A Case for Moral Selfishness

“[H]aving lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others.” – Benjamin Franklin

I am a skeptic.

To an outside observer, my skepticism may look a lot like cynicism. I don’t just believe people and companies are motivated by self-interest, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

A person doesn’t simply buy a book from Amazon because they believe it will help Amazon make money or employ more people. They buy it because they want or need the book for themselves — either to inform, improve, or entertain. This is most often true when people realize that they’re spending their own resources – they tend to spend it in a way that benefits them, not others.

If they’re spending other people’s money, they tend to be less careful with it.

This doesn’t make everyone manifestly selfish, necessarily, because self-interest can indeed be naturally reconciled with service to others, without requiring one person to pick another’s pocket to do so.

For instance, recently I bought and read A Project Guide to UX Design because I believed it would make me better at my job. Continuous personal improvement improves my marketability (self-interest), but only if my improvement leads me to help others get what they want (service to others).

I also get a lot of joy (self-interest) by making a tangible and substantial contribution to the financial success of other companies (service to others), their employees (service to others) and the satisfaction of their customers (service to others).

It’s remarkable how often those things go hand-in-hand, when you work in a service industry, when regulations do not unnecessarily restrict your abillity to operate freely.

Once you realize that no one is more important to individuals than themselves, you tend to require stronger evidence that supports others’ claims of all the great things you’ll get if you just follow their lead.

A personality or “brand” may persuade you to be either less or more stringent with your requirements for evidence, which is just another way of saying that you trust those people and companies who have previously delivered on their promises, to the best of your knowledge.

However, healthy sketpicism, in light of moral self-interest, will allow the evidence to lead you wherever it may, even if it contradicts what you previously believed.

As a skeptic, I’ll be the first to admit that the process is sometimes uncomfortable, but it also allows you to be less judgmental of other people’s errors in thought and deed (which are intertwined), because you will realize that, in pursuit of your self-interest, you’ve managed a few whoppers yourself.

However, if there is a self-interest that should transcend all others, it should be the pursuit of the truth, which requires being capable of contradicting yourself when you find  your thoughts and deeds to be erroneous. Do not let love or hate of either personalities or brands to stand in the way of your dedication to think critically. – Cam Beck

Branding is Character. What Does Your Character Show?

Stuff happens.

So does branding. This is true whether you call it “branding” or not. As it turns out, branding has less to do with cutesy creative and clever themes than it has to do with your ability to consistently keep promises of your company — to build your company’s reputation as a firm of good character.

Not all promises are created equal, and all people do not assign equal value to all promises. This is why it is so difficult — and increasingly useless — to build a brand that pleases all people, all of the time.

Before all else, know who you are and what you stand for. Only then can you focus on making extraordinary promises to an audience that places a high value on those promises — and then over-deliver. – Cam Beck

Keep it simple

Ist2_440585-information-overloadThe transition from traditional media to digital media is a lot like going from a desert to a rain forest. Although there are quite a few ways to measure traditional media, many times it’s not cost effective to pay firms to get the data. It’s all a bit suspect too because you’re forced to use sample groups that may or may not be representative of the rest of the population.

Online media is infinitely measurable. Geography, activity, technology and in some cases even behavior before and after the click is measured in a way that floods an analyst with data. Those of us who have built our careers within the digital space love to pour over the data and talk about all types of information. The problem is that not all of it is relevant.

I love this recent article from Mark Walsh from the OMMA conference on Avoid ‘Data Diarrhea’. Although I wasn’t at the conference, I can relate to what must have been said:

“Data is useless unless it becomes currency for making a decision,” he said. To make sure online measurement is on track, he advised advertisers and analytics professionals to be sure they are asking the right questions, have the right expertise and the right mindset”

It’s important to begin with the end in mind. Understanding what metrics are important should be done at the beginning. Dash boards for digital marketing should resemble car dashboards, not the dash board for the Space Shuttle.

An important reminder.

– Paul Herring

The Marketing of Conceit


“Toleration is not the opposite of intolerance but the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms: the one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, the other of granting it.”
 — Thomas PaineRights of Man

The longevity of the spurious concept of tolerance among smart people never ceases to amaze me. The brilliant Seth Godin, author of one of my favorite marketing books, planted his flag on Tolerance Hill today, and I’m guessing that, as with most of Tolerance’s great advocates, no fierce bombardment of arguments could remove him from it.

