On Writing


I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan this week working with a team of marketing academics and practitioners on a new digital marketing anthology. Each person was invited to author a chapter in an area of interest, which we had to submit in August. This week we’re meeting for the first time, peer-reviewing and editing our chapters and pulling them into one cohesive anthology that readers like you might read. The image above is the barn we holed up in yesterday to work. It’s has a beautiful view of the fall trees in the back, and it was nice to catch a walk around the neighborhood yesterday to create some mind space.

Over the summer, I decided to keep myself accountable to writing every week by starting the CMO Mondays series on my blog. And, as of last week, I decided to keep myself accountable to writing every day – even if it’s just a short thought.

I’ve always enjoyed writing and back in high school thought I might actually become a full-time writer. I wrote my first two feature film screenplays in high school, and went to undergrad at Syracuse to study screenwriting. But, when I entered “the real world”, I discovered I had a knack and interest for business. So, while I still love a good fictional story, most of my writing these days are focused on different aspects of business.

I started blogging in 2011 as a way to structure and codify my thoughts on social media and technology, as I had recently entered the space and was learning so much so quickly. But, once those thoughts were codified it was easy for me to ease up on the blogging and focus on work. The same thing happened last summer of 2015 after finishing my MBA, I had a lot of thoughts percolating that I needed to get out of my head. But, once again, I let focus on work derail my writing.

When my friend and former colleague Marcus Collins presented me with the opportunity to contribute a chapter to this new anthology, I decided that it was time to make writing a priority in my life. I’ve had some ideas for books that I want to write, but have pushed them off because I was too busy or simply didn’t want to make the time. Writing a twenty-page chapter was a nice way to dip my toes in the water to see if I have the desire to push through and write a whole book. The CMO Mondays series is a means to get the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years out of my head and into a format that (hopefully) can help other marketers. And, the decision to write daily is really about getting any other thoughts out of my head and into the world. I’m an introvert, and I have come to recognize that I sometimes let ideas sit in my head too long to formulate instead of sharing them with people that might accelerate an idea into becoming something bigger. I also recognize that I’m a better executive when I’m writing because the process of writing helps me codify thoughts, so that I can communicate them more effectively at work with colleagues.

So, going forward, expect that I’ll be publishing longer, more thoughtful content on Mondays on the topic of marketing, whereas the rest of the days might be a bit lighter, more random musings bouncing around in my head. Next year, our “Digital Marketing: Concept, Theory and Practice” anthology will be published. I’ll share when that happens, and hope you take time to read it.

Time Blocking for Productivity


I’ve been reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, and just finished a chapter on time blocking. This has been the single largest contributor to my productivity.

The art of time blocking comes down to creating (blocking) quiet, focused time in your day to tackle the meatiest, most critical tasks – those that require the most thought and time and effort but that will yield the largest results.

The book turned me on to Paul Graham‘s and Y Combinator‘s approach to time blocking, which Graham writes about in his post “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule”. “Makers” such as developers and writers need long, focused periods of time in their day to be productive. These are time blocks of several hours. Any meetings, conference calls or other interruptions can be highly disruptive to the maker’s productivity.  On the other hand, “managers” that create value primarily through interacting with people  in meetings, calls, hallway directives, etc. are used to scheduling their days in 30 minute and 60 minute time blocks. These two cultures of productivity can certainly clash if you’re not purposeful about how to manage them.

This also reminds me of a concept that I heard a startup founder speak about once: when you’re the founder of an early stage company you’re “writing” a lot. In other words, you’re doing a lot of the work yourself – coding, sales, marketing, etc. But, as you grow and hire a team, you’re role as the leader of the organization shifts from “writer” to “editor” – where you are delegating the writing to your team and then “editing” their work.

While, I’m not a founder, I have started several new teams and initiatives in my previous companies. Often times, I started as the first and only person, needing to prove the concept and pitch for funding. This concept of writing vs. editing is how I approach building new things. I start as the writer, rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty, gaining a deep understanding of the mechanics of how something works – or even developing the mechanics of how something works. Eventually, as we gain traction and funding and the ability to hire a team, I shift to editing mode. This is the same as shifting from maker mode to manager mode.

What I’ve found over time is that I’m happiest when I’m making time to both make/write and manage/edit. Solely focusing on one eventually becomes frustrating. I like to both create and build things, but also teach and coach people.

