Migrated the blog over to http://www.iansohn.com/flagged-for-follow-up/.
Same stuff, new home.
Exactly. For being liars.
With Father's Day approaching I was thinking ... here's the thing ...
I'm not the world's best dad.
You're not, despite what the card tells you.
No one is.
Certainly not the experts trying to sell copies of their book or drive pageviews.
I let my kids chew gum. With sugar. Often.
They think Amazon closes at 5pm.
Sometimes I put them to bed early so I can watch basketball.
Occasionally I drop an F bomb in front of them.
I taught them how to use Apple TV so they can entertain themselves.
I yell at them to stop yelling.
I sometimes side with my younger son because it's just easier.
My six year old specializes in poop jokes.
At the grocery store we pick food from the salad bar and eat as we shop.
I almost exclusively make breakfasts that can be cooked in the microwave.
So the next time you pull up next to us at a red light and we're belting out our rendition of the uncensored version of Jay Z's "Can I Get A" please don't judge.
I'm not the world's best dad.
I'm fine with that.
Because every night I kiss my boys and tell them 'I love you.'
Doesn't even come close to making me the best. But it'll have to do.
Glad to be these guys' most imperfect father. I think they look pretty happy.
Posted an article over at Fast Company's Co.Create. Check it out if you're so inclined. Here's my opener ...
David Ogilvy, the most quotable man in advertising, once said: "Make sure you have a Vice President in charge of Revolution, to engender ferment among your more conventional colleagues."
And while I most certainly agree with the sentiment, as a guy at an agency (with Ogilvy’s name on the door no less) whose job it is to help colleagues and clients innovate, it gives me pause.
Because the word revolution carries such weight and expectations.
Revolutions are led by George Washington.
Revolutions happen in Cuba and Iran.
Revolutions are the lyrical hook for iconic Beatles songs.
Revolutions often involve death and suffering.
That’s heavy stuff for an agency guy.
Liz Taylor and I spent a few days at SxSW. We did a pretty great wrap-up (legends in our own minds) for our Ogilvy colleagues. Rather than posting the entire doc, here are a few things we found interesting, quotes we love, and practical tips for navigating SxSW ...
THINGS WE FOUND INTERESTING
QUOTES WE LOVE
PRACTICAL TIPS FOR NAVIGATING SXSW
It's that time of year, when the global digerati invade Austin (much to the dismay of some) for the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference (SxSW).
Much has been made in the last few years that the conference has jumped the shark, but the way I see it you get out of the conference (or any conference) what you put into it.
With that, I've scoured the scheduling tool on their web site, have RSVPd to the events that seem fun, and have connected privately with friends and strangers I look forward to connecting with while I'm there.
With my departure 48 hours away, I was thinking about what I'm most looking forward to and expecting ...
We're all adults here. It's no secret that the parties are a big part of the conference experience. But those who have never been to SxSW can't really appreciate the truth in the cliche that the most meaningful interactions happen at social events. It's where you meet colleagues from other offices, people you only "know" online, potential new hires, new business leads, exciting startups, partners, etc.. Laugh if you will, but it's just true. Particularly looking forward to seeing folks like Virginia, David, Josh and others of their ilk.
Every year themes emerge. It's hard to explain, but it's like one or two things happen that everyone talks about at and after the conference. Looking at the panels I've chosen to attend (n=1), here are some of those themes we'll be talking about for months to come (most are not new, actually):
And while the points above are speculative, there's one thing I know for certain. Come Monday afternoon I'll be very much looking forward to getting home to my kids.
Will share my learnings. And if you want to connect please DM me. I'm @iansohn.
If you take two things away from this, they should be:
I recently had the privilege of speaking on a panel moderated by Pamela, Getty Images' Creative Planning Manager. Pamela began the session with a shorter version of this wonderful presentation on recent visual trends in technology. I can't encourage you enough to check it out. As I told her afterwards, I was smitten by what she had so say and how she said it.
I don't think Pamela will mind me saying (as I did on our panel) there was one trend she discussed that I couldn't quite reconcile with what I've seen. It's what she calls anti-vanity. Paraphrasing liberally ...
