ZOMG – Seth Commented Me!

This is even more exciting than when Doc Searls quoted me on his site!  I belong to an online community of marketers called Triiibes.  It’s by invitation only so I won’t bother linking you to it.  One of the things you are encouraged to do there is cross-post blog entries into the Triiibes blog area, if they’re about marketing.  Well, I posted today the piece I did on Passing Notes, and look who commented:

Paul Durban!  No, just kidding.  Seth Godin!  Perhaps the pre-eminent marketing thinker of our time.  Now, to be fair, he is the founder of Triiibes, and probably comments there more than he would other places, to help nurture the network, but still!  He doesn’t comment every post, far from it.  So I’m going to take this as a compliment to my writing and you can’t stop me.


Selling Out

Over at Web 2.0h…really? today, I saw a post about a new service called Salesconx. It is an online marketplace for personal introductions. People buy and sell their friendships and business relationships for anywhere from dozens to hundreds of dollars. Let’s say that you know the VP of HR at a large company, and that that person is (inexplicably) willing to let you introduce them to random salespeople. Someone who sells employee management software might be willing to pay you $50 or $100 for you to set up a meeting with that VP.

Let’s leave the morals, ethics and viability of this concept alone for the moment – it is discussed intelligently at Web 2.0h…really. My question is, why not go to the next step? Instead of providing a forum for people to pimp out their friends, why not let people pimp out themselves?

Attention all salespeople: I’ll sit still and listen to you for 30 minutes if you pay me $100! Or you can take advantage of the weekly special and get a full hour for $175!

I’m semi-serious about this. Marketers pay a lot of money to get their message in front of the right people. BMW pays millions to try and influence only a small percentage of the total population that could realistically afford their products. Multi-tactic marketing campaigns, like the ones I’ve run for big-ticket software applications, can easily mount up to dozens or hundreds of dollars per qualified lead. If someone who had the Need, Authority, Timing, and Budget for my product offered to sit with one of my salespeople for an hour, I’d gladly pay $175 for that privilege!

As a matter of fact, marketers regularly do just that at various executive conferences hosted by the likes of Gartner. The way those events work is, Gartner invites various qualified executive decision makers to a conference where they will learn things valuable to their jobs, often actually paying for them to come. Then Gartner sells sponsorship opportunities to vendors who would like to sell stuff to these executives, and as part of the sponsorship, they promise you a certain number of private meetings with the executives. So Gartner is effectively taking the vendors’ money, then using it to bribe the executives (with a free trip to a conference at a luxury resort) to spend time with the vendors. One event Maximizer took part in, back when I worked there, cost $10,000 and got us a dozen or so private meetings. That’s significantly more than $175 per prospect.

How is that different from Salesconx? All Salesconx does it take out the Gartner middleman and replace it with some guy selling his relationships. And my scheme removes the middleman completely! Someone write up a business plan for this and I’ll split the first year revenues with ya’.

It Takes Two To…

I had a chat yesterday with my friend and colleague Trevor who spent the weekend at an exclusive young businessperson development retreat.  He was billeted with another conference participant who kept him awake by talking far too long into the morning.  I told Trevor he was too nice – he should have just bluntly told the other guy, “Sorry, I’m going to sleep.  We can resume our conversation in the morning.  Good night.”

It takes two to make a conversation.  I have never understood people who complain about other people who “just won’t shut up,” or “talked my ear off,” or “I just couldn’t get off the phone.”  You say, “Well, it was nice talking with you,” and walk away.  If you can’t walk away, for instance if you’re seated next to them on a plane, say, “Please excuse me, I need to read/work/nap now.”  Only a crazy person would continue talking to someone who clearly does not want to be engaged in a dialogue, or listen to a monologue.  (I say clearly, because you can’t just hint by yawning, or uttering terse responses, or gazing longingly at your novel.  You must tell them unequivocally that you do not wish to talk any more.)

