Friday, January 1, 2016
This discovery only occurred because biologist Alexander Fleming took a vacation. Returning to find that his staph bacteria petri dishes were contaminated with an invasive fungus, he observed that the fungus had repelled and killed the bacteria. The age of antibiotics was born.
Dozens more examples demonstrate that the happy accident is one of the most valuable resources in human development. One of the earliest known examples occurred when, for better or worse, some Chinese experimenters looking for the elixir of eternal life accidentally discovered gun powder, instead.
In 1938, a du Pont chemist discovered that his experimental gas had escaped its container and that a strange slippery substance was left behind. Teflon was born. Much earlier, an English pharmacist withdrew a stirring rod from his chemicals only to notice a dried clump of hard material stuck to the end of it. In trying to scrape it off, it ignited and burst into flame. The strikable match was the result. Velcro was invented by a Swiss engineer intrigued by how burrs stuck to his dog's coat. The implantable heart pacemaker was stumbled upon when an assistant professor accidentally grabbed the wrong size resistor from a box.
These examples are only a few of the many wonderful discoveries that have graced the world by a scientific accident. Their value is immense, and the world has grown richer by their discovery only through the adaptability of those who discovered them. In many cases, something else was the target goal at the time. Their discovery was an unanticipated byproduct born of the flexibility of the discoverer.
In business, it pays hefty dividends to be flexible enough to adapt to new developments and to make use of unexpected benefits. As the maker of a fairly unsuccessful wallpaper cleaner, Kutol Products was near bankruptcy when children began using the product to form Christmas tree ornaments in arts and crafts projects. The entrepreneurs were clever enough to see this unexpected use as a gift, and the company was saved by the new marketing of the modified product as Play-Doh.
A similar story is told of the development of another novelty toy, Silly Putty. In 1943, a World War II rubber shortage prompted the government to commission research from General Electric chemists for the creation of an alternative. The resulting elastic compound was ineffective at replacing rubber, but it was intriguing nevertheless. Samples were circulated, but until an enterprising toy store entrepreneur named Ruth Fallgatter saw the stuff in 1949, no one had any use for it. Fallgatter saw some potential and hired copywriter Peter Hodgson to include the item in her seasonal catalogue. While it outsold everything else in the catalogue, for some reason she lost interest and abandoned the substance.
Hodgson, however, had a clearer vision of its potential and picked up the entrepreneurial torch, renaming the product Silly Putty. It took some time, but his ability to adapt paid off. A New York Times columnist mentioned it in a very positive light, after which sales topped $750,000 in the next three days.
Speaking of gummy substances, we have alluded to the 29-year-old William Wrigley who decided to offer free baking powder as an incentive to market his scouring soap. The idea was so good that the powder became more popular than the soap. So, he offered free chewing gum to market the powder, and the gum became more popular still. Thus was born the Wrigley chewing gum empire, from humble beginnings in soap and baking powder.
Like William Wrigley, Peter Hodgson, and the brighter minds at Play-Doh's Kutol Products, always remain alert to the potential for happy accidents and adapting to situations and possibilities.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
What Does "Emotion" In Print Marketing Actually Mean?
To boil it down to its essentials, invoking an emotional response from a person who views a print marketing material means that you've gotten them to think more than just "I understand what this product does" at the end of a piece. You don't necessarily want to leave a person with the idea of "This particular product will help solve my problem" per say - you want to leave them with a sense of "Not only will this product help solve my problem, but it will also make me happier at the same time." You want them to long for the emotion every bit as much as they do for the product, which is where the real success of this technique rests.
Nostalgia is the Key to the Emotional Response
One of the single best ways to inject emotion into your print marketing is through good, old-fashioned nostalgia. Even if your message is framed in a way as simple of "Things used to be great, but now you have a problem. With X product or service, they can be great again," you're going a long way towards tying your particular product or service to emotional past experiences that the customer has had. This lets them both acknowledge that they long for the days where things were much simpler and gets them to realize that with what you're offering, they may just get there again.
In the AMC television show "Mad Men," set against the backdrop of the 1950s print advertising industry, Don Draper at one point early on creates an astounding pitch for the Carousel from Kodak. For those unfamiliar, the Carousel was a slide projector that made it easier than ever to enjoy all of the wonderful photographs that you've taken over the years on a much larger scale than ever before.
Don didn't just zero in on this functionality, however - in an impassioned speech to the Kodak board, he talked about how the Carousel was much more than just a slide projector - it was a time machine. It was a doorway into the past, allowing someone to relieve those wonderful Christmas mornings when their kids were still small, or that family trip that they took to the Grand Canyon that they're still thinking about - all in the type of stunning detail that customers wouldn't be able to find anywhere else.
What made Don's pitch so successful is that he tied the product to a noble emotional response - something that people are actively looking for in what they consume, be it their favorite movie or the products they buy and everything in between.