As you look at people's Facebook profile photos you notice how much thought people put into it. There's a very studied way of creating and choosing these photos.
But we balance this with 'real' moments that aren't beautiful in a traditional sense, but show us in a very real light.
In other words, we use this juxtaposition to strike a balance.
I don't buy it. In fact I think we put more thought into the 'real' photos than the staged ones. I called it 'studied imperfection' - which I'm sure I must have lifted from somewhere else. I'd say we are at our most vain when trying to portray our 'real' selves. It's strange, yet makes total sense. Example below ...
What do you think? Is the trend anti-vanity or is it über vanity?
All day yesterday I was thinking about the shape of the iPhone app icon.
According to Wikipedia the Squircle is a thing ...
A squircle is a mathematical shape with properties between those of a square and those of a circle. It is a special case of superellipse. The word "squircle" is a portmanteau of the words "square" and "circle".
Who doesn't love a good portmanteau?
Also cited in the Wikipedia entry is that Nokia is often associated with the shape, having used it as a touchpad for buttons for years. As a former Nokian (both employee and loyal user) I can't make an association between the two.
All I know is this past weekend my five year old yelled from the backseat of the car, "Dad! You should download that guitar app for your phone." He was looking at a billboard for the Garage Band app. No words. No context (not placed on the deck of an iPhone). Just the squircle.
That's all. Nothing insightful. Just found it interesting that a pretty common shape - one that another handset manufacturer apparently had some equity with - is so widely associated with Apple. And that it has such a goofy name.
Good article about beginner's luck.
Particularly interested in this quote: "When you're sure something won't work, consider it anyway."
I agree 100%. People dismiss extreme options way (way way) too fast, which has the harmful impact of stifling creative problem solving.
Because often times from absurd ideas come killer ideas.
When faced with a complex decision I always try to catalogue all possible paths - even the most obviously wrong. Because by doing so I discipline myself into thinking the problem all the way through, from every angle.
Then I apply a more ruthless filter to determine the best paths to explore.
I can't get over how different these two ads are - both for essentially the same product.
One tells you all the great things you need to know about the product.
The other tells you a story about the greatness that can come of using the product.
You be the judge which is which; and which I prefer.
Nice little Fast Company article on storytelling.
I'm fascinated by how many people (mostly younger, I find) are totally skeptical of storytelling. I think they misinterpret it as some kind of theatrical exercise. Which it's clearly not (the performance aspect is part of it, but the furthest down stream). Or maybe they've never spent time in an organization that values the skill ... reminds me how valuable my Ogilvy years were.
Particularly liked this point in the article ...
What is going on here? Why are we putty in a storyteller’s hands? The psychologists Melanie Green and Tim Brock argue that entering fictional worlds “radically alters the way information is processed.” Green and Brock’s studies shows that the more absorbed readers are in a story, the more the story changes them. Highly absorbed readers also detected significantly fewer “false notes” in stories--inaccuracies, missteps--than less transported readers. Importantly, it is not just that highly absorbed readers detected the false notes and didn’t care about them (as when we watch a pleasurably idiotic action film). They were unable to detect the false notes in the first place.
And the Trojan Horse idea...
Guber tells us that stories can also function as Trojan Horses. The audience accepts the story because, for a human, a good story always seems like a gift. But the story is actually just a delivery system for the teller’s agenda. A story is a trick for sneaking a message into the fortified citadel of the human mind.
You make sure your shoes are shined.
You say 'please' and 'thank you.'
You treat those around you with respect, and when you screw up you say 'I'm sorry.'
You eat your veggies and take your medicine.
You tell your mom you love her as much as possible.
You work hard. And honestly.
You tip generously. At least fairly.
You keep your fingernails clean.
You hold the door for strangers.
You eat a healthy breakfast.
You find your cocktail, and stick with it.
You try to teach your kids how to be good by acting good.
You choose what issues in life need to be taken seriously; and those that are inconsequential.
It's all pretty simple.
The two biggest stories of the week are Bubba Watson capturing the green jacket at the US Open, and Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion.
What do these two seemingly disparate happenings have in common?