The busiest time of my life was between August 2013 – May 2015 when I was getting my MBA. During that period of time, I was transitioning off a significant initiative that I had built from $245K to $5.5M revenues in just 2 years – finding a good manager to succeed me and sustain the business that I had built. And, I was transitioning on to build a new consulting practice from scratch that would require a significant organizational change effort. I was traveling more frequently – several times a month. Meanwhile, I had two kids at home ages, 3 and 1 and a new baby on the way. Finding “balance” between school, work and personal life required a new level of intentionality with my time. Time-blocking is, eventually, how I designed it.

In year two of my MBA is when I really hit my rhythm. Below is my schedule:

  • 4am – wake up and read the news
  • 4:30am – exercise and meditate
  • 5am – writing time – during which I focused on the most critical thing that I needed to accomplish that day. Sometimes it was school work (homework or studying for an exam), and sometimes it was company work (usually a presentation of some kind). I would block as much time as I needed to get this one thing done, but usually by the early afternoon my concentration energy had been taxed. So, I shifted to editing mode
  • 1pm – 5pm – editing time – reserved for conference calls, meetings and emails.
  • 5-7pm – commute time / time with kids
  • 7-9pm – down time with Court (my wife)
  • 9pm – bed

Sometimes, if I knew I needed some extra time, I’d go to bed at 8pm and wake up at 3am. I also worked from my home office or a coffee shop or the hotel room frequently, so that I couldn’t be interrupted. Office time was the single largest disrupter of productivity. Working from home or the hotel also saved me unproductive commute times. I would only drive if I was going to be spending that 30-60 minutes on a call too.

When I tell people that I’m a 3-4am riser, they’re generally aghast.  “How can you wake up that early? I need my sleep,” they say. To which I respond, “Well, what time do you wake up?” The answer is usually around 6am. “And, what time do you usually go to bed?” The answer is usually around 11pm-12am. “Well, then I get the same or more sleep than you,” I say. And, I’m more productive with my time. At this point, there is usually an a-ha moment and a self-admition that they “just don’t have the discipline to keep that kind of schedule.” I didn’t think I had the discipline either when I started, but I had to for survival. And, time blocking was the key.

America Is Great

Canadian marketing agency, The Garden, launched a new project called “Tell America It’s Great.” Below is an excerpt from their Medium post.

“It’s no secret that America is going through a hard time right now. The election has exposed some pretty scary realities that will likely challenge them for years to come, regardless of who’s elected. They’ve been bombarded with a tremendous amount of negativity and it’s likely that for many of them, the immediate future seems rather bleak.

With that, it occurred to us that America could probably use a little cheering up. That’s why we created the ‘Tell America it’s great’ campaign. As their closest friends and neighbours, we thought it was important for us to do something to cut through the negativity and help remind them that no matter how bad things might seem, there are a lot of reasons to believe that America is still pretty great.”

And, below is the video from the project:

I love this idea. We really have been pounded with negative rhetoric and fear-mongering this presidential race. And, unfortunately, Americans are buying into it. “Tell America It’s Great” reminds us of our place in the world, and that the world is watching to see how we, the people, handle this election. Come November, let’s vote from a place of strength and courage. Remember where we came from, what we’ve already accomplished and that, while there is always room for improvement, America already is great.

To watch more videos from our Canadian neighbors, check out the website for “Tell America It’s Great” here. If you choose to share this post, include the hashtag below.


CMO Mondays: Have We Become Too Specialized?

A CMO recently asked me what is one of the biggest pitfalls I see brands falling into. The number one issue that I see is that marketers have become too specialized and too siloed, and therefore the full potential value of the brand is not capitalized.

Growth in complexity from technologies, channels and data.

As you can see from the slides above, marketing has experienced a proliferation of new technologies and channels, and this intimidates marketers and executives. In an effort to make marketers’ jobs easier, companies building products for marketers have actually made their jobs harder and more complex. So, now you see this trend of marketers becoming over-specialized and marketing teams more siloed. Someone might only know analytics, or only know social, or PPC and display, or brand and creative. And, they advocate for one discipline over the other because that’s what they know and are comfortable with. It’s the lens through which they view the world. But, great marketing isn’t about technology or channels. It’s about audiences. It’s always been about understanding audiences’ human behavior to create products, communications and experiences that enroll those audiences to buy into the brand. If we know our audience inside and out, then deciding which technologies and channels to apply to engage those audiences becomes much easier.

