Documenting The Journey Of A Man On A Quest For Mindfulness, Peace, and Joy

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 2)

Which Brand Won Super Bowl LVI?

While the internet and advertising pundits are all aflutter about Coinbase’s bold QR code “Pong”-style ad, and some might have enjoyed an ad with one of their favorite celebs or a dancing animal, I have a different take, and it can be summed up in one word.

Relatability. Do I relate to your ad? To its story, its characters, its concept. If I don’t relate to your ad, I’m either not your audience, or your ad whiffed.  

The best Super Bowl ads focused on one key message, a singular, highly relatable notion to stick in the audience’s mind. And the stickiest ideas are ones that are already there, already part of our everyday lives; we just don’t realize it until someone shows it to us in a story, a piece of art, a song, or, in this case, a commercial.

These are my Top 3 Super Bowl Ads with relatable, sticky concepts.

Pringles – “Stuck In” – Who hasn’t gotten their hand stuck reaching for the last Pringle in their iconic can? https://youtu.be/aP2up9N6H-g

Planters Mixed Nuts – “Feed The Debate” – For any nut-eaters and pub-goers out there, this age-old debate hit home. Not to mention the brilliance of sparking the debate to continue on social media after the game. And the closing line of clever copy, “Who knew American would tear itself apart over a relatively minor difference of opinion?” was a laugh-out-loud moment.  https://youtu.be/S72SIM-vMCs

McDonald’s – “Can I Get Uhhhhhh” – If you claim you haven’t stared at a quick-serve menu for longer than is reasonable, you’re kidding yourself. We’ve all been there!  https://youtu.be/hv5CzJdx6NE

Apparently I have an affinity for food brands! 

Why Sales Reps Should Deliver Bad News to Clients

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? 

When asked this question, most people choose the bad news first, so they can get it out of the way and end on a good note. However, most people with the good and bad news to deliver prefer to offer the good news first, so they can soften the blow of the bad news by easing into it with something positive. (Ref: “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink)

Sales reps love delivering good news. They are eager to share, and for good reason. Good news makes clients happy. The good news is seldom shared without being followed by written or verbal exclamation points.

“Your campaign over-delivered by 78%!”

“We were able to include 14 bonus ads for you at no charge!”

“I was able to get a discount for you approved by management!”

As in all client-oriented businesses, there inevitably comes a time when something goes wrong. An instruction falls through the cracks. Start dates are delayed. A click-thru URL was entered incorrectly. Between technical quirks and human error, it’s a miracle anything does run the way it’s supposed to. And when this bad news arises, sales reps fear it. Frantic thoughts enter the rep’s mind. Maybe the client won’t notice? If I can sandwich this bad news within a pile of good news, maybe it won’t seem so bad? If we get it fixed now, maybe we can just pretend like it never happened?

It’s easy to see the potential pitfalls of brushing some bad news under the rug. Not to mention the wear and tear on one’s integrity and conscience. 

If you want to move beyond “vendor” status with your client to get into the coveted “partnership” relationship zone, one of the best ways to become a trusted partner is to give your clients bad news, head on. 

Think about one of your closest friends. Now say you are planning a birthday party for yourself (because you’re an adult and that’s what adults do). Unbeknownst to you, this close friend of yours cannot make it. They have a conflict. They haven’t told you about this conflict. As the day draws nearer, you are getting all excited as the plans are coming together for your epic birthday bash.

In this instance, what would you rather your friend do? Would you rather they tell you they can’t make it as soon as possible, or would you prefer they hold off until the day before to break the bad news? Or perhaps you’d prefer they no-show and later offer an alibi or excuse?

Most people would rather be hit with the bad news head on, as early as possible. 

Business works the same way. If you have clients, and you’ve discovered some bad news about their account… just tell them. 

Why? For two main reasons. 1) The client will trust you more because you had the integrity to give it to them straight. Any newbie off the street can deliver good news, but only a trusted partner acts as if client and vendor are on the same team, taking the good with the bad. 2) Giving the bad news right away gives the most amount of time for problem-solving. Waiting to give the bad news at a later date only means that’s more time the problem hasn’t gotten better. 

