Monthly Archives: July 2008

One giant says goodbye

Randy Pausch died this morning. Besides his inspiring lecture, the book and his wisdom, he left us with the spirit of ‘going for it’. Leave your comfort zone to try for something you really want. You don’t always have to change the world (Once in a while is perfectly fine). Take smaller risks each day and choose the big ones wisely.  And then give it all and even more, when you take that risk.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the OTHER people!” – Randy Pausch

It’s been an honor knowing you.

Today, one of the creative team leaders at our office referred to Pausch’s speech today in his feature column, which was about how you should ‘Go for it’, meaning you must leave your comfort zone to try for something you desire. It doesn’t have to be big and earth-shattering. Even smaller risks in life are healthy, and in many ways, no less important than bigger ones.

What I learned from my soccer coach

I started playing team soccer when I was 6. I was dreaming of becoming the next Pele or Guenther Netzer. We met twice a week for 2 hour practice sessions. The first hour consisted of running. And I mean running. Interval training: 1 lap fast, 2 laps faster, 1 lap super fast. And repeat. The next 45 minutes consisted of drills: 100 headers, 100 passing plays, etc.

The only fun  happened in the last 15 minutes: We played soccer. (I could write essays about the difference between Brazilian and German soccer – the way practices are handled is just one reason why Brazilian soccer is so beautiful).

Ultimately, we won matches against teams that were stronger, faster and more experienced. Heck, we even won the German championship at one point. We won most of our matches in the last 10 minutes, in the moments when your feet feel like lead, your lungs are filled with pain and you long for a shower and a good sandwich. These last 10 minutes were our prime time. That’s when we excelled.

Just like Tom Peters describes his gardening experience, all of us had these crossroad moments. When you work late on a presentation, ready to close shop, trying to calm down the nagging feeling that this is not the best you could have done. When you daydream about a couch, a beer and a mind-numbing reality show while working away. When good enough is not an option. When good enough feels like a complete failure.

These moments are the ones that determine who you are. Who your company is. What your brand is standing for. Recalls, product flaws, marketing flops don’t happen in a vacuum. They happen in these moments. Are you ready to fight through them?

Thank you to Kontraband for the image.

Wordle – What’s ConversationAgency all about?

Wordle creates a word cloud based on any text on your site or blog.
What are the biggest words? Crisis, Confidence, Customers, New Business. Now you know what’s on our mind. Click the cloud to see details.

The age of denial

Free Dictionary defines denial as : “a process by which painful thoughts are not permitted into the consciousness.” Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the exact description of the times we’re living in and through right now: Banks deny they have problems, the President is the master of denial, TV networks deny the fact that their viewership is aging rapidly, advertising agencies continue to do business as usual while their business is dying around them. And the list goes on and on: Just look at industries changing (in some instances disappearing in front of our eyes) – Automotive, Yahoo!, Retailers, Record Labels.

Businesses are organisms. I always compare them to human beings. They have their own consciousness, their own soul, their own spirit. – And most companies act like smokers: They know they’re indulging in bad habits, a habit that will kill them one day. Every day they learn new facts how the smoke contains millions of carcinogens, how your chances of cancer/heart disease increase every time you light up. Standing outside in the rain, they suck on their cigarettes either proclaiming to quit soon or somehow rationalizing that they enjoy their habit.

Denial can come in various forms: Minimizing (It’s not going to be that bad), Cockiness (I’ve handled more difficult situations before), Rationalizing (Our revenue is down by 5%, we don’t have a real problem), Blaming (The clients don’t get it) and Intellectualizing (The new study shows everything will be good.) Or you can just lie to yourself, manipulate others, be defiant or withdraw. In the end, all denial ends in distaster.

Fact is, the advent of personal technology has changed media consumption behavior. Fact is, we’re undergoing dramatic demographic changes. And, fact is, humans are changing the way they interact with each other and institutions in new, never before seen ways.

These facts should lead businesses to rethink their business/marketing/service/brand strategies. Better today since delay is the deadliest form of denial. Just ask how IndyMac, Chrysler and Yahoo feel about their denials now.

Banking Crisis – Another failed opportunity

We moved from housing crisis to credit crisis and are now in the middle of a banking crisis. First Bear Stearns, now IndyMac – who’s next? Wachovia is mentioned in various publications, WaMu seems to be in trouble (Where’s the Whoo Hoo when you really need it?) and ABC spills out a list of banks that are close to a meltdown. Urban myths are rearing their ugly head and there’s a feeding frenzy in the media (Just check out Drudgereport and you know what I mean). This is a full-fledged crisis, one that calls for crisis management, blogger outreach, connecting with nervous customers on a personal level, being open with your situation assessment and, and, and.

And what are banks doing?

You go to their corporate sites, scan the blogs for outreach and any interaction with their customers – absolutely nothing. As we know, banks are in the confidence business. That’s what they’re all about. Nothing else. No bank in the world has enough money on hand to survive a bank run. Just ask IndyMac. The Citigroups, BofA’s and Wells Fargo’s of the world have no way of surviving a bank run. Not even them.

Banks demonstrated confidence through shiny skyscrapers and glossy brochures. But in today’s world of free-flowing rumors, these old confidence builders don’t work that well anymore. We’ve been through the Enron disasters and know that we need to look under the hood. But the banks hide behind their old facades and don’t let anybody in. The problem is that they make themselves increasingly vulnerable to new forms of communication. A bank run can start within a few hours and ruin their business even quicker. Hiding is not an option.

My plea to banks: Open yourself up. I’m not talking about your quarterly earnings calls. Talk to your customers and discuss with them the current situation. Reassure them that their investments are safe (You better be telling the truth!) and explain to them how your bank is dealing with the current crisis. If you have to, go over FDIC regulations. Build confidence through open communication. And reap the benefits. Take a look at ING, see how they handle possible landmines.Stop all your Whoo Hoo and smiling faces – serious handshakes garbage advertising and invest in real conversations with your customers.

Take the concerns of your customers as serious as the demands of Wall Street.

These news must be getting old

While the upfront is chugging along and advertisers continue to flock to the golden goose called TV, news broke yesterday that the average broadcast network viewer median age was 50. (Not including DVR users.) As Variety put it: “…if they were a person, they wouldn’t even be a part of TV’s target demo anymore.”

While the video viewing experience will become more and more important, the traditional TV experience is dying a slow death. This doesn’t mean above 50 aren’t desirable audiences and shouldn’t be addressed in your communcation strategy. But it means that younger generations have changed their behavior for good and won’t return. It happened with radio, newspapers and TV. And it will continue to happen with the online and mobile experience. Technology doesn’t drive revolutions. Changes in basic behavior drive societal changes. And we’re in the middle of one.