The exponential growth in data hasn’t helped in this matter. The need for data has reinforced our nature to play it safe and created some false positives. This is symptomatic across business – not just marketing. “Advertising is dead.” “Why invest in creatives when the data will just tell us what content audiences want? Then, we can use tools to automate content creation.” These philosophies are easy to spout in an era when marketers are being pressured to lean budgets. But, when everyone is swimming in the same direction, opportunity presents itself in the opposite.

Great marketers think more like anthropologists and communicate like orators.

The growing need for general marketers.
The best marketers are Renaissance people. They don’t live solely in the art bucket or science bucket, but, rather, they bridge the two. Great marketers think like anthropologists and communicate like orators – painting a view of the world and enrolling us into that view. They study human behavior from a mix of hard data (think analytics), soft data (think observations) and experience (think intuition) to arrive at universal human truths about customers and their wants and needs. From these truths, great marketers create solutions to those needs – whether they be in the form of products, services, business models, experiences or, simply, stories.

Two Thinking Systems
Perhaps my favorite article on this subject is “The Second Road of Thought” by Tony Golsby-Smith. Here, Golsby-Smith discusses how “the western world bought the wrong thinking system from Aristotle.” An excerpt below:

“This ranks as one of the worst investment decisions our civilization has made, and it has led us into using the wrong toolkits for our enterprises ever since. The thinking system we invested in was Aristotle’s ‘analytics’, and we made the choice around the era of the Enlightenment which ushered in what we today call the Scientific Age. That decision has proven so sweeping that it now monopolizes what most people characterize as ‘thinking’. Thinking processes are dominated by the culture of the sciences, and you get no better evidence of this than our universities, the home of thinking, where any subject must position itself as a science to be taken seriously. Traditional approaches to strategy sit fairly and squarely at this table of logic and Science.

What few people realize is that Aristotle conceived of two thinking-systems, not one. We made the big mistake of just buying one, and allowing it to monopolize the whole territory of thought. We should have bought them both, and used them as partners. Instead we have only one thinking tool in our hands and we are using it for all the wrong purposes. Here is how it happened.

Aristotle was the first person to codify thinking into a system. He did this for a reason: he lived in perhaps the most dramatic social experiment of human history, the invention of democracy by the Greek leader Kleisthenes around 450 BC. This political system did what no other had tried to do: it delivered decision making into the hands of human beings. Prior to that, regimes were governed by the king of the gods. That meant that no matter how sophisticated they might have been in terms of Engineering or Mathematics, they were not sophisticated about human reasoning, especially where decision making was concerned. Clearly, Kleisthenes’ political reforms created a great need to codify the processes by which humans think and can arrive at ‘truths.’ If ever there was a do-it-yourself manual, this was it! Ordinary humans were playing god in Aristotle’s Greece.”

Golsby-Smith goes on to describe the two roads of thought:

  1. THE LOGIC (or ‘analytics’) ROAD: This is ‘where things cannot be other than they are’ and is tied to the realm of natural science.
  2. THE RHETORIC (or ‘dialectic’) ROAD: This is ‘where things can be other than they are’ and is tied to the realm of human decision making.

The Logic Road is the process by which we diagnose what already exists, whereas the Rhetoric Road is the process by which we humans design the future. I would argue that while marketing is experiencing a renaissance right now, it is headed squarely in the direction of ‘analytics’ because of the overwhelming technologies, channels and data discussed above. As business and finance has disappointingly placed statistics (which is the mathematical application of diagnosing the past to predict the future) at the center of its theory and practice, so now marketers are following this trend. But, the breakthrough brands that capture our hearts and minds (and wallets) in the future will be those that master the art of rhetoric as equally as they master the science of analytics.