It is inside that emotional response where most of your success in print marketing will reside. If you can tie a positive (and hopefully intense) emotional response to your product or service through marketing, you'll create a loyal army of customers who can't wait to buy what you're selling because what you have to offer is so much more powerful than any one product or service: you're offering them their own emotions.
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
As a young man fresh out of high school, Eric started up his own business, a personal training studio. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed, he easily achieved his early financial goals, and his business seemed destined for success with Eric still at the tender age of 18. He was on top of the world before things began to unravel.
Eric was already married with two young children, and addicted to a fast-paced lifestyle that came with the success of his business. The pressures of raising a family while running a business took their toll on someone perhaps a bit too young to handle the situation. Eric descended into depression and alcohol abuse. His early successes now haunted him like spirits. He lost his wife and children. Then came the day Eric punched his fist through a glass window and almost permanently lost the use of his hand. He knew he had hit rock bottom and needed a change in his life.
He thought he had lost the use of his hand, but being well versed in personal training concepts he rehabilitated the hand himself. That was the first thing he dedicated his efforts toward, and it worked. he knew he needed more, however, and he went after it. As Norman Vincent Peale wrote, "There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment."
Eric decided to try out for college football even though he had never played on a team. Eight dreary years had been wasted in depression and alcohol, and the 26-year-old version of Eric was deemed too old for college football. Everyone tried to discourage him.
He released 40 clients and closed his studio, cutting off his income. Eric tried out for three college football teams and applied to enter two others. Only on the strength of a letter from San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza was Eric accepted by the University of the Incarnate Word. He made the team as a walk-on.
Four years later, Eric was a 30-year-old senior ready to graduate, having lived his dream of being on a college football team. While he had not played a single play in all that time, his dream was fulfilled by simply running onto the field with his team for every game. He had reached for the stars and succeeded.
One of Eric's inspirations had been the film, "Rudy," about a walk-on with limiting disabilities who made the team. Eric's only limitation was his age, and having overcome it he earned the respect of his teammates and coaches. In the last game of his career, his teammates called out to the coaches to put Eric in for a few snaps. Just like in the movie, "Rudy," the guys were calling out, "Put in Castillo!"
It was like icing on the cake. Eric got more than he ever expected. He had already realized his dream and had decided to use the drive and ambition he now generated in another way, toward another objective. While still a UIW student, Eric started up a non-profit organization called A Walk in My Shoes. He solicited and received donations of new and slightly used pairs of shoes to distribute to needy people for free.
To date, they have distributed thousands of shoes to organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club of San Antonio and the American Red Cross. There has even been a documentary film of Eric's drive to overcome adversity entitled, "The Power of a Dream" that was released in 2015. Through his continuing efforts, Eric's success has become the success of others.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Famous singer/song writer Janis Ian recently documented in a blog post several of the mistakes she has made over the years. Describing herself as prone to accidents "in the minefield of life," she revealed some whopping errors. Three noteworthy examples are refusing the role eventually played by Rhea Pearlman in the hit TV series Cheers, passing on performing at Woodstock, and declining to write the musical score for the blockbuster film, The Graduate.
These were definite mistakes, to be sure. But as serious as these now obvious blunders were, Janis Ian is still doing what she loves and making others happy in the process. She is earning a living writing music and performing, and the world is better for this. None of her mistakes in that minefield have kept her down nor kept the world from enjoying her music.
Isaac Newton's mother made a mistake that had the potential of altering the history of science. Young Isaac was pulled out of school to help run the family farm, but he was really no good at this, and his mother recognized it. She also knew that he really wanted to finish his schooling. When she realized that this was a far better fit for her son, she found another way to get the farm running as it should and allowed her son to finish school. The world of science is better because of this woman's mistake being corrected and learned from.
Many stories tell of business successes born after their founders' prior failures. Macy's, the department store chain, is one of the largest such chains in the world, but Rowland H. Macy suffered through multiple business failures before learning enough from them to bring him and his family fame and wealth.
Dave Anderson of Famous Dave's BBQ restaurants was, at one time, a not-so-famous Dave, after experiencing not one, but two business bankruptcies. One of them was as a wholesale florist supplying very large clients like Sears Roebuck. His business grew so rapidly that he failed to keep up with it, and lost the business. But, he learned from his mistakes and personal limitations. Indeed, he describes failure simply as "a learning tool."
Since Dave knew that he loved making food, a restaurant was an obvious choice, and Famous Dave's is the famously successful result, but he did not stop there. Anderson also created the LifeSkills Center for Leadership in Minneapolis, investing over a million dollars to start the program for helping at-risk Native American youth. The program focuses on leadership skills--the same skills Dave learned from his previous mistakes.
As author John C. Maxwell put it in his successful book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, your objectives should include this mantra: "Fail early, fail often, and fail forward." Mistakes should become vehicles, not obstacles. Like Janis Ian, despite mistakes you keep on keeping on. Isaac Newton's mother learned that correcting mistakes can create value where none appeared to be. Like Rowland H. Macy and Dave Anderson, you build success on the foundation created by prior failures.