So if only a crazy person will continue to speak to someone who doesn’t want to listen, what the heck are interruption marketers thinking?  Is there anyone who gets up from dinner to answer the phone and says, “Yes, I am interested in hearing about your CapitolOne credit card offer!”

Good marketing is a mutually agreed upon activity.  You want to tell me about yourself, and I want to listen.

Why Serenity is Bad

Netdud‘s recommended article from his comment on yesterday’s post, and his return email address (makemeonewitheverything), got me to thinking.  His article talks about how the misguided way we measure national wealth began in 1650; and “Make me one with everything,” is the punchline to my all-time favourite joke: “What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?”  What he got me thinking about is why bars are slightly disreputable in western culture.  Why, during the prohibition, certainly, but in a vague way before and since, is time spent in a drinking establishment considered time wasted?

According to a book loaned to me by my friend Dave, it’s all the fault of the 17th century Scots.  They had just gone through their Protestant Reformation which brought in hardline Presbyterian values about eschewing pleasure and keeping one’s nose to the grindstone (idle hands are the devil’s playground!).  At the same time, Jimmy Watts was busy inventing the steam engine, and the Industrial Revolution was gearing up.

Up to that point in time, people were generally craftsmen, tradesmen, farmers, etc.  You got by, or didn’t, by dint of your own skill and effort.  If you wanted to take a break for a few minutes or hours, that was fine.  There was no such thing as a “factory job” where humans are replaceable cogs because virtually no skill is required, and everyone is driven to perform the tasks over and over, constantly.  When factory jobs were  invented, they needed factory workers to fill them.  Well, no-one would really want a job like that, but there were enough poor people to fill the spots.  And the church gave them almost hero status for working so hard for so little.  So the kings of Capital could thank the church for making the hell bearable.

And the church benefited, too: once the “religion” of hard work became accepted dogma in society and industry, the rest of the church’s not-much-fun ideas about self-restraint and limiting one’s pleasures didn’t look as bleak.  So a mutual reinforcement cycle developed which to this day makes most of us feel slightly guilty when we are not doing  anything, or even not doing anything productive.  It’s a rare person, and a lucky one, who can truly be inactive in mind and body and be at peace.  (I wish I was one.)

And, of course, to answer my question of why bars have a stigma: it’s virtually impossible to be “productive” in a bar.  Sure, I suppose you could have a business lunch over a beer and get some stuff done, but the vast majority of time spent in bars is “leisure time,” and therefore bad.

Hey 2008, Get Over Yourself

I have not totally verified the source of this quote I came across, but several blogs say it’s from Robert Kennedy in 1968, shortly before his assassination:

We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods. We cannot measure national spirit by the Dow Jones Average, nor national achievement by the Gross National Product. For the Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads … It includes … the broadcasting of television programs which glorify violence to sell goods to our children. And if the Gross National Product includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials … the Gross National Product measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile, and it can tell us everything about America — except whether we are proud to be Americans.

RFK seems to have some pretty serious concerns about the environment, crime, violence on TV, the effect of TV on kids, education, health care and warfare.  It sure is some sterling rhetoric, but what really strikes me is that we also have all those problems today, but we seem to think they were invented just for our torture.  Well, here’s proof that they were exactly the same 40 years ago.  (Except for the “carnage” on the highways – we seem to have beaten that one.)  I imagine, that adjusted for technology, they were the same 400 years ago, too.

Block Party!

Tomorrow is the annual Birchwood Block Party.  Every year around this time, we block off Birchwood Crescent here in Moncton.  We partially block off the bottom of the “U” of Birchwood Crescent almost every day – with orange traffic cones to warn drivers that kids are at play.  But at the annual Block Party, we really take over the street, populating it with tables, chairs, barbecues, coolers, piñatas, etc.  Here’s a picture of some of the kids that attended 3 years ago:

Everyone who lives on the street is invited, as well as anyone else a Birchwood resident wants to have along.  The tradition started years ago when the French Consul used to live in the house next door.  They had a Bastille Day party every year (of course), and it was a huge affair extending all over their large property and involving hundreds of guests.  Of course, this meant a big traffic and parking headache for the whole neighbourhood, so to make it up to us, they would have us along to the party.  Instead of hobnobbing with the politicians and local dignitaries, we “streeters” would usually just hang out with each other and enjoy the wine and canapés.