Both accomplishments were engineered by guys with no formal training in their respective field.
Watson - as was noted several times during Sunday's telecast - has never had a lesson or analyzed his swing on video.
Instagram's CEO, Kevin Systrom, is apparently an entirely self-taught programmer.
The world (and media) loves stories like this, and I'm guessing the stories are in the neighborhood of truth, but not quite as sexy as they've been made to be.
Nonetheless, it's an interesting narrative and one I'm sure we'll continue to hear.
By the way, here's Watson's shot from the 2nd hole of the sudden-death playoff. Maybe the best shot I've ever seen, given the circumstances.
I know the merits of both. And feel guilty. But too much of a chore.
I bought two things recently.
A Kindle and a water bottle.
I've read more books in the last five months than I have in years. And for a couple of weeks I've downed my daily recommended H20 without a second thought.
Remove friction. Change behavior. Pretty simple. The Heath brothers would smile.
A few observations from my first seven work days at Tap.Me. In no particular order ...
Still finding my way. Having a blast.
A friend sent me this article by Thomas Friedman upon learning I was leaving the relative (perceived) safety of my job to join a start-up. Really impactful read for me. Particularly liked this ...
Hoffman argues that professionals need an entirely new mind-set and skill set to compete. “The old paradigm of climb up a stable career ladder is dead and gone,” he said to me. “No career is a sure thing anymore. The uncertain, rapidly changing conditions in which entrepreneurs start companies is what it’s now like for all of us fashioning a career. Therefore you should approach career strategy the same way an entrepreneur approaches starting a business.”
On February 27 I'm joining a company called Tap.Me.
It's a startup. It's advertising. It's gaming. It's mobile. It's mobile in-game advertising. But better. Solid.
I'll be responsible for developing and leading brand relationships. I'll also lead Tap.Me's own marketing efforts.
I like the idea. I like the people. I like the space. Startup is on my bucket list.
Admittedly I won't miss scrambling to submit my time sheets on Sunday night. But there are many things I will miss. The incredible team I've built. My talented colleagues - many of them now friends. The clients I've had the privilege to work with. The unique Ogilvy culture. The world-class resources that made me a better marketer and person. World-class.
Humbled by how gracious Ogilvy's been to me over the last few weeks, and last five years.
I was looking for a pair of shoes. Something fairly particular. After a bit of searching I came across a brand I liked. No reason to name names.
I scoured their website, found the pair I liked and decided I needed to try them on before ordering.
Only problem is I couldn't find a retail locator on their site. So I found their Twitter handle and asked very politely, twice, if someone could help me find a retailer in Chicago.
Then I sent an email asking the same thing.
Finally I walked Michigan Avenue and found a department store that carried the brand. They had the shoe, but not my size. But no big deal - I had confirmed my choice.
So I did what I always do - ordered them from Zappos. Came the next day. As sure of a sure bet out there.
I love the shoes. Would probably buy another pair. This, despite having a pretty poor experience with the brand (really, no experience at all).
The moral here is that a lot of companies have Zappos to thank for bridging the customer experience gap. I hope they realize that. Both Zappos and the brands they sell.
I'm not a traditional sales guy. Not really a sales guy at all. Rather than being pushy I take a more consultative approach, whether I'm working with an existing client or trying to win a new piece of business.
Something I just don't get is when salespeople use false scarcity and/or scare tactics to make a sale. I see it all the time ...
Only 2 remaining!
Limited time offer!
I've got people banging down my door for this widget. Don't miss your chance.
If you don't get on Twitter right away someone is going to high-jack your reputation.
I'm actually in the market for a fairly big ticket item right now. There are plenty of these widgets in the marketplace, some worth more than others based on their condition. I recently met a guy selling one of these widgets that I'd rate on the higher end of the quality spectrum; but not so high that I can't find it somewhere else with a little bit of looking.
So this guy threw a line at me: Oh man, I've got like 15 potential buyers. If you are interested you should move fast.
False scarcity AND scare tactics.
Because what he's really saying is: My item is so unique that everyone wants it, and you'd be a fool to miss the chance to have it.