I recently had an experience with my largest advertising client (responsible for about 20% of my annual income) where a problem was discovered with their ad campaign. The ads had all been running as intended, but our reporting technology had a breakdown. We place tracking pixels on client sites to link their ad campaigns to website visits from people who’ve seen the ads. The problem? Over two months ago, the tracking pixel had “fallen off” their website. (That was how my IT team put it. Did the pixel walk off a cliff? How does a piece of software code fall, exactly?) This meant that for two months of their annual campaign, we would not be able to deliver the reporting metrics the client had grown accustomed to. 

Upon hearing this news from my team, I was left at a crossroads. I knew I had to tell the client, because eventually they would find out anyway when it came time to review their April report and nothing was there. But how to explain? Over the phone? In an email? And when? Right away? Wait until we have a few other topics to discuss and then drop this reporting blunder bomb into the mix? 

I was dreading delivering this bad news because they are my biggest client, and I didn’t want to give them any reason to question their investment with my company.

In the end, I decided to call her up the day I found out the news and give it to her straight. Here’s how the conversation went. 

Me: “Hi client, how’s your day going? Oh I’m so glad to hear that. Say, you know how in all great partnerships, there’s a lot of good news, but every once in a while, there’s some not-so-great news? Well, I’ve got some not-so-great news for you, and I don’t want to beat around the bush, so here it is. Your tracking pixel stopped working on April 2. This means your April and May reports will not be available. The reason we didn’t find this out until now is because, while the pixel had fallen off most of your website, the pixel was still active on one page, so our system was not alerted. I have confirmed with my team that we now have new safeguards in place so that we’ll get an alert earlier next time. What we need to do now is get it reinstalled on your site, and I’ve just emailed you the pixel and installation instructions.” 

When I stopped to take a breath, here was her reply.

Client: “Thank you for telling me. And you know what? That timeline makes perfect sense. We did a large website update right around that time, so I bet our update is what caused the pixel to stop working. I never thought to mention this website update to you. I guess this is a learning moment for us that we need to communicate better to our marketing partners when we make updates to our website.” 

Could that have gone any better? I think not. 

A sign of any strong relationship is that both parties are comfortable and trusting enough to take the bad with the good, knowing that it will make the relationship stronger on the other side. 

Lessons From “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer

After finishing Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild, I immediately took to my journal to write down my top lessons and takeaways from the stories of Chris McCandless aka Alexander Supertramp and the other adventurers noted in the book. 

I’m sharing this journal entry as-written to retain the essence of how I was feeling immediately after finishing the book. 

  1. Call your parents. They always want to hear from you.
  2. Life with less can be more fulfilling. 
  3. Convention is the enemy.
  4. We are prisoners of society, of civilization.
  5. Experiences are best when shared. Chris comes to this realization toward the end of his life after spending several months in isolation in Alaska. At first this expedition made him feel more alive than anything else. But after a time, he concludes experiences are better when shared with others. 
  6. Relationships and love matter. 
  7. Document your own life with pictures and journals. 
  8. Surround yourself with writings that move you. 
  9. Don’t wait to start living out your beliefs. Now is the time. 
  10. You can get by with much less than you think. 
  11. Chris McCandless blindly trusted so many strangers: for a ride, for shelter, for employment. To these people unknown to him, he showed courtesy, honesty, and hard work. In response, they all helped him. What would happen if we all gave people we don’t know the benefit of the doubt? Gave them compassion, love, and respect as the default? 
  12. Your limits are much farther than you think they are. Pushing those limits can be thrilling and exhilarating. 
  13. When embarking on a new endeavor, take time to learn from experts who have walked the path before you. 
  14. Be prepared. 