Wisely, Godin was not specific or direct in his criticism, lest he alienate his fans. However, it’s possible to infer, given the entire context of the article, that he was subtly ridiculing a Polish politician who articulated a position that maintained that sizeable public investments should produce sustainable returns.

People who wrap themselves in the Tolerance Flag are quick to pat each other on the back to congratulate themselves on how tolerant and open-minded they are. However, they often mistake the self-congratulatory applause for being right, and they are quick to eschew all reason that contradicts them. They are so enamored with their assumed virtues that they lack interest in hearing any argument that demonstrates contradiction.

“The nations…cling to their opinions as much from pride as from conviction. They cherish them because they hold them to be just and because they chose them of their own free will; and they adhere to them, not only because they are true, but because they are their own… It was remarked by a man of genius that ‘ignorance lies at the two ends of knowledge.’ Perhaps it would have been more correct to say that strong convictions are found only at the two ends, and that doubt lies in the middle.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Tolerance is not a virtue, and it is not superior to intolerance. Both of them are simply conceit, and neither of them deserve marketer’s promotions.

If confronted with someone who doesn’t value the same things you do, you may indeed attempt to sway his opinion and change his behavior (after all, as Godin essentially notes, this is what marketing is about), but keep in mind that with respect to the virtue of those beliefs, “[N]o earthly power can determine between you.” – Cam Beck

Don’t Panic. Just Lead.

Bethharte_thom1At MPDailyFix, Beth Harte related a story about how a friend of hers, who is a senior-level marketer, was offered employment with junior-level pay. She goes on to explain some of the reasons this is happening and why she believes it will become more commonplace if marketers don’t show their value. She’s right. But if I can add my own perspective here, the problem Beth identifies can be understood economically and solved in the same terms.

Unemployment means there are too many people for too few jobs. In other words, there is a surplus of labor.

Surpluses tend to drive down prices.

The price of labor is measured in wages. Thus, when there is a labor surplus in any industry (like marketing), it tends to depress the wages of the people in that industry.

This is especially true when the hiring manager believes it doesn’t matter from which part of the labor pool he chooses. One person is just as good as another — or in Beth’s words — a commodity.

Being good — being great — these things don’t matter unless we distinguish ourselves from the rest of the pack. It is the perception of our expertise and effectiveness that will enable us to demand higher wages.

Actual expertise can help drive perceived expertise, but it does not guarantee it. Now, more than ever, a marketer must be both good and an excellent self-promoter.

Doing this effectively is about all the things Beth mentioned. Among them:

  • Be a leader.
  • Measure.
  • Document.
  • Foster and nurture relationships.
  • Continuously improve.

However, this effort shouldn’t resemble a campaign — which is temporary and smacks of insincerity. In order to assure others of our value, we must first strive to be valuable. We must both improve the product and promote the improvement.

Luckily, in our cases, the act of successfully promoting the improvement, in some ways, actually helps to improve the product — especially when we’re willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

Instead of curse the conditions that led to this difficulty, we must embrace it as an opportunity to revolutionize the way we practice marketing. And we can apply to our clients the wisdom we gained from the experience of practicing it on ourselves.

I’m afraid that this won’t guarantee a happy ending for everyone — even a lot of the good ones. However, being a jack of all trades (and more importantly, being the sort of person who can adapt to changing circumstances) all but promises that we’ll find someplace to be of use. – Cam Beck

Social media snake oil

Snake%20Oil%20SalesmanIt’s the latest thing. What every brand needs to be engaged in if they’re going to survive. You have to be on it.

That’s the message that a lot of people are sending to marketers out there. Unfortunately, many of them are listening and haphazzardly putting their brands and reputations at risk. Creating a Facebook group, a Twitter feed and a Ning social network is not something every brand needs or can benefit from.

