Friday, April 26, 2013

Actually, I just want to add … She said that? OMG

The other day I watched as a woman in her 20s describing some aspect of her career in marketing. Each sentence in her commentary, while full of declarative statements, ended on the up-swing. The inflection she used with every statement sounded like a question. With each inflection, the changes in pitch in her speaking, was undermining her expertise. She understood her subject matter but her speech pattern was hurting her credibility. Instead of sounding like an authority, she sounded a little like a Valley Girl. She seemed to doubt herself with her tone throughout her short presentation.  

This way of speaking drives me crazy.  All that "up-talk," everything uttered—even simple declarative sentences—sound like a string of questions from a sulky teenager. Too often this approach to the spoken word sounds more tentative than it should. This inflection/question phenomenon seems an outgrowth of the 80s Valley Girl stereotype caricature:  an unapologetically spoiled airhead interested more in vapid materialism, shopping and social status than intellectual development.
   
Say the words, She said no as if you were disappointed. (You should notice that the pitch of your voice dropped on the last word.) Now say those words again as if you were surprised – as if you were asking a question. (This time you should notice that the word no was higher in pitch than the first two words.) Listen to a recording of this exercise as you say those words with both types of expressions and you can begin to recognize the difference in inflection between the statement and the question.

Consultant Tara Sophia Mohr suggests working on cutting the questioning tone too. She also offers a few other things to consider (from an article in the Huffington Post):
Lose the just.  (As in: "I just think ..." or  "I just want to add ...") The word demeans what you have to say.

Drop actually too (As in: "I actually have a question" or " I actually want to add something") It makes it sound like you're surprised by your own ideas.  

Don't say that you are probably wrong. (It shows a lack of confidence.)

Don't preface your statement by saying, I'll take just a minute. (It sounds apologetic and implies that you don't think what you are about to say is worthy of time and attention).  

I’m probably wrong …This will just take a minute but I just, actually, think, well…This inflection stuff and these insidious linguistic traps are worth working on?   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anecdote of the Jar


 
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee. 

- Wallace Stevens

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Of Mere Being

Wallace Stevens was a businessman who worked most of his career in the insurance industry in Connecticut. He wrote poetry as a way to calm himself, often while commuting to and from work. If you read poetry, no doubt you have favorite poem you revisit from time to time. Such a poem becomes an old friend. That being said, I would like to introduce you to this one.

Of Mere Being                                                            

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,


A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.


You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.


The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
                              

The palm at the end of the mind with a bird singing a song without feeling reminds us that merely being is not enough. The poem seems to challenge us to see the beauty, hear the bird’s song and give it meaning and reason. Observe. Find the Joy. Thank you Wallace Stevens!

ST LOUIS - Artist Robert Lobe (b. 1945) was inspired by Wallace Stevens poem Of Mere Being when he used a dying walnut tree as a starting point/substrate for his sculpture The Palm at the End of the Parking Lot. This photo by Wes Morgan captures the sculpture under threatening skies last fall at Laumeier Sculpture Park (2012).   
 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Big Data

A lot of attention is being paid to big data, which is the phenomenon we now see as a direct result of so much social media activity and software able to monitor traffic and metrics for the purpose of making smart marketing decisions.   

Marshall Sponder is an author, analyst and speaker. He writes and speaks about social media measurement. His book Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Intrepreting, and Using Metricsis published by McGraw-Hill. I was in the audience when Marshall was a guest speaker at the University of Missouri, St. Louis (UMSL) on April 2, 2013. Professor Perry Drake had orchestrated a full line up of speakers, some live, some via Google Hangout to address 300+ in attendance that day. The theme for this conference - Digital Marketing. 

Among other things, Sponder observed a change in skill sets which will be required as the digital age continues. “If you consider the skills required for digital marketing you can see that students willing to cross-train in areas like graphic design and writing, for example, could be in high demand.” Says Sponder adding, “This could be easier said than done.” 

Marshall isn’t the only speaker who alluded to the market disruption and impact of social media at this conference. Big Data came up a lot. It is the result of collecting so much raw information that even the smartest statistician doesn’t know where to begin. Software tracking web traffic, information that can be mined that will project all kinds of consumer behavior, basic demographics and probability analysis - Big Brother might still be watching you. And yet marketers are choking on all the input already. “Like drinking from a fire hose.” Tweets a participant.

Preparing for a sea-change is an important message for students and marketers everywhere. It is also no surprise that the emerging field of mining all this information will be in demand for marketers as business leaders look to reduce the risks. It is exponentially more complex now. Roles will change. Business will change. That has always been true but now it happens faster and faster. Pay attention and stay tuned.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

What Would Winona Want, Walt?


What Would Winona Want?

By Walt Jaschek 

Pssst! Someone is missing from our marketing meetings.

Not Marissa. She’s hit or miss; start without her.

Not Mike. He’s under his headphones; let him be.

The missing person is our prospect.

Prospect, singular, not prospects, plural, or (ugh) target audience. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Begin with an individual and you find that you have created a type; begin with a type and you find that you have created – nothing.”

So! An individual! A person, with pain, aspirations, suspicions and hope, someone who could be any age, race or gender, but let’s call “her” “Winona,” because using a real name begins a real conversation, and that name invokes Winona Ryder, who, let’s face it, still has it. [Underlined phrase hyperlinks to: http://winona-ryder.org ]

While we’re at it, let’s punch the pretense out of “ideation sessions” and call them “brainstorms.”

