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Why Jeff Bezos Buying the Washington Post is a Good Thing

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Image borrowed from Money.com

You might have read the news this week that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is buying the Washington Post. You probably didn’t read that in a newspaper.

Jeff Bezos has built possibly the most important company of our time. Amazon is fundamentally changing the way the world shops. And after all, shopping is the heart of business. If anyone is going to figure out how to build a thriving media company out of something like the Washington Post, it’s someone like him. No disrespect to the geniuses who have been shepherding print media’s graceful decline into irrelevance, but it’s safe to say that they aren’t the ones to figure out the new model.

This deal matters because it’s an important bridge between new media and old. So far the model hasn’t been very productive:

  • New media or technology disrupts an old, staid, and marginally troubled industry, sending it into a downward spiral (music, news, retail)
  • Most of the new companies have no real business models, no idea of how to build brands, and generally terrible leadership, so they go out of business or at least struggle to become relevant from an economic perspective (anything from pets.com to MySpace, and thousands in between)
  • We, the buying public, are left without any leadership, and no idea how to make the best use of the new tools available to us. So we collectively lose millions of hours of what could be productive lives, and our trust in marketing, and the companies behind it, continues to diminish.
  • The cycle continues

I’m sure you can see that this isn’t good for anyone. So, let’s take this opportunity to learn a few lessons from the guy who might be able to lead us to greener pastures, especially if he can figure out how to keep my hands from getting all inky.

In the back of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s audiobook Delivering Happiness (Zappos is an Amazon company, and so is Audible, where I bought the book) is a speech Jeff Bezos made to Zappos employees shortly after the purchase. He offers the following five lessons:

  • Obsess over customers. He says he doesn’t worry about competitors, even though he’s in one of the most competitive industries. Instead he worries constantly about keeping customers happy. The competition takes care of itself.
  • Invent. Bezos says you can invent your way out of any box if you believe that you can. At Rebel, we have four rules that push us in this direction:
    1. Be tenacious. Never stop finding better solutions.
    2. Ask more questions. People will often give you the answers you need if you just keep asking questions.
    3. Learn every day. Don’t wait for an annual review to find out how you’re doing. Don’t wait until the project is completed to figure out what went wrong. Take a few minutes every day to examine what is working and what isn’t and make adjustments in real time.
    4. Win as a team. Leverage the collective wisdom of other Rebels, vendors, partners, clients. And while you’re doing that, don’t just cover your own ass, but make sure you have their backs as well.
  • Invent on behalf of customers. Don’t expect them to tell you what they want. I had a client recently suggest that asking the brand’s Facebook fans “What do you want from us?” would be a good way to develop a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Customers pay you to figure it out so they don’t have to.
  • Think long term. Quick fixes probably don’t work, and too many companies are in a perpetual cycle of fixing their quick fixes. Be willing to be misunderstood and stick with what you know. That will create long term value for your customers and your brand.
  • It’s always Day 1. Don’t let the mistakes of the past become the mistakes of the future. Put another way: It ain’t where you’re from; it ain’t where you’re at. It’s where you’re going.
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Four Steps To Becoming a Marketing Rockstar

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Recently, one of our Young Rebels asked for my recommendations for classes she could take to learn more about marketing.

First of all, props to you, Andrea, for your curiosity and for taking the initiative to ask. Those will serve you well at Rebel and in life. Big up yourself!

Any guesses about my response to her? Well, you might guess that my answer was probably a little more complex than she had hoped.

First, I cautioned that traditional marketing education probably wasn’t the best use of her time and money. She expected that from me. I did mention a couple of my friends who teach at UCLA Extension.

But mostly I recommended that she turn the world into her classroom:

Find people at similar stages in their careers and build her network of friends that she can compare notes with, trade ideas and create a support system. In my opinion, this is the most important thing someone can do to build a successful career in any industry.

After that, read the trades. They’re far from great, but they at least provide a baseline of knowledge about what’s happening in our business and they key players she should be watching.

Next, study our our work for clients. What challenges do they face, and what solutions do we recommend? What works and what doesn’t? She can look beyond the projects she’s directly involved with and gain a broader understanding of the landscape real-time. She’ll find a lot more detail and context in our activities than she can get from reading third-party case studies, which tend to be overly optimistic and gloss over all of the pitfalls that plague marketers and agencies.

