War, by Sabastian Junger – book review

War by Sebastian Junger (cover image)There are books and then there Books. Junger’s “War” (amazon affiliate link) is the latter type. It is a book that every American should read so we can collectively understand what it means to send our young men and women into harm’s way.

Summary

War is Junger’s no holds barred, gritty look inside of an Army platoon stationed in the heart of violence. Junger shares his first-hand account of his time with some of America’s bravest young men, many of whom find themselves in love with the day-today fight for survival.

Why Should You Read War?

You should read this book for one simple reason. You, the citizen and voter, have a responsibility to be informed. Though our elected officials are the ones who vote on resolutions of war and make life and death decisions for our loved ones, ultimately, we are the ones that are responsible.

This isn’t a political statement. It is simply a plea to you. Please take the time to learn about these issues and make an educated decision about who you are putting into office.

War and Marketing

I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to talk about how this book relates to marketing. It might seem like a stretch, but it does. Junger has an impossible task – impartially observe and report on the very soldiers he is living among and must rely on for his very life. There is no humanly possible way to do this. Sure, detailed notes and video taped footage can help add objectivity. But there simply is no way to separate the emotion that is involved when living on the edge like this with others for weeks, months and years at a time.

As we work on campaigns and develop plans for clients, often we lose objectivity. It is very easy to do. After devoting a ton of time and emotion to projects, we become incredibly passionate about what we do. We want to win. We want our clients to win. And through it all, we become more and more emotionally involved.

After reading “War” you are left with a feeling that there is little hope for the soldiers you have read about. Most of them joined the military to escape civilian life. They found a home in combat and may never be able to return to a normal civilian life again. And you have to wonder about Junger – what does the future hold for him after all he has seen and been through.

Now, marketing is no where near as scary or difficult as what Junger describes. We have tools to maintain our objectivity. Simply put, if we are finding ways to measure the impact of our marketing and are using that information correctly, we can easily make adjustments, ramp up efforts that are working and ultimately help our clients win.

Are You Objective

How are you measuring or score carding your efforts? What are you measuring? Is what you are measuring helping you understand why things are happing the way they are?

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2 Creativity Tools that Will Knock Your Socks Off!

lateral action blogI have been in a slump as of late. Between burning myself out with some rather intense workouts and a rather stressful few weeks as work as we go through some major growing pains, I finally hit the wall in a big way. I was tired, my body hurt a bit more than usual, and I really was struggling with motivating myself.

The solution was simple – I made sure I got a little more sleep; I switched up my diet; I changed my reading habits from solely reading business books; I forced myself to start having a little more fun; and I made concerted effort to immerse myself in some new projects. Along the way, I discovered two amazing tools that I wanted to share with you, especially if you are interested in honing your creative thinking abilities.

A Blog for Creative Action

I cannot remember how I happened upon the Lateral Action blog, but you should definitely check it out. Their whole mission is to help their readers tackle the challenge of becoming more marketable by becoming an amazing creative thinker. Currently, they post once a week, so you won’t become overwhelmed with reading. I really like this approach. Instead of putting out tons of material, they focus on providing one quality post a week. (note to self – remember this for future blog development)

They have also developed a free course. I signed up for it when it first launched and I continue to be impressed with the quality material they are sharing. If you are in marketing, are a creative, or just want to improve your own creative thinking skills, this is a site you should add to your feeds.

Sometimes All You Need is a Good Whack In the Head

No, don’t hit yourself, but if you are stuck on a problem, have I got the solution for you! I am always interested in finding new ways to approach a problem. There are a ton of free books out there, but the problem with all of them is that once you put the book away, returning to it can be a problem (maybe you left it at home, a coworker borrowed it, etc.). What if you could have a creative problem solving tool right in your hand whenever and wherever you need it?

Enter Creative Whack Pack. It is an iphone app that was developed to help you break out of your old thinking habits and help you develop new ways of thinking. I downloaded Whack Pack about a week ago and have used it several times, both with personal and professional issues. I am amazed at the apps simplicity and effectiveness. The app was created by Roger von Oech. He has a great site/blog that you might want to check out as well.

What are some of the tools you use to keep your thinking fresh and energetic? How are you injecting creativity into your life? What are some of your favorite creativity tools?