Raising the bar… and then lowering it

Last week I turned 36. One year before that, on my 35th birthday, I started the day with the goal of running ten miles – the farthest I’d ever run. On mile nine of that run I was feeling good; my spirits were up and my body was performing well. Somewhere in the that ninth mile I spontaneously decided to try to go for a half marathon distance, which I successfully completed. Miles 11, 12, and 13 were tough. It was a mental battle. I remember telling myself, “You can do it. Raise the bar. Don’t worry about how slow you’re running. Just don’t quit and eventually you will get there.” I mentally repeated the mantra I learned from Jocko Willink on Tim Ferriss’ blog/podcast: “Not dead. Can’t quit.”

I still remember the feeling immediately after that run; it was a rush, a feeling of pride, excitement, and illumination. Illuminating to me that us humans can push our bodies much farther than we think we can, if only we can muster the mental willpower to push us beyond our preconceived limits. 

In the weeks leading up to my 36th birthday, I had the goal of repeating the “half marathon birthday run” and making a tradition out of it. This year I started running a whole month earlier than 2020 and had clocked about 60 miles more on the road than the same time the previous year; however, I was also taken out by a cold for six days in late April and another six days in early May, causing a large dent in my training plan. 

So when the day came, May 16 2021, I did the opposite of the year before. I didn’t raise my bar. I lowered it. As I got ready for the morning run, I set my goal down from 13.1 miles to 10. In the midst of that run, I lowered the bar again and stopped at 9 miles. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. 

Why? Because there’s more to last year’s story. After pushing myself to complete that impromptu half marathon, I paid a price. Right away I felt exhilarated, euphoric, alive. But, I couldn’t run for a week after that. I was sore in new places. I needed longer to recover. My body wasn’t sufficiently trained for that distance. 

This year, I ran nine miles (still my longest of the year), didn’t feel much strain, and felt great after. One day later, I was up at 5:45am for an early morning jaunt around the neighborhood lake, breathing in the fresh spring air and waking up to the day with the birds, bunnies, deer, and sun. 

I still believe we are capable of more greatness than we think we are, and it’s usually just our own mental blocks that are in the way. But I now also see the value in knowing your limits, listening to and being in tune with your body, and being in it for the long game. 

Grit gets you places you didn’t think you could reach. 

Wisdom is knowing when to unleash your inner grit. 

Video, Audio, Text: The Content Producer’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors” Conundrum

If you had to set up Rock, Paper, Scissors rules for a new game called “Video, Audio, Text,” how would you do it? What beats what? 

Text was invented first and has been around the longest. Some pretty important documents are text: the Constitution, the Bible, that one note you got from Gina in 7th grade. Today we see nearly every publication from newspapers to magazines designed as online first, print second, but they are still putting out text to disseminate news, gossip, and information. 

Audio came next, sort of. Humans had been speaking before the written word came about, but it wasn’t until around 1900 when the first radio communication transmission was sent and received. Many people still listen to the radio today, and now we have internet radio, ebooks, and podcasts as wildly popular audio media. 

And then there’s video, the sexiest of the bunch, what with it’s sight, sound, and millions of pixels. Many have said we are now in a Golden Age of television, with more on-demand streaming options launching by the day and binge-watching being readily available like never before. And as the cost for high quality cameras has come down (nearly everyone has a high-def camera in their phone), the playing field of video creation has been leveled. 

In Rock, Paper, Scissors…

  • Rock beats Scissors because Rock is bigger and heavier and smashes the Scissors
  • Scissors beats Paper because that’s precisely what Scissors do
  • And Paper beats Rock because it covers up the Rock like a blanket, smothering it

So in Video, Audio, Text… what beats what? 

It begs a clarifying question. What are we going for here?

Are we looking for which is the:

  • Most fun to create?
  • Most influential medium to society?
  • Easiest to consume?
  • Most likely to convey information you will recall and remember later?
  • Medium of the future, that a hundred years from now the one we expect to have the best chance of still standing and garnering most of our attention? 
  • Least damaging to society? 
  • Best business opportunity for a content producer to venture into? 

There are a lot of ways to evaluate a medium! 

Let’s focus in on the question “Which medium is the best business opportunity for a content producer to venture into?” 

