It’s like Elf Yourself….Only Cooler – Mad Men Yourself

Mad Men is coming back on August 16th with season three.  I’m a huge fan of Mad Men and wrote about the incredible use of a client pitch in the final episode of season one.

I’m also a fan of online interactive campaigns that work.  A few years ago, I wrote about how 36 million people had “Elfed” themselves.

Now, I can put those two things together and “MadMenMyself.” Well, I already did it, see below, and you can too on the Mad Men site from AMC.

Josh and the crew at Sterling Cooper
Josh and the crew at Sterling Cooper

With Elf Yourself you upload a picture and it overlays on the face of the dancing elf.  That would be too crass for a mad man so you design your own features using palettes of skin color, head shape, eyebrows, mouth shape, hair color and clothing. You then choose your scene. I’m at work, but could have also been in a nightclub or picnic.


Adam Savage Interview from Reason Magazine – Why people watch

“We don’t pander to kids and we never set out to make a show that is educational, if we had, we would have failed.”

That line is from Adam Savage of Mythbusters. Yes, I have written about them before, but this line speaks directly to my ideas on how to create great stuff that people want to watch.  Don’t pander. Remember to include a narrative arc.  All great advice.

Watch the entire interview, with Matt Welch, it’s about eight minutes long from Reason.TV

Perhaps the most useful data point from the interview, there are actually no ill effects from double dipping. Take that Timmy!

John Barry – Broke Virtually Every Business Rule Except Having a Great Product

The LA Times today ran the obituary of John Barry, no, not the composer, this John Barry did something much more important. He invented a product that it turns out had many, many uses beyond it’s original stated use for “water displacement.”  The product was originally named to reflect it’s utility “Water Displacement-40,” but was soon shortened to WD-40.

The obituary is full of quotes from Mr. Barry about business that apply to any industry. Some of my favorites:

  • “When you have a good product, don’t tinker with it.”
  • “Competitors can’t shoot you off the fence if they can’t get you in their sights;”
  • “Don’t be like a blind dog in a meat house,’ – stay focused on your goal and your customers

Thank a teacher

Frank McCourt was a public school teacher in New York for thirty years before he wrote a little story about his youth in Limerick, Ireland.  That little story just happened to stay basically at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List for two years and get made into a movie.  After that he wrote two more books, one about his first years in New York, and another about being a teacher.

He was a teacher first.  He shared his life with about a hundred students per day for 30 years before he shared it with the rest of the world. Those were some lucky kids.

Frank McCourt - image from the NY Times
Frank McCourt - image from the NY Times

Thank you “Teacher Man,” for sharing your family’s ashes with us.

The Grateful Dead and The Power of Sharing

Skull & Roses logo from the Grateful Dead
Skull & Roses logo from the Grateful Dead

I grew up in Marin County, California just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco (OK – I lived at the Northern end of the county in Novato – but work with me here).  Growing up in Marin, the Grateful Dead were always around. Whether it was their music, their iconagraphy or just seeing Jerry Garcia driving down the Highway 101 in his BMW, they were just always around.

When many people think of the Grateful Dead, they think “hippies,” “potheads,” “deadheads,” and many other things. The two things that I think should come to mind are great music and even better business.

The Grateful Dead were amazing businessmen and continue to make serious amounts of money more than 40 years after their first live show. For one thing, they retained ownership of their master recordings, which means they still own their music and make the majority of the profit from its sale.  The bigger part is I think they got this whole social media thing way before anyone else.  On most concert tickets there is a note in all caps that says “No cameras or recording devices allowed.”  Almost from the beginning the Dead have had a section in the front of all of their shows called “the Tapers Section,” set aside for fans who want to record their music.  Their thought was that if people are going to record their music, they might as well get as good of a recording as possible.  The ones who recorded the shows and then traded the tapes with others were the true fans. They spent money on the band, they bought tickets to the concerts and told everyone they knew about how great the Dead were. If you’ve ever been on a roadtrip with a DeadHead you’ll understand.

The band made a lot of money, and toured consistently for thirty years to huge crowds. Did the crowds diminish and were record sales hurt because someone could listen to a tape from the the show at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in 1982? I don’t think so. I think the Dead figured out something that the rest of the record industry and much of the media industry is still trying to grab onto 40 years later.  Make great music, treat your fans like friends, and everything will work out just fine.

When I mentioned this thought about the Grateful Dead and sharing and social media today a friend sent me the link to the upcoming Churchill Club meeting on “The Free Economy:  How Companies Make Money From Giving Things Away.” The moderator is Chris Anderson of Wired who recently wrote “Free:  The Future of a Radical Price,” and the panel includes folks from Ning, Pandora, Pinger and YouSendIt.  Maybe they should see if they can get someone to connect them with Jerry Garcia, I’m sure he could add a whole lot to the discussion since he’d already been doing this for thirty years when he passed away in 1995.

