Flickr Flickered Out?

Flickrdown Yesterday I was cheerfully spruiking this great set of images on Flickr … and then I started getting feedback about Flickr being out of action!

As they say in the Princess Bride … Inconceivable!

Obviously I would HAVE to see this for myself! After all, seeing is believing …

I like the way that the Flickr folks have handled this. It is good to see that they have pulled together a nice story that tries to turn a problem into another reason to come back!

Not only that, there are people like me writing stories about it. Hmmm … perhaps I am a puppet after all.


Insights with Creativity

Statistics on trends can be pretty dull, and I am sure we have all been blugeoned with facts during one presentation or another … in fact, I should put my hand up as a culprit. But sometimes it is possible turn facts into stories … and to do so in a way that also demonstrates your knowledge.

But then, thanks to the generosity of bloggers around the world, sometimes it is easy to appear smarter than you really are. Russell Davies points to this great Flickr set that combines Flickr images with matching trend information, statistics and the sort of cultural trivia that surprises and entertains.

The person responsible for this great work also allows you to subscribe to her RSS feed.

Can You Measure Your Brand?

Back in February I was looking at the way that emotion and facts combine to tell your brand story. OK … it was really just a bit of a rant, but following the link through to a Being Reasonable interview with Robert Passikoff was where the gold lay.

In marketing we love a ratio, or a series of bullet points, so "the 70/30 rule" sounds good. But this particular rule is better than good … it is a rule of thumb that has some credibility. But it is also quite frightening, because it also makes us accountable. Can the marketing work that we do create shareholder value? Can we measure it? We certainly can … but it is not a simple metric as Robert Passikoff explains. But until accountants begin to place "brand equity" on the balance sheet, it is unlikely that there will be much detailed focus on the monetary value of a brand.

All this aside, by focusing on the 70% of your brand story that is linked to emotion, it is clear that the ability to express a compelling story about your brand, your products and services requires a substantial investment in creative services. It also requires a substantial investment in those passionate evangelists who work in your business. Give your customers the facts by all means, but give them also a REASON to choose you over your competitor — give them emotion and passion — and then you will have a story to tell … and a way to measure it too!


Face to Face Wins

Over the last ten years there have been some great advances in technology. We now have video conferencing straight from our desktops, video phone calls via 3G phones, realtime collaborative applications such as Campfire and instant messaging from YahooMSN. But it doesn’t matter how much technology we throw at our customers, they all want to meet face to face.

Kathy Sierra talks about the way that seeing Radiohead live changed the way that her daughter, Skylar, views (and listens to) the Radiohead CDs in Kathy’s collection. The product remains the same, but the experience of the product has changed profoundly. There has been a layering of experience, recognition and pleasure that has now been transferred onto the unchanged product — meaning that one performance by Radiohead has changed NOT the product but the USERS.

I love this story. It reminds me of similar concerts by Nick Cave, The Go Betweens, Sonic Youth, Indigo Girls, Midnight Oil and many other bands that I attended years ago. All of these concerts made me re-listen to my CDs and records (yes, vinyl … and I still have them!). On the other hand, a very poor concert by a much-loved REM made me relegate the CDs to the back of the cupboard.

Live performance can work both ways. It can transform and amaze and it can also disappoint.

When it comes to marketing and communication, we can spend a great deal of time and effort in developing a messaging strategy, implementing just the right design, crafting the copy and timing the delivery. And because I quite like writing, I can often become lazy, choosing to write an email over making a phone call. But sometimes, it is better to make a call and arrange a face to face meeting.

In fact, it is ALWAYS better to meet face to face for one simple reason — the need to communicate. Communication does not happen in a vacuum … there are a whole range of signals, moods, nuances etc that you send and receive during a conversation. These can be exceptionally subtle and may only be understood on a subconscious level — I am sure we all have stories about finishing a meeting and exclaiming "that was a great meeting" — but not have anything tangible to base this on (like a signature on a piece of paper). What we are reading in these instances are all the non-verbal cues, we are sensing the good will, the exuberance and positive energy that was exchanged. We are reading the PERFORMANCE of the meeting.

This is why face to face wins (see also this great post by Kathy Sierra). It is why a great performance by your favourite artist can change your perception. It is about giving more than 100 percent. It is about creating an authentic moment that can create the opportunity for change. Such a moment needs trust, commitment and open communication. It needs a human face.


Saying No

"Difficult people" are everywhere. They are in shops, in restaurants, on the bus and in your meetings at work. They may even be members of your family. You can tell a difficult person because they stop things from happening. They raise questions and ask WHY? But one of the GOOD things about difficult people is that they do say NO.

I was listening to Lisa Haneberg’s fireside chat with Johnnie Moore and was struck by the discussion towards the end that focused on "difficult people". I have always been focused on achieving outcomes, making things happen — often overcoming the problems posed by "difficult people". But Johnnie and Lisa raise some interesting points about difficult people and the way that we label them.