The art of storytelling
David Ogilvy was quoted as saying “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.” Never has this been more true. Audiences today experience an attention deficit from the devices, channels, messages and alerts that bombard their senses every waking moment. Content is more fleeting than ever, and audiences’ retention is shorter than ever. Yet, great storytelling increases audiences’ sense of trust and empathy and increases their retention. This enables us, as marketers, to direct human behavior. Indeed, neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, taught us that character-driven stories consistently cause the synthesis of cortisol (a hormone that focuses our attention) and oxytocin (a hormone that creates a sense of empathy and connection). In other words, the better crafted and more relevant the stories we marketers tell about the brand, the more our brand will stand out to and connect with audiences. There is, apparently, scientific benefit to the art of storytelling. See the video below for more details on Zak’s research.

So, all marketers should be trained in storytelling. The Coca-Cola Company has invested in having screenwriters train their marketers, and IBM has recently been hiring screenwriters. If you want your brand to stand out, invest in striking creative and crafting remarkable stories. Yes, by all means, leverage new sources of data to glean insights about your audiences that can inform that creative. But, people today – more than ever – need to be inspired. We need brave brands (and brave marketers behind those brands) to take chances and inspire audiences into action.

The science of analytics
Meanwhile, every marketer should be trained in basic market research and data science, so that they know how to run their own analysis, as well as review others’. Not every marketer needs to be a practicing statistician by any means. But, the important thing is to understand what questions to ask when reviewing data, so that we know how to interpret and apply its findings to actions that the brand should take. Critical is knowing what you’re looking for in the first place in order to design an analysis and measurement approach that can glean the knowledge you seek.

The tactics of channels and technologies
If you have a handle on storytelling and analytics, then channels and technologies become fairly simple. From the data, we glean what story might resonate with customers, what channels they engage in, what their behaviors are in each of those channels, what content formats they engage with most, and we have a sense for what we need to measure in order to learn and improve over time. The trick is then to tell the brand’s story consistently and natively in each of those channels. And, we look for technologies that meet the specifications we need in order to tell that story effectively in each of those channels, and to capture the data we need to measure and learn from our activities.

The need for speed
Given the pace of business is only increasing, it doesn’t make sense to have large groups of hyper-specialized individuals trying to figure out how to work with each other, interpret each other and take actions away from each individual’s contributions. When one does not have context (experience) for what another person does, it’s difficult to make create action. Rather, if we want to move at the speed of business, we should have less, more well-rounded people collaborating. Thus, every marketer should gain experience in both the art and science of marketing. Read Scaling Agile @ Spotify by Henrik Kniberg & Anders Ivarsson to see how this approach has worked in agile software development at Spotify.

Welcome to the Post-Capitalist Society


“In 2000, President Bill Clinton said in his last State of the Union address: ‘America will lead the world toward shared peace and prosperity and the far frontiers of science and technology.’ His economic team trumpeted ‘the ferment of rapid technological change‘ as one of the U.S. economy’s ‘principal engines’ of growth.”

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Great Unraveling | America’s Dazzling Tech Boom Has a Downside: Not Enough Jobs” by Jon Hilsenrath and Bob Davis. The premise is that the technology industry has not lived up to its promise of job creation – particularly since the year 2000. And, that this disappointment has led to political outsiders like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders gaining momentum in this presidential race.

The article goes on to list some interesting facts and statistics:

“Google’s Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. had at the end of last year a total of 74,505 employees, about one-third fewer than Microsoft Corp. even though their combined stock-market value is twice as big. Photo-sharing service Instagram had 13 employees when it was acquired for $1 billion by Facebook in 2012…

…The five largest U.S.-based technology companies by stock-market value—Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Oracle Corp. —are worth a combined $1.8 trillion today. That is 80% more than the five largest tech companies in 2000.

Today’s five giants have 22% fewer workers than their predecessors, or a total of 434,505 as of last year, compared with 556,523 at Cisco Systems Inc., Intel, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft in 2000.”

On the surface, yes, it looks like the technology industry has failed to meet its promise. The younger technology companies founded after the year 2000 are employing less and less people. The jobs of the Industrial Revolution are being replaced by robots and software, and this will only accelerate with the long awaited maturation of artificial intelligence / machine learning. Every business today is (or should be) a technology business in some capacity to take advantage of the operational efficiencies (i.e. cost savings) that technology can provide.

But, a closer look shows that it’s not the technology industry that failed us. It’s our rhetoric and education that failed us. We read the tea leaves wrong about the transformation that technology would bring because we looked at the past to predict the future.