Check out Lateral Action and grab yourself a copy of Whack Pack today. You won’t be disappointed.

#WeeklyMarketingGems and #MyWeeklyRecap

Before we dive into our weekly gems and recap, I wanted to let you know that I will be moving my blog to another server soon. I will keep you posted on my progress and let you know when the site is up and ready. In the mean time, you will still be able to follow me here on my wordpress.com blog.

To find past gems, please search for me on Twitter (@jwsokol) or look for these tags: #weeklymarketinggems and #weeklyreview.

If you have suggestions for posts that should be featured here, please let me know (@jwsokol). I am always looking for great ideas and people who are finding ways to think about marketing in new ways.

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Weekly Marketing Gems

Happy Halloween! (almost) Here in Utah, the kids will be out trick or treating tonight. It should be a blast to see all of the creative ways they have come up with to spook their neighbors. On a side note, here’s a quick poll for you. Who is your favorite horror movie villain?

Now let’s take a look at 10 of the best posts from this last week:

There’s No AND In Brand #2 – Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing, is a rockstar and he knows his stuff when it comes to marketing. In this post, he talks about the importance of sending a clear message about what your brand is about, especially when you are competing with the big boys.

How To: Optimize Your Social Media Strategy – There’s nothing more important in marketing than to have a strategy behind your various marketing efforts. In this post, Josh Peters explains how to add strategy to your social media, an often neglected piece of the strategy puzzle.

Stop Before You Have To – I have just started to learn more about Scott Stratten and his book Unmarketing (amazon affiliate link) is in my reading pile. This is post from Charlie and the Productive Flourishing blog talking about the importance of knowing when to stop. It is definitely worth a read and watch.

The ABCs of A|B Split Testing – Want to learn more about email marketing? If you do, Blue Sky Factory is definitely a company you should look at. Their blog is amazing and this particular post can help you learn how to hone your messaging and email marketing strategy using the mysterious A|B testing method. If you don’t know about A|B testing, you definitely should.

Marketing Strategy: Education-Based Marketing – Helping your customers learn about your products and services is one thing, but helping them achieve their goals via your products and services can help you stand out from all your competitors. What can you teach your customers?

6 Reasons to Keep Your Hobby a Hobby – Carol Roth takes on a number of entrepreneurs, writers and business professionals in this intriguing post. So often these days we are told to chase out passions and turn our loves into careers. Carol points out why this could end up being a big mistake.

Is Sesame Street Parody The News Brand Builder – @suzannevara is a rock star when it comes to marketing and in this post she talks about a hilarious subject – Sesame Street and what we as marketers can learn from this amazing company. You have to check out this post and start following her blog. Suzanne is someone you definitely want to get to know.

Why Social Media is Perfect for Brand Ambassador Campaigns – Stephanie Marcus shares 5 successful brand ambassador campaigns and what we can learn from them all.

Work/Life Balance. It Doesn’t – Struggling with figuring out the right combination of work and play in your life? Here’s a great article about one person’s insights into this ongoing battle.

Happiness Through Experience Marketing: How to Execute – Roy Osing provides us with another amazing article about how to deliver on a meaningful “BE DiFFERENT” strategy.

My Weekly Recap

Here’s a recap of this week’s Marketing Matters posts:

Monday: Halloween Countdown Spooktacular: #5 Ghosts

Tuesday: Halloween Countdown Spooktacular: #4 Vampires

Bonus: Zombifie Yourself

Wednesday: Halloween Countdown Spooktacular: #3 Werewolves

Thursday: Halloween Countdown Spooktacular: #2 Aliens

Friday: #1 Zombies: Are You Marketing to Zombies

#1 Zombies: Are You Marketing to Zombies?

zombies take to the streetsToday’s theme and the #1 all-time best movie monster – zombies.

They have been depicted in the movies for several decades now. They are the undead. Once human, now infected by a raging virus that stirs up an unquenchable hunger for human flesh. Some are slow. Others have super human physical strength. But one thing stands out about these hideous creatures – they are dumb and are driven to devour uninfected humans.