TEXT

Huffington Post is arguably the most popular “blog” or text-based site on the web, getting around 110,000,000 visits per month. SimilarWeb says the average Huffington Post user visits 1.84 pages per visit, so means its average monthly page views are 202,400,000. 

 

VIDEO

T-Series is the biggest YouTube channel, with over 91,000,000 Subscribers as of this writing. In the last 30 days, SocialBlade reports T-Series videos have been viewed 2,772,822,000 times. 

[Insert needle-skipping-on-record-player sound effect.]

2.8 billion views in one month?

 

AUDIO

It turns out, information about podcast downloads and popularity is not that easy to come by. In 2018 Apple released what the top 25 most downloaded podcasts were (like The Joe Rogan Experience, The Daily, Pod Save America, and RadioLab), but with no specific data. My uneducated guess tells me that even the biggest podcast probably doesn’t have as much reach as the biggest blogs, and it most definitely does not come close to YouTube view quantity. 

 

Granted, there are many other factors that go into a content production business plan other than potential reach, such as: 

  • Natural aptitude of the content producer (writing skills v. oral communication v. video production acumen)
  • Cost / overhead to produce
  • Identifying the target audience for the content and aligning their preferences with your content

Perhaps developing a grading rubric is in order to really get this right?

Sometimes attempting to answer one question leads to more questions. That’s when you know you’re on to something. 

 

We can’t wrap this article without answering the not-so-important question of what the rules are of our incredible new game, so I’ve come to a conclusion…

Video beats Audio, because Video has everything that Audio has to offer, and more. 

Audio beats Text, because you can listen to a book in a lot more places and contexts via an audiobook than a written text. 

Text beats Video, because it’s the O.G. medium. Text doesn’t care how sexy Video is, some pretty important documents wouldn’t exist without the written word. 

 

And there you have it. Now I just need one of you out there to help me with the best hand signs for our new, media version of Paper-Rock-Scissors. 

The Secret to Better Relationships: Tell Your Brain “No.”

There are conversations, and there are meaningful conversations. How do we have more of the latter? 

In Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss, Jon Call (aka Jujimufu) was asked “what one of his new behaviors or habits has helped him most in the last five years?” His answer (paraphrased): 

Tell your brain “no” when it wants to relate a conversation you’re having with someone to a “bigger” story. Let the desire go to “one-up” someone’s story with your own. The loss of the opportunity to possibly impress someone is far outweighed by what you learn when you ask more questions. 

We’ve all had the impulse. A story one of your colleagues is telling about their Spring Break trip to Jamaica transports your mind back three years ago when your family spent a week in Ocho Rios over the holidays. And you’ve got that hilarious story about how, with the rest of the tour group watching, you and your brother just could not get your dune buggy up that hill! Is interjecting that story at your colleague’s first breath really adding the most value to the conversation? When instead you could ask your colleague to elaborate on any number of things from their experience: how was it traveling with their new spouse? What did they find most intriguing about the local culture? Did they have any noteworthy interactions with the locals?  

Think about it from a selfish standpoint. If you believe every person has value, every human has something to offer, then why wouldn’t you take every opportunity you get to learn, to expand your perspective, and to deepen your relationship with and understanding of that person? 

Let’s take a business example. You sit down to meet with someone in person for the first time. Maybe you’re in Sales and you are sitting down with a prospective client. Maybe you’re in a job interview. Maybe you’re at a networking event. In any of these business situations, you have the inevitable “ice breaker” introduction moment. Some number of seconds or minutes spent on connecting with that other person on a topic outside the real purpose behind your meeting. Current events and the weather tend to get the lion’s share of these conversational exchanges. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s delightful when, in this “ice breaker period,” you actually do make a meaningful connection of some kind. You find a few square feet of common ground; perhaps you have a mutual acquaintance, Linda. Your new contact used to work with Linda at their previous employer. You know Linda from university. So, as you stumble upon this fun fact and your new contact says, “I worked with Linda at Company Q,” you have a choice. You can either launch into explaining everything you know about Linda from three years at university, or you could ask a follow up question about their work experience at Company Q. Which of these paths is going to better serve you in developing your relationship with this new contact? Should you ask some questions like, “What was it like working with Linda? How closely did you work together? Oh, you worked on a project together, what was that dynamic like? What did other colleagues say about working with her? If I were to ask her what it was like to work with you, what would she say?” just imagine how much of a deeper understanding you’ll have about your new contact. Isn’t that worth more than getting that story about you and Linda partying hard in the tailgating lot on Homecoming Weekend off your chest?