Difficult people are often very passionate and driven people. They are saying NO for a reason — and while there may be a hidden agenda, there may also be very valid reasons. The challenge for marketers is to work through the issues to find a new way of engaging the difficult person. How do we do this?

Johnnie suggests that we start by leaving our own agendas at home. It is easy to forget that we have our own ideas and expectations that we bring to a workshop, to a campaign or a project. If we REALLY listen to the difficult person, we may find that the problems are not with them, but with us. Finding a new way to communicate is the challenge — but the first step is listening to the words that come out of our own mouths and understanding how "difficult" we are being.


Time for a Makeover?

I have been thinking about re-designing this blog for some time. This post from Diana prompted me to rethink this again. Unfortunately, most of my work on this blog happens late at night … at the very end of my day — and by that time I am more interested in musing about ideas than working with Photoshop.

That said, while I was in Shanghai I got a haircut. A VERY short haircut (I think something may have been lost in translation — about 3mm). And it makes me think that it is about time I took the clippers to the design of this site.

Of course I need to consider such a move in terms of persona, look, feel and brand. Is this about the Servant of Chaos, and if so, what does he look like? Is it more about ideas, branding or storytelling? What does that mean for a site design? Do I want more control and input than Typepad currently allows? Hmmmm …

All good questions, of course. But perhaps this is just another form of procrastination. Maybe I should just do it.

Have you ever faced this problem? How did you get around it? Or are you still using the same design you started with?


The Challenge of Translation

I remember meeting a translator at university. At the time he was working on a fairly heavy translation (to English) of a contemporary French philosopher’s work (it was one of Gilles Deleuze’s works) and he would sometimes talk about the challenges of creatively translating such a work. I must admit that my limited exposure to other languages did not allow me to understand exactly what he was saying … but a recent trip to China showed the real value of a good translator.

Hangzhou_airport_menu_1As we prepared to fly out of the Hangzhou airport, we breakfasted in the airport cafe. And after a week of "trying" many dishes that could not be translated into English, and with my sense of adventure drying up, I found I was unable to order the appealing "egg millk blend juice", and opted for a black coffee instead.

But in a western world, used to the superlatives of copy writers, the literal translation of Chinese to English seems strange, yet to native speakers, even good bi-lingual speakers, these translations are more than fine — they convey fact, are clear and communicate economically. Translators like copy writers are not born, they are made. They train for years in the nuances of cultures … and their task and learning never ends. And it is a creative endeavour … and the more we are all exposed to places like China and India, the more demand there will be for creative cross-cultural thinkers, speakers and (dare I say it), poets.


Invisible Leaders

I love this post on Johnnie Moore’s blog. It has a great quote from Lisa Haneberg:

"A leader is most effective when people barely know he
exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel
they did it themselves." Lao Tzu …

How do you select, hire, measure, and retain invisible leaders? Now
that’s the rub. Well, if they love what they do (and they’d have to)
retention is probably not the issue. Finding invisible leaders will
take more work and a whole new mindset toward hiring criteria. The
behavioral interview, so popular today, might not work to find the best
invisible leader.

I always like to think that I work this way … but if I don’t, it gives me good reason to think about my approaches.

Any other suggestions are welcome!


It Just Keeps Getting Better

Some time ago I saw a live performance show by a troupe called "The Happy Sideshow". Their motto is "it just keeps getting better" — often said as a hand or arm is placed into a dingo or bear trap (or much worse). This motto implies that improvement can only be made through a strange sort of pain — one that requires you to endure it while still smiling.

After almost a week here in Shanghai, I see a special relevance to this phrase … in fact, it is the same phrase I used with my team when in China last time. If you are looking to do business in China, then you need to know that it is never easy. There are many protocols, challenges, obstacles and cultural minefields to negotiate — and that is just at the airport!

When you can’t believe that the issues you face can become worse, then you must remember that "things just keep getting better". When the items that you purchased arrived and they are "below standard", you also need to remember that "things just keep getting better". And when you feel that the work you have paid for is shoddy, but there is no one responsible, no one to instruct or no avenue for recourse, you need to remember that "things just keep getting better".

It is clear to me that the best way forward in China is to be patient, firm in your articulation of need (matched with determination) and flexible in the way you deal with obstacles. This in itself can be frustrating, but is often the only way — the more you resist, the more stress you cause yourself and those around you.

But there are benefits and joys also. The people can be warm, supportive and very hospitable. They will go out of their way to show you the very best of their country and culture, point you in the right direction and even negotiate the price at markets. They are generous with their time and energy.

It reminds me of this post by Seth Godin. He talks about the perception of "weirdness" — and points out that it is not weird if it is YOUR weirdness. The things that frustrate and challenge westerners in China are just "part of life" for those who live here.

Does it just keep getting better? Thanks to my friends in China, I can say "yes"!