Zombies are pretty easy to kill. Typically a good shot to the head is all it takes. Zombie hunters worldwide have used all sorts of weapons against them – guns, flamethrowers, dynamite, axes, swords, frisbees, records, boards, golf clubs, bats, etc. Just about anything works. The trick seems to be to lure them in and catch them off guard. Throw out an innocent victim and wait. Once it approaches, sneak up from behind and whack!

Did you know that some marketers actually treat consumers like zombies? They try and lure them in with a cheap price or shiny new product. And then, WHACK! They’ve got ’em. Right? Is this how it really works?

Why Zombie Marketing Doesn’t Work

You cannot treat your customers like zombies. For the most part, they are well-intentioned, caring human beings. They have genuine needs and wants. Though they might fall for the occasional gimmick, they aren’t likely to become a loyal customer unless you provide a product or service that is meaningful to them.

Zombie marketing is easy. It might deliver short-term results if you are lucky, but don’t count on it to drive long-term, sustainable results. If anything, if you use too much of this type of marketing, you risk offending and driving your potential customers away.

Meaningful marketing is tough. It requires you to plan, to be creative, to have a keen understanding of what your customers really need from you. Sometimes it costs a lot of money, but in reality, it does not have to. What it really takes is patience because this type of marketing takes a long time to implement and get results from.

Are your customers zombies or humans? Are you focused on short-term pricing games or long-term business results?

image credit – minordetailspodcast.com

Halloween Week Countdown Spooktacular: #2 Aliens

It was late. My parents’ television was turned up a little louder than normal and woke me up. I climbed out of bed and snuck up to their room. Whatever they were watching sounded pretty scary. I quietly approached their room and snuck a peak at their television…

There on the screen was probably one of the scariest things a second grader could ever see. It was the most evil creature I had ever seen before and it would haunt my dreams for weeks on end.

It was Ridley Scott’s Alien.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more evil, efficient killing machine around. The alien was literally designed as the perfect hunter. It was fast. It had multiple weapons, a hard exoskeleton, and acid for blood. They were smart and hunted in packs. Basically, if you lived to kill it, it could still kill you with a splash of it blood.

As a teenager, I was fascinated with this creature. I watched all the movies, read Aliens comic books, and collected some awesome action figures. Call it a strange admiration. This creature was fascinating. The backstory was interesting. It was a creature that had been genetically designed as the perfect killer. If I understood the history correctly, another alien race had developed the alien to use as a weapon against other races.

Adaptability Matters

There’s nothing romantic about this evil beast. It was bred to kill. It was incredibly efficient at what it did and it had no conscience. There was no hesitation, no silly speeches, no niceties. But what made the alien the deadliest killer of all was its ability to adapt to almost any environment it was exposed to.

The alien could literally be exposed to heat, water, cold, zero gravity, the cold depths of space and it kept coming after its victims. And if you want to be great at marketing, you have to be every bit as adaptable.

We live in an incredibly fast paced world. Technologies are shifting quickly. Consumers are finding new ways to consume media and are taking control of their lives in ways we had never imagined. They are empowered and are actively seeking ways to remove unnecessary marketing and advertising from their lives. If you want to succeed in this industry or if you have a small business and need to market yourself, you must learn to adapt. In your own way, you have to be every bit as good at marketing as the alien was at killing.

Being Adaptable ≠ Being Evil

While aliens can get away with being purely evil, we in the communications business have to look for better ways to connect with consumers. Though many of our old tools still work (billboards, television advertising, junk mail, spam, etc.), we can still win with consumers if we are willing to listen to them and find innovative ways to communicate with them.

Here’s a great example of what I mean. There are a ton of companies out there that will willingly sell you their email distribution lists. You can then turn around and send your marketing and advertising to their customers. Sounds pretty cool, right?

This approach comes with some serious risks. You fire off your email messages to a whole bunch of people that may or may not want your stuff. They might just ignore you and delete your span. On the other hand, you might make them mad and the resulting word of mouth could lead to distrust among consumers.

Growing your email lists is good thing, but you might want to rethink your approach to this. By far, the best way to go is to grow your lists organically. Be authentic. Sell great stuff. Run amazing promotions. Tell beautiful stories. Make it easy for customers to sign up and opt out of your email list.

When it comes to marketing, pr and communications in general, there are some fantastic ways to communicate with customers. If we are willing to listen, work hard and innovate, we can be every bit as driven and efficient as Ridley Scott’s aliens; however, if we are to thrive and change our reputation, we must learn to play nice.