As social activist, composer, and singer Bernice Johnson Reagon put it, âLifeâs challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; theyâre supposed to help you discover who you are.â
Thursday, October 22, 2015
"Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues."
One of the most popular films of all time is "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray. As the pre-humility Phil Connors, he is the perfect caricature of a self-absorbed personality. This film is a wonderful depiction of the learning of this life lesson about the importance of humility.
As you recall, the plot is basically his journey toward humility and service to others. He is rescued from a perpetual loop when he learns the lesson, and can then get on with his life as a more mature and complete person.
A favorite character interaction in the movie is that between the well-practiced jerk, Phil Connors, and the well-intentioned, but mentally limited, bed-and-breakfast operator who makes an innocent comment about the weather. The TV weatherman, Connors, having probably practiced this before on other victims, launches into a full blown 65-word weather report ending with the snarky question, "Did you want to talk about the weather, or were you just making chit-chat?"
He intentionally embarrasses her just for the personal enjoyment of it. The exchange becomes the perfect definition of his character, or lack thereof, before learning the lesson of humility.
Equipped with his newfound humility, the later Phil Connors is everyone's friend. He has not only demonstrated to others his appreciation for their presence in his life, but has contributed in many ways to their satisfaction, happiness, and well-being.
Everyone has witnessed someone who they've thought could benefit from a healthy dose of humility. The kind of people who always have a verbal come-back after someone remarks on having done something or been somewhere. No opportunity passes without them commenting on their own experiences. Only it usually is not just an, "I did that, too." Typically, this person has done it bigger and better than you did it.
If you went up in a balloon, they went to a higher altitude. If you have a favorite pastime, they have already done that long ago. They have an, "I did it better," for every subject you bring up.
They practice this without really realizing how obnoxious it is. In reality, they truly believe they are just being conversational. It all too quickly begins to reflect their own weak self-image. They fail to realize how they have turned the art of simple conversation into a contest--one they feel compelled to "win." This, of corse, is the complete opposite to humility.
Winning this contest is rather nicely exemplified in an old joke. The story goes that a fellow goes off to college and returns after graduation only to be completely surprised at how much his parents have learned in the four years he has been away. He knows he has learned a lot, but lacks the humility to recognize that his parents may have already known much of what he has just learned.
Life is not about how much you have personally accomplished, as seen in the attitude of an immature Phil Connors. It is about how much you have contributed to the lives of others along the way. Only after you learn humility can you do this to the fullest extent.
Personal growth is a natural byproduct of service to others. As the immature Phil Connors eventually learned, in the face of your inherent drive for achievement and success, the best guardian of your self image, the best vehicle for promoting your own growth, is not a resume full of accomplishments. It is the humility to recognize your own limitations and the contributions that others have made to make your life better. Humility truly is the foundation of all other virtues.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Let the Customer Discover Your Message on Their Own Terms
For an example of effective multi-channel communication in action, consider what happens after you send out a print item to a customer using direct mail. Logic dictates that you should wait a week or two and send a follow-up message, right? As you've already established contact, that follow-up doesn't have to come in the form of another mailer sent to the customer's mailbox. It can easily be an e-mail sent to the address for that customer you have on file. Suddenly, you've used not one, but two, different channels effectively, allowing the customer a full range of options regarding how and why they respond and continue their journey.
That may be simplifying the situation a bit, but the benefit to the consumer of getting full control over how they're receiving and responding to your message is what multi-channel communications are all about.
Better Campaigns Mean Better Results
In order to master multi-channel marketing and really put it to good use for your organization, you'll need to keep a few key things in mind. For starters, you'll need to establish a single, unified view of your customers across all channels. Any available piece of information will need to be collated together, not only so that each channel seems like a natural extension of the next, but so each channel can allow for the deeper level of customization that attracts customers in the first place.
Another factor to consider has to do with your organization's ability to create the most consistent experience possible across all of those channels at the same time. When a customer gets an e-mail, sees a mobile ad, and receives a letter in the mail from your campaign, they all need to feel like they're coming from the same company. One can't be casual, while the other, stuffy and overly professional. Failure to grasp this basic concept can result in your organization coming across as a bit schizophrenic.
You'll also need to develop your own in-house multi-channel platform to help keep track of all of these materials. You'll need things like campaign management software, for example, giving you the ability to execute all aspects of a campaign (including both print and digital materials) all from the same unified workflow. This will also give you a better idea of tweaks that you can be making to your campaign by way of things like predictive and actionable analytics.
Multi-channel communication, in general, just goes to show you that print and digital don't have to be an "either/or" scenario for marketers. By leveraging all of the tools you have available to you instead of playing favorites, you'll put you and your team in a much better position to succeed moving forward.