I’m not saying storytelling is bad. It’s not; it’s essential. It’s not that you should never openly share about your own life. How is anyone supposed to learn about you otherwise? The point is to adopt a mindset of curiosity. Good conversation isn’t about having the “gift of gab” or “being able to keep the conversation going,” it’s about telling your brain “no” when it has impulses to one-up the other’s story or to jump into sharing mode when it should be seizing an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect. 

The next time you’re in a conversation with someone and a self-centered idea pops into your brain, try telling your brain “no” and instead ask a question. You might be surprised what you find out. 


 

I’d love to hear about a time you tried this; what the situation was and what you learned by telling your brain “No.” Let me know in the comments! 

Minimum Viable Audience

In our connected world, the rules have changed. In the Industrial Revolution, the trick to business was mass-producing a product and then selling those products at scale. Now, in the Information Economy, scale is both easier to attain (social media & blogs) but also, in a way, harder to attain (fragmented consumer attention, more options than ever before). 

This is where the concept of Minimum Viable Audience comes in. What is the minimum number of people or customers you need in order to have a viable product or business? And the way to succeed today is to be so incredibly value to that minimum viable audience that you become irreplaceable. A necessity. Because guess what? If that small audience is super happy and satisfied with the value you’re bringing them… they’re likely to tell a friend. 

The Minimum Viable Audience concept has so many applications. Take Sales, for instance.

Let’s say you are a digital marketing sales rep and you sell Facebook Ads to businesses as a managed service. Who are your prospects? Which type of businesses can benefit from advertising on the world’s largest social network? Answer: nearly every single one of them. So is the best approach to call up every single business one by one to pitch them your service? No. In fact, that’s exactly the wrong approach. Instead, pick the smallest niche you can imagine. “Credit Unions in Dallas that specialize in low home mortgage loan rates.” Sure, there might only be 5, 10, 15 potential businesses that meet that description. But now you can be uber-important to these 15 prospects. Become a credit union home mortgage expert. Know exactly how to run an effective Facebook Ad campaign to generate more home mortgage leads. That’s a phone call those prospects will take. And now instead of spinning your wheels calling 1,000 prospects with a vanilla, watered down pitch about Facebook Ads, you’ve become super important to these 15 people and your chances of creating value for someone (and closing a deal, or three) increase dramatically. 

Today is the Day I Commit to a Blog Post Every Day

This week is the week I discovered Seth Godin. I had heard of Seth before, seen the blog before… but today, Seth’s wisdom has LANDED. I don’t have a clear “end game” in mind. But something inside – the voice from within – is telling me writing is the right thing to do. I am compelled. 

I love everything I’m reading, hearing, and seeing come out of Seth’s mouth. The “minimum viable audience.” Trust and attention are what matters, and the way to earn both of them is through generosity. So much more. And one thing Seth preaches is what we all should write a blog post every day. 

I’m making this commitment to myself, and to the Internet, right now: I’m publishing a blog post every day. 

I’m tired of waiting for “the moment.” 

I’m done worrying about the writing being perfect. 

I’m through with thinking about “my audience.”

I’m not going to concern myself with all the blogging “tricks” of writing SEO-friendly content, hyperlinking everything, crafting the perfect titles, and following all of Neil Patel’s tips (no offense, Neil, I think you’re incredibly good at what you do). 

I don’t care if I fail, because I know I will learn from it and grow into something better because of it. 

The “Publish” button will now become my friend, not my enemy. 