Halloween Week Countdown Spooktacular: #3 Werewolves

werewolfWe are half way through our Halloween Week Countdown Spooktacular and my #3 monster is the werewolf.

These big, bad beasts roam the night during a full moon. Much like vampires, these villainous creatures suffer from a curse – they walk the earth as humans until a full moon hits whereupon they transform into a half-wolf, half-human beast that hunts other humans. If you are lucky enough to survive one of their attacks, yet were bitten, you can now count yourself among the damned.

Werewolves, Your Business and Social Media

The big difference between a vampire and werewolf is the ability to choose. Vampires can choose – though driven by an insatiable thirst for blood, a well-disciplined vampire can resist and find other ways to survive. Werewolves have no choice – once the full moon rises, the human host’s mind disappears and the beast takes over.

Now ask yourself this – when it comes to social media, is your business a vampire or a werewolf? Let me put this another way – do you have a choice between using social media? Can you compete in today’s marketplace without a presence on the Web? Have you been able to resist the urge to jump on board the Facebook or Twitter trends?

Yes, I’ve Resisted (Good Vampire!)

It is perfectly possible to thrive in today’s world without a presence on the web. Thousands of small businesses do it everyday. Let’s say you’ve developed an amazing business that people love. Your customers are taking about you. They love your products and/or services. But…

Every time they try to contact you, they can’t find you on the Web. Here’s the problem you face. That big yellow book that shows up on your doorstep every 6 months or so and quickly lands in your recycling bin (or trash), isn’t getting used like it once did. More and more people are jumping online expecting to find your website or blog. Desktops, laptops and increasingly mobile phones are becoming the de facto way people find you business. If you aren’t there, they will find one of your competitors.

I’m a Werewolf

The truth of the matter is that if you want every advantage possible, using the Web and social media really isn’t a choice any more. You have to let go and become a werewolf. But that doesn’t mean you should run off, spend tons of money on a website, set up a blog, facebook fan page and a twitter account. Unlike the crazed werewolves you see in movies, you have to a smart werewolf.

How to be a Smart Werewolf

Web marketing is far from a perfect science, but there are some things you can do to help you be successful:

  1. Talk to your customers and find out what services they are using. Share your ideas about developing a website or blog and find out what online tools and information they would like to see you offer. Ask them what social networks they currently use.
  2. Talk to your team. Find out what they use and what expertise they might have. Get their feedback on what information they would like to see offered on a site.
  3. Think very carefully about the site you might develop. One problem that I have seen small businesses make over and over again is that they build gigantic websites and then leave them sitting there unchanged. Here’s a tip, unless having a big website and spending a lot of money on development is key to your business, you might be better off thinking small. Build a single page website that offers your basic info (contacts, addresses, etc.) and support it with more substantial social media tools like a blog, facebook and Twitter.
  4. Let me repeat point 3 again. Think small. Build a simple site. Support it with social media
  5. Before you build a site or start any social media efforts, sit down with an old fashioned pencil and paper and write down 1) your vision for what you hope to accomplish with your Web efforts, 2) your business objectives, 3) how you will measure your successes and failure, and 4) how you will used each tool to communicate with and engage your customers.
  6. Take your time. Build each tool properly, make sure it works to your specifications, and then move onto the next tool.
  7. Think about integration. Decide how your web-efforts will look from one tool to the next. If you run a promotion on your blog, how will it show up on your facebook page or on twitter? Does a promotion have to show up on all of your sites or just one? If you are using multiple tools, will they all have the same content? Ultimately, you want to do one of two things – either drive you customers to your retail location or to your online “homebase” (site or blog) where you can provide them with valuable information about ongoing/upcoming promotions, events, and other content.
  8. Thing about value – why should your customer visit your site? Are you offering them something they really need or want? If not, you might want to step back and figure this one out. If you don’t, your Web efforts might end up stalling out before you ever get any real momentum.
  9. Measure results. Look back at your business objectives and constantly measure your online efforts against them. If they are not helping you get results, make adjustments and try again.

Are you ready to become a small business marketing werewolf? Ouch! You’ve just been bitten. Resist all you want. The moon is full.