A matter of opinion and trust


I’m currently sorting out a brake issue on one of our vehicles. One mechanic says one thing, the other another. Initially I got pretty frustrated because I was taught that a vehicle part can only be in one of three conditions:

  1. Present and in good working condition (with lots of life left)
  2. Present and nearing the end of its intended service life
  3. Missing and therefore needs replacement

My two mechanics differ on the interpretation of #1 and #2.

It reminds me of an old saw:

  • Both a doctor and an artist can compliment you, telling you that you’re in great shape, but when you’re not feeling well, chances are you’ll want to talk to the doctor, not the artist about your condition because you consider the doctor an expert on health related issues.

In my case, the same rule applies:

  • The mechanic that’s telling me the car’s “fine” sold it to me. He’s in the business of selling cars.
  • The other mechanic that’s telling me the car needs work is in the business of maintaining cars.

The same rule of thumb applies to marketing as well:

  • Some agencies sell you advertising services.
  • Some help you build long term brand relationships with your customers.

Let the communication service buyer beware.



Will you take the first or last customer?

You’ve all seen the bell curve: early adopters on the skinny left, the majority in the fat middle and the gatekeepers on the skinny right.

We’re surrounded by brands that focus on the left for positioning and profit, and when the market becomes too crowded and profits too marginal in the middle, their R+D teams are sent back to the left in an effort to discover or reinvent an opportunity that they can capitalize on for a while. Think Apple.

Another path of thinking is to work the middle – positioning yourself as the category savior, expert, discount solution, used alternative and so forth. Every mall in the world is filled with these brands.

On the far right are the companies that serve the fringe brand loyalists, making vintage car parts, tube for analogue amplifiers, restoration companies, art galleries and museums.

As our economies and communications become globally intertwined, I’m seeing more and more opportunity for innovative thinkers to fill an interesting niche along the full marketing continuum – including crowdsourcing for concepts and local craftsmanship communities. 

Like a city going through urban renewal, it’s amazing to see what is be accomplished around us that ten years ago no one could have predicted. Like the American maker movement driving Detroit’s renaissance. 





Placing a car into a fish-tank full of gold-fish is a nice idea.

Doing so digitally is how it’s usually done these days.

Putting a brand new car into an aquarium full of gold-fish in a busy mall takes a bit more money and far more audacity.

Audacity doesn’t win you a brand war or skirmish, but if done right, it can get you on the short list of brands that people take notice of.

Audacity is best followed by brand integrity and an opportunity to experience some of the stuff that can help assure them that your brand really is different because your culture really is different in ways that are aligned with and support thier professional or personal paths.



In praise of Andy Rooney


Better people make better communities - and run better businesses. Had I understood 1/2 this stuff in my formative I would have been a much better person, employee and employer.

While I’m not a fan of reposting, these lessons on life by Andy Rooney are worth sharing. Mr. Rooney was an American radio and television writer who was best known for his weekly broadcast "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney," a part of the CBS News program 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011.

“1. The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

2. When you're in love, it shows.

3. Just one person saying to me, 'You've made my day!' makes my day. 

4. Being kind is more important than being right.

5. Never say no to a gift from a child.

6. I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in any other way.

7. No matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

8. Sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

9. Simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

10. Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

11. We should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

12. Money doesn't buy class.

13. It's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

14. Under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

15. To ignore the facts does not change the facts.

16. When you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

17. Love, not time, heals all wounds.

18. The easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

19. Everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

20. No one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

21. Life is tough, but I'm tougher.

22. Opportunities are never lost; someone takes the ones you miss.

23. When you harbour bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

24. I wish I could have told my Mom that I love her one more time before she passed away.

25. Keep your words both soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them.

26. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

27. While everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

28. The less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.”

And my favourite:

29. “The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”



Let me sleep on it

Because of my depth an breadth of experience people think I can come up with better ideas faster than those with less experience. As a result I get a lot of requests to turn a project around in a few days rather than a few weeks.

Here’s a little creative process argument breakdown you can use with your clients to help them understand why two weeks can make the difference between good + great creative (money + talent aside).

  • When your project arrives on my desk, it competes with a bunch of other personal and professional work; some of which I need to do and some I want to do.
  • When you give me short lead times and I need to “drop everything” and jump on your project, you’re moving me into commercial crisis management mode. The solutions that I come up with will make sense and play well with your other communication elements, but because there is no time to immerse myself into your brand's or your user’s life, I’ll show you three very different communication solution options. My work will not be very insightful because your creative brief was long, vague and not (operationally or functionally) insightful.
  • When you give me time and a short, insightful brief, something very different happens. I get to read the brief, ask you questions about it, digest it and then forget about it for a while. Over the next few days ideas and solutions will “come to me” that I can mull over. A few days later all of the ideas that have bubbled up will begin to sort and shape themselves as direct and oblique solutions to your creative brief. Then, when I’m caught up with other work on my desk, I can address your brief quickly and effectively because I’m not “thinking up” ideas, I’m just jotting down and sketching out the completed options that I’ve come up with.

The kicker:

While the client billable and non-billable hours for the crisis version (three good options) and the 2-week version (a dozen good options distilled down to the best two or three) are about the same.

The bottom line:

Crisis clients who only “know what they want when they see it”, usually don’t see it in the first session and ask for multiple rounds of revisions (that they don’t feel obligated to pay the agency for).

I sell in the 2-week versions of my work the first time round 95% of the time (often with-out even being in the room)!