The First Four Revolutions
As I’ve written about before, economist Carlota Perez taught us that every half century, society has a “big bang moment” – a technological breakthrough – that ushers in a new technological revolution.

5 Successive Technological Revolutions of the Last 250 Years

If you consider the five successive technological revolutions we’ve had, starting with the Industrial Revolution in 1771, each created more jobs than the previous. And, this would make sense. With each revolution, we built more and bigger things, and we did it by hand. Physical labor was the currency of capitalism.

6th Technological Revolution Around the Corner

Why the Fifth Revolution Is Different
But, three things changed all that in our current revolution: the Age of Information and Telecommunications, which saw its big bang moment in 1971 with the Intel microprocessor, and which is at its tale end.

  1. Moore’s Law: An observation in 1965 by Intel’s co-founder, Gordon Moore, states that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention and would continue to for the foreseeable future. This has decreased the size of our computing devices while simultaneously increasing their processing power exponentially for fifty years. And, it is only now beginning to slow.
  2. The Internet: Have you heard of this thing? It’s pretty amazing. Throughout history, innovation has been driven primarily through physical locations. “Hot spots”, as they’re referred to in network science, were typically found where there was a concentration of people and ideas colliding. These hot spots have popped up throughout history from the coffee houses in the Age of Enlightenment to the Parisian salons of Modernism. Some of these hot spots have also been industry specific like Silicon Valley for tech, Los Angeles for film and TV, and New York for finance. The Internet (and the World Wide Web) distributed the hot spot, so that its not restricted to a centralized location. The hot spot became decentralized, and has led to innovations like Safecast, which I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post.
  3. Cloud Computing: Then, cloud computing came in and decentralized computing infrastructure. Suddenly, you didn’t need to buy or lease expensive on-premise servers to build software. You simply rent what you need – and only what you need – when you need it. The price of software development dropped exponentially. Not only do you save on hardware (server) costs, but you save by not needing expensive people that know how to service the hardware.

So, what does this all sum up to? Since the rise of capitalism and throughout the first four technological revolutions, capitalism created more jobs because the primary economic resources were physical assets: gold, land, ships, railroads, skyscrapers, cars, etc. and the labor that was needed to build and manage them. But, while the fifth revolution started this way, it is ending by headed in the opposite direction. The economic force of capitalism, combined with Moore’s Law, the Internet and cloud computing, is driving a reduced need for employees. Today, one can build a highly valuable business with exponentially lower (near $0) infrastructure, supply chain and employee costs. Every non-critical resource simply becomes dead weight.

Capitalism Has Hit Its Tipping Point.
Consider this observation that Tom Goodwin shared in a 2015 TechCrunch article entitled “The Battle for the Customer Interface”:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Something interesting is happening.”


The Wall Street Journal article mentioned above highlights that Instagram had only 13 employees when it was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, and WhatsApp had only 55 employees when it was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014.

The winners in the new capitalism are those that can create value with the least resources – including employees.

Why Our Rhetoric and Education Is Wrong
For longer than I can remember, political rhetoric around economic growth has been about job creation and good education to fill those jobs. This made sense given our history. But, what you see today is a frustration that those jobs aren’t being created – at least not in the technology industry. If anything tech is displacing those jobs.

In our new economy, employment looks more like a shorter long tail. As Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail describes…

“The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”


Anderson wrote his original article about the long tail in 2004, describing the effects of the Internet on commerce. iTunes and Amazon are prime examples in the music and CPG categories respectively. But, twelve years after the original article, we can now see that the same effects are happening to employment.  At the head of the tail are the largest employers – slow, lumbering legacy companies with immense overhead. Further down the head are the new class of technology companies – except that they are employing less people than their predecessors. They look more like a small, passionate and nimble tribe – with a minimal number of full-time employees supplemented by an army of flexible, contract workers (to whom you don’t have to provide expensive benefits). Consider companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Luxe and Favor. Then, you get into the long tail. And, these are less so companies; more so, individuals that have learned to make a living through the digital economy. They’re building mobile apps for iOS and Android, creating subscription e-commerce businesses through Cratejoy, or selling craft goods on Etsy. They may even be content creators on YouTube, Instagram or podcasting. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal article highlights that “An Apple spokeswoman says it is ‘creating jobs in new industries like the App Economy.'”