I’m ready to be vulnerable. 

I’m ready to share. 

I’m ready. 

This blog is for me.

If one day you are reading this, I’m glad it has brought you value, too. 

I will write the things that I want to see in the world. The things that will give me value. The things I wish there were more of. The things that bring me joy and make me laugh. That will be enough. 

I want my existence to make a positive impact. That impact starts right now. 

I want my children and their children to be able to look back at the archives and see what kind of a ruckus their old man was stirring up. 

I’m on inspiration overload reading and watching content from people like Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Marie Forleo, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Gary Vaynerchuk. I feel like I have inspiration bursting at the seems. There’s no other place for me to channel this inspiration than right here. 

While this blog is for me, I want it to be about you. I want to provide value to you. I don’t know exactly how yet. But I’m committed to figuring it out.

Here’s a question I just asked myself while journaling and the four answers to it I came up with. 

“What dent do I want to make in the universe?”

  • Better the environment for the generations ahead.
  • Make marketing better. Improve the profession and improve what we see as consumers. Less noise. More relevancy. Better attribution. 
  • Help everyone lead more productive and fulfilling lives. 
  • Reduce the amount of stuff we all use and think we need (i.e. embrace minimalism). 

I expect future writings and works will embark upon some version of one of these directions. 

I’m excited to see what tomorrow brings!

What Millennials Want

 

The term ‘millennial’ gets used so often, it sounds like a cliche, but there’s an important reason it’s so popular; the Millennial demographic is the most desirable audience for marketers. They have lots of buying power (estimates around $200 billion in 2017), yet they are young enough to form brand loyalty to last decades.

A recent study of 18- to 35-year-old’s showed millennials, when approached the right way, are open to connecting with companies. What are they drawn to?

  1. Bite-sized Content
    • Millennials and house flies have one thing in common – attention span. Be concise when crafting your message. After that, shorten it.
  2. Product-focused Information
    • Avoid the fluff: ‘family owned,’ ‘in business since 1935,’ ‘great customer service.’ Millennials don’t care. Highlight your product features and their benefits.
  3. Receiving a Message in a Digestible and Fluid Manner
    • Don’t interrupt their day. Seamlessly connect and add value at the right moment.
The study also shows millennials respond strongly to TV ads and visit at least four digital platforms every day.Read More

Google Goes from Gold to Green

In September of 2013, Google AdWords made a leap toward transparency by including a yellow “Ad” indicator in the search engine results that were paid ads.

Since that time, we have all grown accustomed to this new look on Google as we scroll down past the ads (most times) in our latest search for schools, stools, and shoes.

In April of 2016, Google began testing a modification to this look by changing the Ad indicator to green instead of gold.

DESKTOP

MOBILE

 

Yesterday, June 15, 2016, it became an official change. Ads are now green, not gold.

As a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “We regularly test ways to improve the look and feel of our search results page. We’ve been experimenting with a green search ad label and have decided to roll it out based on positive feedback from users and advertisers. Our goal is to make our results page easy to use, and our labeling clear and prominent.”

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

Some key words in that quote from Google: test, feedback, easy.

If any business knows how to execute an A/B test, it’s Google. And this is a perfect example of what an A/B test is. Seem trivial? Google doesn’t think so. We’ll never get to see that data, but rest assured Google Ads will get more clicks and advertisers will be getting more results with this enhancement. They vigorously capture and analyze feedback from customers to continue to make their product, Search (which is free), easier to use.

This approach goes in contract to the trend in native advertising, which attempts to conceal an ad by passing it off as written or video content. And it’s even in contrast to Bing and Yahoo! search engine results pages which use gray text to tell the user the results which are ads.

It’s fascinating and inspiring to watch the search engine powerhouse continue to innovate and to defy what all others are doing. They believe in their product and know that customers crave transparency. Case studies on Google will be taught in universities for decades to come.

Side note: Green Bay Packers fans will continue to click at normal click-thru rates after the change from gold to green. It’s all the same to them!

green and gold packers.png

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