post here, including answers to several FAQ's) and outside.
Talk to you a little about my passion for what I think we can achieve
I actually don't look at this as selling (or certainly selling out), but rather "buying in." Whereas most company owners, founders or execs sell and as quickly as you can say "golden handcuffs", bolt....I'm joining a company that I think can do amazing things - not only for its shareholders and clients, but for the industry at large. More on that in a jiffy.
I have to say that being an "entrepreneur" or "small business owner" is probably the hardest and most worthwhile thing I've ever done professionally. I guess I was both when I left the traditional agency world in 2002 and formed my jaffe, LLC army-of-one, but when you have partners, employees, members or professional "dependents," it's a different ballgame altogether.
To explain why I sold crayon is to explain to you why I started crayon in the first place. I've always believed that it's easy as pie to be a prognosticator or pundit. Writing books or giving speeches about dumb companies making dumb decisions is just part of perpetuating the status quo. This is probably why there's so much (justified) backlash against self-proclaimed social-media experts. I didn't want to be part of the problem; I wanted to part of the solution. I wanted to be part of a team again. I wanted to turn strategic and creative ideas into reality and in doing so, prove that the vision in my books was credible and capable of moving mountains.
I believe that we did just that in the past 3 years for clients including the likes of Panasonic, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, American Airlines, H&R Block, Colorado Technical University, Facebook, ooVoo, GyPSii and much more.
So now it's time to kick that up a few hundred notches. I call it taking one step forward in order to leap forward 100 more steps in the process.
Those of you who know me are well aware that I'm "financially challenged". I'm also no operational guy. I'm an Interruptor and I wanted to focus on doing what I love and what I do best, as opposed to the incredibly complex and demanding rigor of running a company.
...and that's exactly what's happening. I get to ramp up my evangelism big time, focus on maximum damage and destabalization within the lethargic industry, whilst simultaneously helping our clients reap incredible rewards from implementing commitment-based programs that are head and shoulders ahead of their competition.
On the way into Vegas, I had a chat with my friend, Sean Finnegan, who heads up all of Starcom Mediavest's Digital Media. We debated whether business needed a dedicated social media department or the industry needed a dedicated social media agency. The counterargument was that social media was too important to be siloed or specialized into a vertical capability. I was itching to tell Sean the news, which quite clearly emphatically communicates where I sit on this debate.
Put succinctly, what percentage of traditional agencies TODAY truly gets (and delivers against) digital, let alone social? I rest my case. How on earth can we expect traditional agencies to master both digital AND social at the same time? On a different level, I'd argue that the same could be said about digital and P.R. agencies when it comes to social. And I did in this Adweek article and as you can see in the comments, the truth hurts.
Bottom line: social is both a horizontal and vertical imperative and I intend to do my part to help Powered become one of (if not the) leading social media agency that can deliver broad-based and profoundly transformational social media solutions to brands that need them.
With my third book, "Flip the Funnel" coming out in about a month's time, I expect to invest a good chunk of my time promoting and talking about the book; dividing my time between writing, speaking and conference events on the one hand and working closely with the group's clients on the other. I'm giddy with excitement about the rise of customer experience and how "retention can become the new acquisition" (more on that soon) and will be devoting much headspace to the central themes of the book.
I also intend to rededicate myself to blogging...yes, blogging. To hell with Posterous and Twitter. I'm all about the renaissance of blogging. I also plan to revive Jaffe Juice - the New Marketing Podcast, starting with a live podcast on Tuesday morning at 9am EST with all the new members of the Powered family talking about the momentous event. If you'd like to listen in and participate with questions, comments or challenges, here's the link. And last but not least, I'm going to continue building out Jaffe Juice TV (check it out why don't you and subscribe on iTunes or via YouTube)
Whereas Drillteam and StepChange will continue to operate as independent entities, crayon is very quickly rolling up into a bundled Powered package. That said, crayon's strategic solution of consulting, planning and advisory services will continue to be offered (only now with more oomph, diversity and scale).
And so finally to thanks. I wanted to start off by thanking my family for putting up with me working 7 days a week for the past 7 years and spending so much time on the road.
I want to thank my family of crayonistas: Greg, Jane, Amadeo, Kate and Gary for putting up with me until the end. In particular, I have to single out Greg Verdino, who is my right hand and without him, I would be lost.
I want to thank all of our clients. Your belief, support and most importantly, friendship, is invaluable beyond words. One of my most incredible memories from crayon will be the EQUAL partnership and bonds formed with our clients. I simply despise how so many agencies have a superiority complex and feel their clients "don't get it"; they do. Big time. I totally expect these relationships to continue; with genuine personal and professional respect as a mandatory.
Finally, I want to thank all the ex-crayonistas who played their part at some point in building this company, but for whatever reason moved on. As you can see there are a lot of them and I think this emphasizes how difficult it is to run a business that is so strongly reliant on talent and properly invest and manage the cultural, interpersonal and yes, even political dynamics that are part of the job. Every single person here is a star and many have gone on to achieve fantastic things since leaving (which is something that I'm pretty proud of). Your color from the big box will always remain "retired": Gary C, Francis, Shel, Neville, CC, Aaron, Michael, Chris, Steve, Scott, Melissa, Seni, Deb, Earl, Adam S, Adam B and Gary K (and if I left anyone out, I apologize and will you add you in ASAP.)
So I guess that's it for now. I'll be spending the next day or two trying to respond as much as possible to comments on this blog, Facebook, text messaging, e-mail, cell and yes, of course Twitter (there's a Twitter press conference today at 2pm EST, hashtag #powered). I hope you can join tomorrow's (Tuesday) podcast recording at 9am EST. I hope to see many of you and continue this conversation in person at some point....sooner rather than later. Perhaps at SXSW or next week's MarketingSherpa e-mail conference in Miami.
These are exciting times and the tide is going to rise like no end to float all boats that embrace change, and sink those that resist it (because of all those holes)
to the reincarnated and reinvigorated Jaffe Juice.
What was once a weekly op-ed column is now an unshackled, uncensored and uninhibited dialogue
on the subjects of new marketing, advertising and creativity.