Here are ten ways to know if you’re selling social media snake oil:

10. You tell your clients that EVERY brand needs a Twitter account.

9. You really think the web will eventually be more like Second Life and everyone will have an avatar.

8. You think even B2B companies should have a Facebook page.

7. You have more social media presentations than actual examples of social media work that you’ve participated in.

6. You think Ashton Kutcher really is more popular than CNN because he has more followers.

5. You’re considering opening up your own twitter agency.

4. Most of your experience with social media is due to your own self-promotion via social media tools.

3. You’re speechless when people ask you how to measure social media.

2. The NING network you set up only has five members, one of which is your mom who hasn’t been on it in months.

1. It’s the only thing you sell or do.

The bottom line here is that social media is great. It may disrupt and change everything we do in on-line marketing but it’s not likely. If you’ve been doing on-line marketing for more than five years, you’ve seen a lot of these things come. They don’t usually go but they become part of the framework. At the end of the day it’s about your competitive environment, your customer and your strategy. Work on those first and then understand which tool is the right fit.

I don’t agree with everything he says but Jaffe had a great rant on Twitter:

– Paul Herring

Know your limits. And push them cheerfully.

One of the great things about having a toddler is the lessons they can teach you about the value of having the proper outlook on life.

This weekend we cleaned my son’s room. And by “we,” I mean my wife and my son, Avery. I brought my daughter, Faith, in there just to get in their way provide moral support.

This is very important to involve siblings in each other’s things. It might appear simple but when you are doing it you will know the complexity. Just like how the concept of cryptocurrency seems simple in theory. You can learn more via how a robot can work well.

Now, both Faith and Avery have a lot of stuffed animals, but Avery keeps his on top of a bookshelf and far out of reach of anyone who hasn’t yet been through puberty.

Still, they’re plainly visible to anyone, and of course Faith is still young enough to enjoy them. Finding one that struck her fancy, she pointed up at the stuffed animals on top of the book shelf and said hopefully, “Kitt-ee Cat? Mee-oooowww!”

Those of you with kids might expect that this wasn’t a request or a question. She was going to get the stuffed animal she wanted. The problem was that Avery has no stuffed felines. I would have gladly gotten it for her for a “please,” (which I would have gotten), but I didn’t know exactly what she was asking for.

“No, sweetie. There are no kitty cats. Do you want the stuffed doggie instead?”

“I’we get it,” she helpfully chimed. And with no hesitation, she leaped a good inch or two off the ground, coming a mere 5 feet shy of touching the nearest stuffed animal.

Everyone else in the room just lost it, and Faith was happy enough to join the fun (even though she likely didn’t know why we were laughing).

I noticed something else, though: She only jumped once.

She didn’t keep jumping, hoping the next time the result would be different. She jumped once, learned conclusively that this particular method of obtaining what she wanted was beyond her limits, and then she found another way.

Had I not gotten it for her, I wonder if she would have moved a chair into position to take another shot at it, but there are some things I’d prefer she not have to learn the hard way. – Cam Beck

Can they make it to profitability?

Social_media_non_profit11In a recession what’s real in terms of sustainable business models comes to light. I lived through the dot com boom and there were any number of companies that were “changing the rules” or creating a new economy. Economics, unfortunately, is a lot like gravity. It’s pretty difficult to change the rules.

YouTube and Facebook have changed the world online. It’s hard to remember how hard it was to post a video online before YouTube.  Facebook has successfully created the first global scale online community and seems to becoming one of those sites that just about everyone visits and engages with on a daily basis.

How profitable they are is one main concern as nothing in this perfect world works longer when there is no profit. In trading where there are several robots and software to take care of every transactional need, the newest trends are the crypto robots. With all the raving reviews that cryptocurrency is getting, the investors have left no stone unturned when it comes to simplifying ways for the traders. With these robots coming into the picture, the kind of return rates the traders have been seeing is quite high. There is a constant buzz about these robots in the industry and even leading websites wrote about it recently. They are completely free to be used with zero charges.

The problem is that neiter one is profitable. Although YouTube has seen tremendous growth its still yet to come up with a way to monetize that growth into profitability. The number of ads that Facebook would have to display based on their own tool is staggering. Both are in desperate need of a new advertising model that can either show direct correlation to sales or one that proves that brand awareness can be built on these site more effectively than through other vehicles, say TV.

At the peak of economic growth, like in 2007, companies are willing to invest in what hasn’t been proven. In the depth of a recession, however, the hard questions get asked and just like during the dot com boom, many companies cease to exist.

I don’t think this will happen to either of these companies. However, something has to change with both of them in order for them to be sustainable for the long term. I’m just not sure that anyone, including those inside the company, know what that something is.