Winona should attend these brainstorms – not physically, fun as that would be – but virtually. One proven tool is research, quantitative and qualitative. (A creative guy who loves research? Call Ripley!) If there’s no time or budget – too often the case – then Winona’s voice can be represented via a scientific innovation I call “best guess.”
 
For example:

• When leading brainstorms, I push a process that allows the group to “channel” Winona, to “hear” what she has to say before and after being exposed to proposed messaging. It’s like a conference-room-sized Ouija board, and, weirdly, it works.

• When participating in brainstorms, I turn over hard copies of creative briefs (old joke: they’re neither), sketch a cartoon face, and ask, “What would she say?” I’m thinking Winona. But it could be Woodrow. Or Wanda. Or Wang.

By running our ideas by them, even hypothetically, we make our messages more relevent, more authentic, and, praise Odin, less complex.
 
Not quite buying that? Then listen to other Real Authors, and something you can buy -- a great book, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn. It’s gold throughout, but here’s the money quote:

“Complexity is a coward’s way out. There is nothing simple about simplicity, and achieving it requires empathizing (by perceiving others’ needs and expectations), distilling (by reducing to its essence the substance of one’s offer) and clarifying (by making the offer easier to understand and use).”

Hmmm. That’s a lot of parentheses for a paragraph about simplicity. But by emphasizing empathy, the authors empower.

Our job as marketers, I believe, is not to make our product or service understandable. It’s to make our prospect feel understood.

Or, to reduce fractions further, it’s not about what we want to say. It’s about what Winona needs to hear.

I have more to say (irony intended) about this subject, some of which would make me look OH, so insightful, but I sense you might have something better to do right now than spend more time on this page.

So instead:

I’ll shut up.

See? That’s empathy! [Word “empathy” links to: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy]

To engage Walt Jaschek for a prospect-focused ideation session (AKA “brainstorm”), call or text 314-479-1966, email walt@waltnow.com, follow @WaltNow, or ask Winona to ask him to call you.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

UMSL Digital Conference

Perry Drake was determined to stage a remarkable event. And so he has. Today, at the J.C. Penny Conference Center on the campus of the University of Missouri, St. Louis he managed to assemble a line-up that sent a message, loud and clear to marketers everywhere, especially those about to launch their careers in this elusive field.

Starting with representatives from ForeSee and IBM we learned that big data is puzzling marketers. Research among Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) by IBM confirms that the digital age cannot be ignored and yet the ability to harness and measure the data gathered from social media can be difficult to interpret.   

Recruiter and author, Jerry Bernhart, joins in with the observation (via Google Hangout) that a plethora of jobs are emerging for digital savvy marketers. The CEO of Bonfyre, a St. Louis start-up, makes a compelling case for a platform that engages groups (such as this UMSL digital conference). The platform suggests that participating in an event (such as this) sometimes makes more sense to engage the group members instead of  900+ people you may have accumulated via facebook.

Nielsen’s Todd Budin talks about advertising effectiveness and reinforces the idea that in spite of all the data, marketers should really think about what they actually hope to accomplish up front. TV is still king but we are all keenly aware that digital devices are changing the advertiser’s challenge of breaking through. Reach/Resonance/Reaction is how Nielsen looks at advertising effectiveness and considers the impact on the purchase funnel.

Scott Meyer, CEO of Evidon and Ghostery teases the crowd with the notion that the websites we visit are being monitored.  Back to Google Hangout and we meet Rachel who introduces us to Canary, a social media start-up. (Rachel is in the New York area and a former Pepsico employee.)

Andrew Grinch of Mizzou was a refreshing break from the heady conversation about technology and the future of digital media. His case study about marketing the University of Missouri as it joined the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with a mix of media that included TV, billboards and social media is delivered well. He gives insight into the strategy to address two audiences with Excite and Invite. He should not have felt compelled to apologize for his real world application.    

Kevin from Google is on the big screen (courtesy Google Hangout again). He’s in Las Vegas at a global event for thousands of Google representatives. He reminds us of just how huge the digital business is.

Katy is our next Google Hangout guest. She shares a Nickleodeon case study about the Kids’ Choice Awards and some astounding figures about the social media engagement of this young demographic. Katy will be moving on and taking her skills to Marriott as a director of digital strategy.  

Marshall Sponder offers observations that are indeed insightful. He’s an author and well traveled spokesperson for social media analytics. Marshall might have been the most credible on the topic of big data and digital trends. He is a professor at Rutgers in New Jersey. He pointed out the evolution of skills that will be in demand. “Graphic Artists and Writers are typically different in many ways but if those individuals can find ways to prepare with cross training they will be very much in demand.”

The crowd thinned considerably as the 5:00 hour approached, but those who stayed got to see a pretty impressive panel with representatives from Falk Harrison Creative, Fleishman-Hillard, Switch, Twist, Evolve, and Momentum. All comments were abbreviated but hinted at the reality of applying the digital realities of the day for their clients.  
 
 
ST. LOUIS University of Missouri, St. Louis - Perry Drake, the unassuming host and maestro of UMSL's Digital Conference at J. C. Penny Conference Center on April 2, 2013