Then, in 2003, our French neighbours moved to Tunisia, to take up the consular post in Sfax.  We felt a looming gap in our summer entertainment schedule, so some of the neighbourhood ladies took it on themselves to organize a street party.  This will be its 6th consecutive year, and it has grown with each iteration.  Now we’re so sophisticated that we have themes: 2 years ago was Hawaiian, last year was Country Hoedown, complete with hayrides; and this year it’s Olympian.

There is a significant amount of work expended by the organizing ladies, and also by almost everyone who attends.  Why go through that effort?  I think it’s a symptom of the social disease we all have: the desire to be with other people.  It’s why the (second) oldest profession is inn-keeping (or bar-keeping) – someone is always providing the venue for folks to gather.

Serious Environmental Crisis

This is a short (119 seconds) video shot by an amateur last summer in California.  To give you some background, HAARP is a US Air Force research program that shoots high-frequency radiation into the Aurora Borealis.  There appears to be a vast government conspiracy to cover up the deleterious effects this experiment is having on our atmosphere.  Because the narrator begins slightly shrilly, I will tell you that her first words are “Hot day – July 6th…”

It’s even worse than she realizes – my wife has a crystal ornament hanging in our kitchen window and it seems to focus the HAARP rays even more and creates rainbows even closer to the ground.  Sometimes on the freakin’ FLOOR!  My house must be FULL of metallic oxide salts!

I tell ya, I would have taken her a lot more seriously if it weren’t for the atrocious apostrophe transgressions in each of the first 2 title screens.

Passing Notes

My daughter and I were playing in a neighbourhood playground Monday night.  It is less than a year old, and was installed through the co-operation of the Salvation Army (who own the land) and the Moncton Wesleyan Church next door (who have money).  I spied a piece of litter on the ground, so I picked it up, intending to put it in the garbage on our way out.  This is what it had printed on one side:

It’s clearly a collection envelope.  We were given similar ones at my church growing up, although the ones we had were issued to individuals and had numbers printed on them, so the people processing the collection each week would know who had given what (although you’d think God would know, regardless).  I think it works differently at the Wesleyan, though: I believe that these envelopes are simply stuck into little boxes on the back of every pew, so congregants just grab one to stuff their donations into.  So, if you’re following my mental picture, they’re readily available scrap paper for someone sitting in a service.  Now, look what was written on the back:

“Do u have facebook.”  What a classic snapshot of our decade.  No longer do kids pass notes saying that the teacher is smelly.  Or that the preacher in nuts.  Those opinions are timeless and probably go without saying.  Nowadays, the note passing is an invitation to go to a Web page and learn all about the note-passer.  Don’t bother trying to fit your opinion onto a 2″ × 4″ piece of paper; simply direct the other person to your own personal online profile, where they can learn all about you!

Since this blog is ostensibly about marketing most of the time, I hope the obvious implication is not lost.  Just like kids aren’t pushing their messaging anymore (instead they’re inviting their contemporaries to visit of their own free will), broadcast advertising is losing its value, and being replaced by consumers seeking out  what they desire.


There has been a serialized Web comic running weekly for a few months now that just finished.  It’s called FreakAngels, and it’s a science fictiony thing set in London, in a dystopian future where most of the city is under water.  We’re not told why  London is drowning (in the words of The Clash); it’s just the status quo for the story’s backdrop.

And, a little while ago, I read Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road.  It takes place in a post-apocalyptic America where most people, and virtually all plants and animals, are dead.  Again, no explanation is given for why  things are this way, they just are.