– Paul Herring

Conflicts of Interest

The skeptic is not one who doesn’t believe anything without proof. He’s just one who believes that people tend to act according to their own self-interests. Like the marketplace itself, this is neither good nor bad. It’s just a force of nature.

The uncertainty, however, troubles quite a number of people as their financial dependency becomes a trivial issue here. Now with the crypto robots hitting the scene in the market, the kind of money that traders are seeing will make sure you know more about the crypto code and will make you find a way to use.

Consider the following examples:

  • Google CEO’s Eric Schmidt said that journalists should rely on online advertising. Did Schmidt make this assessment because it’s right, or because 98% of Google’s income is comprised of advertising revenue, and to state otherwise would be heresy?
  • College professors and administrators tout the benefits of a college degree. Perhaps they teach because they believe it’s true. Maybe they believe it’s true because they teach. What’s clear is that without a steady stream of believers, they would have to find employment elsewhere.
  • Politicians want to prove they care about you by spending money on things that you care about — and that the other guy doesn’t care as much about you because he doesn’t want to spend it on those things.  To maintain their position, however, they need you to forget that it’s your money anyway, and their decision to take and spend your money removes your ability to choose what to do with it.
  • The voters who elect them are no different, of course. They will happily cast their lot with the person or people who appears to promise the most while taking the least — from them. That these promises must be paid for by someone else appears to be of little consequence.
  • Companies want you to believe that owning their product or enjoying their service is better than the alternative, even if the alternative includes keeping your own money. Of course, their livelihoods depend on your being convinced of this.
  • Companies also have a strong desire to pay you as little as they can without causing you to leave, and you have a strong incentive to get the best compensation package the market will bear.
  • Unions want to convince you that market forces (including the freedom to choose where to work) are insufficient safeguards against abuse. Pay no mind to how increased union rolls fattens the pockets of the union bosses.

Powerful people can always mitigate the forces of self-interest, but it’s useful to examine what their interests are before subscribing to their demands. – Cam Beck

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Magazines vs. TV vs. Online

Which medium is the most effective? It’s a question that every type of marketing agency is asking every day. Many people, media publishers and agencies default to the medium they have the most experience in.

One of the most recent studies getting coverage from McPheters & Company gets what will be a controversial heading “TV and Magazine Ads More Effective Than Ads on Internet”. The study, commissioned by Condé Nast and CBS Vision, a major publisher and a major television network (insert red flag of potential bias) concludes that:

It is interesting how cryptocurrency is the current raving topic in both the financial world and trading world. It has literally turned the trades upside down with every person in the world looking up in Google and via what it is all about and how it is changing people to millionaires.

Within a half hour, magazines effectively delivered more than twice the number of ad impressions as TV and more than 6 times those delivered on-line.

Among web users, 63% of banner ads were not seen. Respondents’ eyes passed over 37% of the Internet ads and stopped on slightly less than a third.

Though TV doesn’t deliver as many ads per half hour as do magazines, net recall of TV ads was almost twice that of magazine ads; magazines in turn had ad recall almost three times that of Internet banner ads.

I don’t question these results. I do believe that many Internet users have trained themselves to ignore banner ads. Also, I do believe that both television and magazines can be an effective advertising medium. However, I think the study doesn’t consider a number of things, including:

Cost – What’s the cost per impression for each of the three scenarios. Sure, maybe my banner ad only gets noticed say 1/3 of the time. However, if my banner ad cost is 1/20 of a television or print advertisement, then which is the better investment?

Placements and technology – These days, anyone who buys on-line media will not buy just banner ads. Typically there are sponsorship, custome placements in certain sections of sites and on-line promotions. In addition there are a number of different types of networks that can use technology that’s not available offline to serve the ad to the right audience at the right time.

Rich media and video – Not all banner ads are created equal. Rich media ads and video ads tend, in general, to get a much higher response rate than regular banner ads and sometimes higher than their offline counterparts.

Optimization – If your on-line media buy isn’t working, you can modify and optimize your buy on a periodic basis, even monthly. You can’t do that with a print and television ad nearly as quickly if at all.

Maybe the problem here is that we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe it shouldn’t be which medium is most effective. We should take a look at the brand and product we’re trying to promote and customize an approach based on our customer. With a budget large enough to do TV ads or even print ads, an integrated campaign using all three components together should be considered. Its just not a simple matter of plugging and playing into the “most effective media”.

– Paul Herring