Archive for the 'Rants ‘n’ Such' Category

Attention Humans:

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

I recently spent most of an entire day at something called a “Human Era Language Summit.” As you might imagine, the topic of the day was: How do we make our corporate communications sound more human?

Several very well-known agencies were represented, and the event was held on behalf of a Fortune 50 company. The names aren’t important; the point I’m about to make applies to anyone in the same type of scenario.

There was the obligatory parade of PowerPoint presentations and before-and-after examples and rewriting exercises, of course. But what struck me most was that when I asked a simple question to about a half-dozen of the key presenters and organizers — Have you read The Cluetrain Manifesto? — the response was universal: “The what? Huh?”

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Levine, Locke, Searls and Weinberger don’t have a patent on the idea that companies need to communicate with people in a human voice. But they were among the very first in the modern digital age to articulate the idea in a way that predicted how companies everywhere would try to embrace that idea. For example, let’s review the first six of the 95 theses put forth by Cluetrain:

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

But there’s also this:

14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

And this:

33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be “picked up” at some tony conference.

34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

35. But first, they must belong to a community.

36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.

37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.

38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.

There’s more, of course (95 theses in all, plus a lot more to the book), but you get the idea.

My point is this: The Cluetrain Manifesto, which was released in 1999 and rereleased in 2009 in a 10th anniversary edition, is one of the seminal digital marketing books. The idea that no one at this day-long “Human Era Language Summit” had even heard of it was stunning — akin to someone in the theater world having never heard of Shakespeare. Or Andrew Lloyd Webber.

As Michael Jordan once said, “You can have all the physical ability in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals.”

But don’t just know the fundamentals, go back and refresh them once in a while. The best writers go back and reread The Elements of Style every year or three. Business leaders tend to reread books like Wooden on Leadership and The Art of War every so often.

Anyone and everyone working in the realm of business communications on any level needs a copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto — and needs to read it (or, for God’s sake, at least skim it) every once in a while.

Just sayin’.

Takeaway for marketers: Reading The Cluetrain Manifesto won’t cost you a dime: It’s available entirely for free right here.

Read This Post. Or Don’t. I Really Don’t Care

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014


In psychology, desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. It also occurs when an emotional response is repeatedly evoked in situations in which the action tendency that is associated with the emotion proves irrelevant or unnecessary.

Don’t believe me: Read all about it on Wikipedia.

Here’s the point, though: I’m sick of media screaming to me. Every headline is jam-packed to bursting with insistent superlatives. The Huffington Post is a particularly horrid case study, as evidenced by just a few of today’s headlines:

“This 3D Printer, Capable Of Building A House In A Day, Could Change Construction Forever” (Forever? Really?)

“This Guy Will Forever Change The Way You Think About The ‘Friend Zone’ ” (Forever? Really? Oh, and WTF is a friend zone?)

“The Way We Watch Video Will Soon Change Forever” (Forever? Really? What, we’re gonna watch through our sphincters?)

My email inbox is another irritating case study:

“This changes everything!” (It’s an ad for the eM14 conference in San Francisco. Nothing changes.)

“Super-charge your logo with this awesome techie gift” (It’s an ad for portable USB chargers. Yawn.)

“Clarity 2.0 – The Best Advisory Board Ever Created” (It’s an ad for … oh, never mind.)

Then there’s all the articles on my LinkedIn feed:

“Best way to get a job nobody’s using” (Really? Nobody’s sharing passion?)

“5 Free Apps No Salesperson Can Survive Without” (Really? I bet plenty are.)

“Will Link Building Soon Be A Thing Of The Past?” (Really? You have to ask? No, it won’t; don’t be a dolt.)

Let’s not leave out my Twitter feed:

Facebook pokes holes in Princeton research with a hysterical parody (Sorry, it’s really not that funny.)

10 Examples of Amazing Viral Marketing Videos (Sorry, a couple of them are okay, but amazing?)

An unbelievable marketing resource! (Sorry, it’s actually quite believable … and relatively common.)

Everything everywhere is screaming READ ME! READ ME! READ ME! The problem, of course, is that the imperative reason stated for having to read the content in question is virtually never fulfilled.

Sorry, HuffPo: Your article will not change my thinking forever. Sorry, advertiser, your event or product will not change me forever.

Collectively, this sort of messaging hurts everyone. Readers, as a whole, are becoming desensitized to the idea of headlines having any meaning whatsoever. The rhetorical arms race is rendering language ineffective.

I fear it will get a lot worse before it gets any better — but in order for it to begin to get better, communicators need to unilaterally disarm by shelving the extreme superlatives.

Takeaway for marketers: Enough, already, with over-promising and under-delivering. Don’t you get pissed off when you’re on the receiving end of that one? Try under-promising and over-delivering … and think for a minute how you feel when you’re on the receiving end of that one.

This Blog Is A Failure

Sunday, April 14th, 2013


Search Engine Journal has posted 6 Pillars of a Successful Blog. It’s a pretty good read. LOHAD observes one of them. Maybe. It really boils down to a matter of personal taste.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this blog and whether to keep it going or not. It’s not a blog that gets a lot of traffic or comments, it tends to be an inconvenience to make posts, the back-end software often makes a 5-minute task take a half hour or more … what’s the point?

Well, the point I keep coming back to is the point I started with so many moons and a coupla thousand posts ago: I’m not blogging for anyone other than myself. I’m not trying to turn myself into the next Chris Brogan. I’m not trying to hustle new business. I’m not trying to get into the “thought leader” game. If you like some of the stuff you see here, cool. If not, no biggie — there are 147 bazillion other blogs out there.

So why bother? I like the structure of it. I like the daily routine and the fact that posting once a day every day is a kick in the ass to check the worlds of marketing, advertising, SEO, technology and social media to see what’s going on. It’s something that prevents me from looking up one day and saying, “Crap! I’ve been so busy playing Mafia Wars I haven’t paid any attention to what’s going on in the world of online marketing!”

Of course, many days there’s not a whole hell of a lot going on, anyway. Ya gotta love those days, when all the tech and social media blogs have to report is something like Facebook changing the hex color of some background element somewhere — and, inevitably, 20 minutes later there are 19 white papers out there about “How You Can Use the Facebook  Hex Color Change to Super-Charge Your Lead Generation.”

So … yeah, I’m not in that race. I’m just trying to keep an eye on what’s goin’ on in the bigger picture, the stuff that’s likely to matter in the longer run. (Which is why i’m so intrigued by 3D printing; that’s a game-changer right there.) So I guess I’ll keep on keepin’ on and posting once a day, every day.

At least those videos on Wednesdays and quotes on Fridays make the whole process a little easier.


Monday, April 1st, 2013


April Fool’s Day really sucks. You can’t believe anything you read online or receive in email. It’s gotten ridiculous, and most of the “jokes” suck harder than a factory full of vacuum cleaners. Bring on tomorrow.


Follow the Thought Leader?

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013


Social Media today had me at their headline: “Don’t Tell Me You’re a Thought-Leader: Just Be One.”

It’s one of the fundamentals of marketing — or if it isn’t, it should be — that it’s not up to you to make value judgments about yourself, it’s up to your audience.

For example, when you’re marketing to tweens you’re not going to tell them, “This is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen.” If you have to describe yourself as cool, then you’re not. It’s for the tweens, not for you, to make that determination.

That’s how it is with thought leadership. If you have to call yourself a thought leader, you’re probably not one.

Same goes for gurus, though that’s a word that ought to be stricken forever from the marketing lexicon.