Peter Drucker predicted such a change. In his book “Landmarks of Tomorrow”, he talked about the shift to the “post-capitalist society” where knowledge would become the primary economic resource over land, labor and financial assets. This gave rise to the concept of “knowledge workers” that is so common in management and consulting today. 

Where We Go from Here

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

So, our rhetoric needs to shift away from “get an expensive education, so you can get a good job and have a nice, long career” to “learn to learn, so that you can create your own income and be self sufficient.” The United States was built on entrepreneurship – on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we want to prepare our people for the pursuit, don’t give them a skill and hand them a job; teach them the game of business and let them play.

From Futurist to Nowist

Director of MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito gave TED Talk on becoming a “now-ist” instead of being a “futurist”. In this talk, Ito describes how he was in Cambridge at MIT when a magnitude 9 earthquake hit off the coast of Japan. Ito was panicked, as he watched the news and the press that was coming from the Tokyo power company about the explosion at the nuclear power plant that was only 200 kilometers away from his home where his family was at that time.

The people on TV weren’t telling Ito anything that he wanted (needed) to hear regarding the nuclear reactor, levels of radiation, etc. So, he went to the internet for information instead, and there he found people in similar situations. So, they formed a community called Safecast to measure the radiation and get the information out to everyone else because the reality was that the government wasn’t going to do it for the people. Today, Safecast has 16M data points (the largest open database of radiation measurements), data visualization tools, an app that shows radiation in Japan and around the world, and other resources for the open community.

It’s remarkable to see how people can come together so quickly under a shared purpose to build something of immense value like this. One year ago, I was in Nuevo Vallarta with my family – my wife, three kids and parents – when Hurricane Patricia hit the west coast of Mexico, just 180 miles south of where we were staying. For twenty-four hours we monitored the hurricane from our mobile devices, getting access to news from the U.S. because the Mexican government wasn’t providing any information. All we got from U.S. news outlets was fear-mongering about how deadly the hurricane was going to be – not just because of the winds, but more so because of the tsunami-sized waves that the hurricane would bring ashore. Not at all comforting when you’ve been evacuated under ground (sea) level in a bunker. Having factual, open-sourced data like this in that situation would have been invaluable. The closest I could find was the National Hurricane Center, which became my main source for information during that period.

Ito goes on to discuss his perspective on innovation. Three key takeaways are:

  1. “Deploy or Die” motto – Moore’s Law made the cost of trying new things (innovation) virtually zero. So, innovation has moved to the fringes where makers can make and test things first before they need to hire MBAs and raise funds.
  2. “Learning over Education” – A perspective that “education is what they do to you” whereas “learning is what you do to yourself.” This particularly resonates with me, as I’ve practically googled my way into the career that I’m in. I wasn’t a marketer by training. I stumbled into this six years ago when I left the movie business. But, curiosity and the willingness to test and try new things accelerated my success as a marketer.
  3. “Compass over Maps” – You can’t expect to plan things from beginning to end at the beginning. But, if you have a strong compass, you can discover your way to the outcome you seek. This speaks to being resourceful, which is the first thing I look for in a team member after culture fit. 

Below is Ito’s TED Talk. Hope you enjoy.

Your Brand’s Strategic Narrative

A friend recently shared an article by Andy Raskin called “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen”. It breaks down the narrative structure used in Zuora‘s sales decks. This narrative is consistent from Zuora’s CEO on down to the marketing and sales teams, and illustrates how important a strategic narrative is in aligning a company’s teams around its brand.

As Andy rightly points out, “successful sales decks follow the same narrative structure as epic films and fairy tales.” Indeed, neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, taught us that character-driven stories consistently cause the synthesis of cortisol (a hormone that focuses our attention) and oxytocin (a hormone that creates a sense of empathy and connection). In other words, the better crafted and more relevant the stories we tell about the brand, the more our brand will stand out to and connect with audiences. See the video below for more details on Zak’s research.

Andy pinpoints 5 key elements to a successful sales deck and narrative:

  1. Name a big, relevant change in the world
  2. Show there’ll be winners and losers
  3. Tease the promised land
  4. Introduce features as “magic gifts” for overcoming obstacles to the promised land
  5. Present evidence that you can make the story come true

The article is worth the read, as it highlights slides that accompany these five elements and breaks down the elements in more depth. You can find the article here.