Puzzling people and offering up strange ideas and situations for them to try and comprehend is fine if you’re doing it as part of an attempt to entertain.  But all too often, organizations (frequently governments) make us do things that seem crazy and leave us scratching our heads in a similar manner.  This sometimes makes us frustrated and upset, like the post-flight security screening we got in Orlando that I wrote about.

I was reminded of this on the weekend because I was telling a true story that happened when Cindy and I were going camping in Washington State many years ago (way before 9/11).  As we crossed the border from BC, the officer saw through our hatchback window that we had a cooler, so he asked us to pull into the secondary screening area.  Another officer came over and pointed to the cooler, and asked, “What’s that?”

“Um, it’s a cooler,” I replied.

“Please open it.”


She them pointed at a bunch of bananas, and queried, “What’s that?”

I was seriously trying to figure out if this was some kind of trick question, but I answered, speaking slowly like you would to a thick child or an angry bear, “It’s … a … bunch … of … ba-na-nas.”

She then asked, “Where are they from?”

I didn’t immediately get the thrust of her question, and answered honestly, “Safeway.”

“No,” she seemed to think that I was making fun of her, and was getting a little snippy. “I mean where were they GROWN.  Were they grown in Canada?”

I actually suppressed a laugh at this one, and replied, “Y’know, I’m not totally certain, but I’m pretty sure they were not  grown in Canada.  We don’t have much of a banana growing industry.”

“So where were they grown?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, if you don’t know where they were grown, you can’t bring them in.”

So I asked, “But if I had said, 5 seconds ago, that they were grown in Ecuador, I could bring them in?”


“OK, they were grown in Ecuador.”

“It’s too late now.  You may eat them here or leave them.”

I wasn’t prepared to argue the silliness of the situation with an armed border guard, so I said, “I’m not that hungry – you can have them.”  And we went on our way.  It didn’t make any sense, but I’m sure she had her reasons – maybe she was just peckish.  My point is, knowing why  that bizarre rule was enforced would have helped me see her side and possibly preserved some of the little respect I have for the US government.

So, just like I advised Igor del Norte in this post; if you are going to ask people to do something counter-intuitive (or just plain dumb), explain to them why  it’s necessary.

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The Customer Is Always Right, Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I dispute that the customer is ALWAYS right, and gave a specific example of designers and advertising agencies having to bow to foolish (i.e. wrong) client input.  To read that scathingly witty and insightful post, click here.  Notice that I cite Razor Creative as an example of a smart design firm.

Then, this weekend, we went camping on Prince Edward Island with our favourite camping pals, the MacDonalds.  Dave, the dad, used to run an advertising firm, and we were talking about how it is incredibly frustrating to have to ruin good design by including “minor adjustments” from the client.  I told him about a video that I had seen recently that parodies this process.  It is very funny because it is so true.  As a matter of fact, I’m not sure it would be as funny for someone that hasn’t been through this — they would think it’s too ridiculous to be real.  But believe me, this happens every day in corporate culture:

And in an interesting coincidence, after I told Dave about the video and promised to send him a link, Rich Gould, one of the principals of the aforementioned Razor Creative, posted that same video on his blog yesterday, so it wasn’t difficult for me to find for Dave this morning. 

As a completely unrelated aside, Dave had the quote of the weekend: we were beset by the worst mosquito infestation I have EVER seen, all weekend; and also got hit with a crazy-heavy monsoon from Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning.  I’m talking bouncin’ off the ground rainfall and bugs so thick I killed 6 with one hand-slap to my leg.  Now, normally, when it’s pouring rain, the bugs go away and hide, but not this weekend.  They were just as bad even when the rain was heaviest.  So picture Dave, with his rain poncho giving him a vaguely biblical appearance, gazing up into the heavens, water dripping off him, bugs circling his head, saying, “can’t we at least have our plagues one at a time?!?!”

This photo was taken during one of the brief respites – when God was taunting us by making us believe it was over.  Notice the orange Off! can on the table.  It was the good stuff – not allowed on kids under 12.  It was supposed to last 5 hours – we were reapplying it about every 20 minutes.