Give And Give More - And Then Ye Shall Receive

Today I sent out a message to all of my LinkedIn connections who are in some way or another occupied with marketing on a professional level. The message was about a new free service that is being offered by The Danish Marketing association to their members: a mentor service designed to help members - marketing folks at large - tackle whatever work-related problems they are grappling with.

A great idea which is why I've signed on as a mentor (pro-bono). I support any initiative that can help companies build strong marketing capabilities which in turn can help improve their marketing practice and increase marketing's contribution to the business.

So, I receive a lot of positive feedback but I also receive mails from people who clearly think that I'm trying to sell them this service. At first I get a bit ticked off by this knee-jerk reaction. I'm not trying to sell you anything, all I'm saying is 'Look, it's a great idea and I want to share it with you; if you like it and can benefit from it, then great. If not, then no worries'.

But then it got me thinking about this, to me, cynical reaction: 'When someone is sharing something, it must be because they want to sell it'. I get worried in particular when this reaction comes from marketing people.
It suggests that this one-dimensional mindset is still the status quo in marketing and that companies still don't understand that consumer engagement is something to be earned - and to earn it we need to give.

Now, I'm not a philanthropist or plain naïve, we need to manage our resources and budgets, I'm not talking about doling out our products, give away our IPR, or hand out money.
But I've learned that the time is over where we as corporate marketers could expect consumer interest and engagement in our brands and product simply by touting them. Today, we need to do so much more and that includes giving, sharing, inspiring, providing stuff with no strings attached.
That the old fashioned sell mentality - the consumer as an object to be sold to - is prevalent among marketers is frankly concerning.

Lego, my former employer who I love dearly, spend a lot of resources on giving, sharing, facilitating, enabling stuff for and to their audiences. That doesn't mean they don't look at the bottom line, indeed they do.
But they know that by giving and giving a lot, they can meet and sometimes exceed customer expectations and that's their goal. Lego has a profit margin (ROS) of 30% and have gone from strength to strength in the past 5 years.

So what I'm trying to say: Marketers, put away the cynicism and the sell mentality. If you can't perhaps you need to find another line of work.

As the Beatles put it in 1969: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Enough said.

What I like about sports

There are many things I like about practicing sports and the people I meet there. One of the things is that we are focused on the training - and not very much on our jobs. We have little knowledge about what the others do for a living and little do we care. Somehow that's very liberating.

Ask not what my job is but what I am

When we meet new people, we tend to ask "So, what do you do?". Sometimes we do it because we are curious but mostly we do it simply to make conversation. Or when we meet our friends and acquaintances, we often start by asking "So, how's work?" Personally, I'm getting fed up with this line.

It immediately frames the conversation to an often narrow perspective that is purely work-related. I get why we do it and I do it myself all the time - but we are other things than work. I should hope!

I'd much rather that people ask me what my interests are, whether I have an opinion on subject x, if I've read any good books lately, what I had for dinner last night, or what generally engages me for the time being. I'm pretty sure we would have much more vivid and interesting conversations.

One of my old friends always asks "So, how is your soul doing?" For many years I felt it was so corny to ask something like that but I've come to appreciate it. It's an open question that encourages us to reflect, think a bit, feel in the stomach, and yet allows any answer what so ever, be it small talk or big talk.

I'm going to try to ask less about people's jobs and more about what their interests are and what fills their lives. Sometimes there's an overlap between job and interests which is fantastic. Sometimes there isn't and that's fantastic, too. I think we can get into more fruitful conversations if The Job isn't always the starting point.

What counts (often) can't be counted

One of my friends told me yesterday that the company he works for had named him CEO. He was very happy and proud and I am equally happy and proud for him. I know how career matters to him.

But it got me thinking about what matters to me when it comes to friends and relationships.

The thing is, I don't really care whether he is CEO or not, whether my brother-in-law is VP or not, whether my other friend makes this or that amount of money a year, how many square meters their house is, how many kids they have, how big their car is, how many books they've read, or how many iron men they've completed.

None of this makes our relationship more or less important, nor does it make them look more or less important in my eyes.

What matters to me is whether they are happy and whether it makes me happy that we are part of each other's lives. When it comes to my family and friends I'm a sensitive person. These relationships are what brings me most joy in life and also most grief.