Really? Then why haven't you sold it yet? And why would I waste my time competing with the other 15 buyers when I can go find another widget? And how do you know I'm ready to buy?
Rather than kid a kidder, a much better tactic would have been to ask me a few questions to understand my mindset. How knowledgeable am I about the widget market? How urgent is my need? What anxieties do I have about pulling the trigger?
If he listened intently he might have picked up on something to use on me. Or maybe he'd realize I'm not buying this widget, but he's got another one arriving soon that would be perfect for me.
But no, he missed that chance.
Oh, and the handshake part of this post title ... Man, woman. Young, old. Get a grip. Literally. I'd much rather buy from someone with a solid handshake.
If you're even remotely associated with the marketing profession you've sat in a meeting in the last 24 months where someone suggested an idea based on "random acts of kindness." Like ...
Let's hand out candy canes to people in front of Grand Central.
Let's leave $10 gift cards in New York City taxis.
I'm just as guilty as the next person. No judgement here. But it got me thinking.
Yesterday I Tweeted that Small and harmless acts of subversion are good for the soul.
Is there a brand that could own this? What would it look like? Could it be pulled off in a tounge-in-cheek way so to amuse but not anger?
Like what if CB2 gave a 10% discount on office furniture to anyone who showed a picture of them sitting in their boss' chair; 20% if your feet are on the desk?
Or what if a hat company gave a discount to anyone who tweeted a picture of themselves performing a photo-bomb (wearing the hat, of course)?
That's all I've got. Need some ideas.
Besides just making me laugh, I appreciate that Samsung has the guts to take it to Apple. Marketers could learn a thing or two about taking the fight to their enemy.
I haven't a clue about Samsung's product or what impact (if any) this campaign is having. But I look forward to more of these videos.
Some stream-of-consciousness thinking before the sun comes up today.
I haven't given all that much thought to crowdsourcing, which may be odd given my line of work.
I haven't given all that much thought to Louis CK, which may be odd given my age and comedic sensibility.
I was listening to Louis CK on Bill Simmons' most excellent podcast, and without meaning to they touched on an interesting point about the wisdom of the many versus the wisdom of the few.
As I understand it, Louis has a very successful show on FX. What's interesting about it is that the network has zero control over it. They wire him $200K per episode, and from that he creates the entire thing (including taking out his salary).
This autonomy is very rare. It's also a relatively paltry sum for an actor as successful as Louis.
But the show is hit, and growing an audience with every episode.
So why is it working?
Louis' position is this (paraphrasing):
The more people involved in making decisions (particularly creative ones) the more watered down an idea gets. In essence, consensus-building breeds mediocrity.
By the time Bob from legal, Mary from finance, John from ad sales and Lisa from PR have all given their input, the essence of the idea is lost. And this is nothing against Bob, Mary, John and Lisa - I'm sure they are good at what they do. But they are not comedians.
So you've hired an incredibly successful creative (in this case Louis) for his talent but essentially said to him, "we only trust your sensibility to a certain point."
The disconnect is that by the time Bob, Mary, John and Lisa have stamped the idea, it's not Louis' sensibility any more. So why hire him in the first place?
Bringing it back to my world, I do have to wonder out loud: Is the wisdom of the crowd all that wise, or is the real value that it make us (me, you, brands, agencies) feel safer about any given decision simply because it's based on consensus? And as a result, are we breeding mediocrity? What constitutes authority on any given topic - deep knowledge, a proven track record and passion? Or simply a point-of-view, no matter how uniformed or unformed, and an Internet connection?
I genuinely don't know.
But I think of some of the great creative and marketing talents of our time, and how they would view the wisdom of the crowd. Three immediately come to mind. Clive Davis - he didn't do any market research before signing a scrawny young singer who eventually became Whitney Houston. Steve Jobs once famously said, "It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." And finally, Alex Bogusky (always a polarizing character) - Crispin is (in)famous for retaining creative control over their clients' work. And love or hate the agency, you can't deny they've had a pretty killer run.
That's all for now.
My name is Ian Sohn. That's me:
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Thanks for stopping by. Hope you enjoy.