Customer Service and Social Media

Today I was on a panel talking about social media best practices for PRSA Sacramento. My plan was to talk about social media and customer service.  Instead, I ended up talking about the Grateful Dead. That’s a different post that will come soon.

Since I didn’t cover the thoughts in the meeting today, I wanted to try them out here and see if they make sense to anyone else.  In my view, customer service may very well eclipse news and conversations as the use of social media with the most lasting impact.  Consumers are beginning to expect immediate responses from companies when they mention a problem or poor experience with a product or service, and if they don’t get it they get louder.

Is this somewhat self-centered, impatient or rude behavior? Yes, probably, but companies still have to listen and respond.  My recommendation when looking at how your company deals with customer service using social media is boiled down to the “Three A’s.”  Growing up going to baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum the “Three A’s” were the outfield of Henderson, Murphy and Armas, but the Three A’s here are:

  • Awareness – companies have to be always looking for people talking about their products. You can’t wait for people to come to you anymore, they go to the crowd, or perhaps more accurately here “the cloud” first. They shout into the ether with their problem and expect you to hear it.
  • Attitude – “Customer service,” for many companies is a pain. It is looked at as a cost, not a profit center. It’s also something that should be minimized in the eyes of many. Sorry, look at it as a marketing cost and opportunity to turn someone (and all of their friends) into evangelists for your company and approach those with issues with a positive attitude, not with an eye roll and and an “Oh geez,” what is wrong with these people.
  • Action – Make sure that whomever is responding for the company can take action that can rectify a situation quickly.  Look at Zappo’s and how they go out of their way to help customers. They empower the heck out of their employees to make things right for customers.

Southwest Airlines seems to have grabbed hold of this concept and is running with it as highlighted in this article from The Boston Globe last year. Below is an excerpt of how Southwest is using Twitter to stay on top of issues before they become problems:

“For example, when Travis Johnson, known by the Twitter handle, “pastortrav,” complained recently about Southwest’s check-in process, he received a quick, public response from an airline employee saying, “So sorry to hear it! What don’t you like about the check-in process? Did your flight get off okay?”

This kind of response is like when two kids are talking in the back of the classroom and the teacher says,”Is there something you would like to share with the rest of the class?” They lower their heads, stare at their desks and mumble a quiet, “no.”

I’m not saying that people don’t have problems when they fly, but by being quick and asking if there was anything that could be helped, most of the time it will end there and you keep a small irritation from becoming a major problem.

Not everything can be solved with the “Three A’s,” but if Rickey Henderson can steal 130 bases and Dwayne Murphy was able to keep his cap from falling off his head (at least sometimes) then your company can do pretty well with customer service.

Best career advice ever – don’t burn bridges

It’s easy to say, but not always easy to do. I’ve tried to not burn any bridges as I’ve wound my way through my career. This has included working at agency that started small and grew until it was acquired, then leaving to go to a startup agency that cratered, going in-house to a networking start-up founded and run by one of my best friends (and getting laid-off on my honeymoon as the company shut down), going to Apple, leaving Apple and working for Apple’s former PR firm and leaving there to start my own firm.

It sounds like a lot, but it really wasn’t.  The thing is, along the way, I was hired everywhere by people I had worked for or with in the past.  When I started my career at Alexander Communications (which became Alexander/Ogilvy and now just Ogilvy PR) I was an intern. About two years after completing the intern program and becoming an employee, I became the intern program coordinator. One of the first interns I managed in that role was Nicole Jordan.

A few years later, I was hired by a former colleague from Alexander at Apple, where one of the staffers on our agency team was…..Nicole Jordan who was now working at Edelman.  Eventually, Apple brought all of their US PR work in house and let Edelman go.  After a few years at Apple, our family made the decision to leave Silicon Valley and the Bay Area (believe me, not an easy decision with my wife having grown up in Saratoga and me in Marin) and move to El Dorado Hills, outside Sacramento. I began interviewing for positions in Sacramento, and made the decision to tell my supervisor at Apple what I was doing and why and give my notice, before I found a new job. Maybe not the best financial decision, but I didn’t want to be sneaking around and leave on a bad note.

After contracting for a little VoIP company that was launching (Skype) I was hired by Edelman in Sacramento. Since this was a public affairs focused office and I was at the time mostly a technology kind of guy, my being hired was greatly influenced by the input of people with whom I had worked before.

This is a bit of long, rambling way to say that no matter what your industry, it’s an incredibly small world, and getting smaller.  Do all you can to not burn bridges. The impetus for this thought right now was a great post, by…yes, Nicole Jordan. She now runs communications for the Rubicon Project down in Los Angeles.  Her post reminded me of this advice, and my post is to remind myself.