To me, what counts in a relationship is how we treat each other and whether I feel that I am as important to the person as the person is to me:
  • That they would stand up for me if I got in trouble
  • That they would be by my side if I got sick
  • That they express interest in my life
  • That they respond to me when I contact them
  • That I feel appreciated by them as I hope they feel appreciated by me
  • That they tell me if I've hurt them or otherwise made them feel let down, and that I feel I can do the same
  • That they take responsibility for the relationship
  • That they would lend a hand if I ask
  • That we have fun and wonderful experiences together 
  • That I am a priority in their life as they are in mine.
Feeling I can count on them is everything. In short: Size of heart, not wallet, rank or achievements.

The (dog's) secret to happiness

“My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?” (Snoopy)

Why Christian Bale must be cast as Steve Jobs

There's no point in not admitting that I am 1) a Steve Jobs fan, 2) a Christian Bale fan. I am. So for this reason alone, the idea of Christian Bale playing Steve Jobs in Sony's forthcoming Steve Jobs biopic is extremely appealing to me.
But there are other reasons why I hope Aaron Sorkin will cast Bale in the role of this iconic figure. Here's a list:
  1. Christian Bale is a terrific actor, he's like a blank canvas that can be transformed into pretty much anything.
  2. He has a great deal of the same facial features as Steve Jobs: The high cheek bones, long nose, deep-set eyes, a slight lisp, mischievous smile, and those fang-like eye teeth.
  3. He can transform himself bodily as well as mentally (remember The Machinist, The Fighter).
  4. Last but not least: He has a slightly maniacal vein, something a bit crazy and dark lurking under that cool, at times boyish exterior. Oh and he's sure got a temper and has no problem telling people off.
Forget Ashton Kutcher, Noah Wylie etc., they're way to cute and nice. Bale is the man for the job(s).

Transmedia communication - one of many techniques

"Calling [the impact of a banner ad] an 'impression' is a terrible lie, because it isn't making an impression on anybody."

A very fitting quote these days. It comes from Wharton's excellent publication Knowledge@Wharton, more precisely from an article here called "Transmedia Storytelling, Fan Culture and the Future of Marketing".

Now, I generally dislike when something is called 'the future of marketing' incl transmedia. Partly because whatever is referred to is rarely the future but in fact already happening. Partly because nothing is the future of anything let alone marketing.
Because there isn't one truth about marketing and there isn't one right way of marketing something, but in fact there's a lot of different ways. The task is to find out which approach or combination of approaches will work at any given time and situation.

Having said that, the article gives excellent examples of how transmedia can be used intelligently to drive engagement and it is sufficiently humble towards who should be employing the technique and what it can achieve. Worth a read, if nothing else then because of the brilliant quote above!

World views

Some people view life as a right. Others as a privilege.

Getting real about yoga

"So you are, like, really relaxed and floating above the ground after your yoga classes?"

I get this question a lot when I tell people that I practice yoga. Depending on the person I either nod and smile cordially or begin to explain what yoga is and why I like it.

The thing is, I do not practice yoga to relax and float above the ground. And I don't really know any kind of yoga that will do that to you. Meditation and mindfulness will or is designed to, anyway (well, not the floating part). Yoga is designed to reinforce your muscles, sense of balance, flexibility, and posture. Yoga is all about strength.

Of course, there are more and less demanding types of yoga. Some are very physically taxing like Astanga and Iyengar, others focus more on synchronizing breathing and movements like Dynamic, Flow and in part Vinyasa.

They all have their specific benefits. I personally like to practice different kinds of yoga, mostly Iyengar and Vinyasa and sometimes Dynamic, because I get to use my muscles and body in different ways. But common for all of them is that I've gained flexibility and strength over the years. I can do more sit-ups and push-ups than most women my age (or younger for that matter) and have achieved greater flexibility.

So forget the old-fashioned, stuck-in-the-hippie-age, faulty perception of yoga. Or better yet, try it out yourself.

Newcomers will benefit from starting with gentle Dynamic yoga that will help warm up muscles and joints over time and ease you into the yoga practice. Then, take a step further with Vinyasa to challenge your strength, flexibility and balance. After a while, move forward with Iyengar to build up your stamina.

Just don't expect to wander around in a heavenly buzz or float above the ground.

Jens Astrup took this photo. And photoshopped it too.

Remember the basics

Don't worry so much about being a brand or being 'authentic'. Be true to yourself and good to your customers. That's what matters.

The experience enigma

Brand experience is the experience of the brand that companies want to give. Customer experience is the experience of the brand that customers get.
Unfortunately, these two are often not the same.

Widespread paradox

Companies with the most data about their customers find it most difficult to use it.