Last, read lots of books that offer new ideas and perspectives. Don’t accept everything you read, but constantly challenge your own beliefs and conventional wisdom. To get a little help with this, I went to my Facebook friends and asked for recommendations for her. The best suggestions:

Permission Marketing, Seth Godin
Grow, Jim Stengel
Simplicity Marketing, Steven Cristol
Guerrilla Marketing, J. Conrad Levinson
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
Positioning, Al Ries and Jack Trout
Good to Great, Jim Collins

To start, I gave Andrea a copy of Permission Marketing, because I think it sets the stage to the unique approach we take at Rebel. We are by no means permission marketers in exactly the way that Seth intended, but his theories have guided a lot of what we do, and the book signaled a fundamental shift away from the status quo, which has proven over and over not to work. I think that’s the right mindset to get her started.

What other books, classes, or ideas would you recommend to help a young marketer, or an old one, continue down the right path? Leave your answers in the comments.

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Three Great Brand Experiences at E3

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I had the opportunity to work behind the scenes at this year’s E3 Expo, creating an activation for Ubisoft’s Watch Dog fanatics. The not-yet released Watch Dogs comes out in November 2013. As such, I was one of the few to witness some great brand experiences. Three of them are outlined below:

 

Watch Dogs at E3

 

1. Live Demo Presentation

Fans, including gaming professionals, media, and general audiences alike, are dying to get a peak of the live demo presentation at E3. Not surprisingly, there was a wait of 2.5 hours to experience the live demo with Watch Dogs producers, demo-ists, and lead game-makers in an intimate 24-seat, live demo presentation to viewers. I was excited when Steven Spielberg showed up for the demo!

 

LA Clipper Ryan Hollins plays "Just Dance 2014"

 

2. Game Makers playing live with General Audiences

One of my personal favorite activations was Just Dance 2014. The center of the Ubisoft demo became a living installation, staging professional dancers and models in live Just Dance outfits. Ubisoft game makers also danced on stage with professional dancers, creating a stark contrast! Guess which Clippers player joined them? In my opinion, this activation made all the games, more relatable between game creators and users. Ubisoft game makers also played, “The Division,” and died in the game live!

 

Todd McFarlane at E3

 

3. Die-Hard Fans create buzz

Guess who else attended? Todd McFarlane, creator of Spiderman comics and action figure designer for Halo 3, amongst other games, signed comics in the center of the Ubisoft exhibit. He made Ubisoft one of the busiest exhibitors in the LA Convention Center. On top of that, one fan announced that she would get his autographed tattooed on her body. With tattoos being the new “in” trend, guess what the buzz was on that?

From my standpoint, Ubisoft’s E3 activation was highly successful, drawing international crowds from around the globe. As a first time E3’er, I really enjoyed this year’s event but I can’t wait to see what they bring to the 2013 Comic-Con in San Diego and the 2013 E-3. I think Ubisoft has a couple more tricks up their sleeve, don’t you?

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Do You Vine?

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Vine is THE IT app right now. Twitter released it only a month and a half ago, and over 100,000 VINE videos were created in just the first weekend. Paris fashion week is going on right now and VINE is popping up everywhere. The app lets users create, post, and loop a six second video with sound.

VINE has done really well with the early adopter tech crowd and the blogosphere, and for agencies and businesses Vine has the potential for improving brand awareness, marketing, advertising, and boosting conversations with consumers. This, of course, is only if it is implemented correctly. Otherwise it could fade out as quickly as it came in. A lot of brands have taken to VINE to show off their personalities, but American Airlines is the first to integrate VINE into a marketing campaign. Interested in a free flight to London? All you have to do is VINE.

 

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Work from home

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This article about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer banning the company’s work-from-home policy is shocking. I’m shocked that Yahoo! is still one of the country’s 500 largest companies. The decision by Mayer has caused a lot of debate on both sides of the issue. It has also garnered more publicity than Yahoo! has seen in a decade.

Personally, I’m a fan of the Results-Oriented Word Environment. Give people more freedom and treat them like adults. I understand this doesn’t work for every company, but I think it has a lot more potential beyond the companies who have embraced it.

I get the point, which is essentially that desperate times call for desperate measures. But I also think that under stress, leaders resort to the practices they’re most comfortable with. That’s really when they need to dig deeper into the things they profess. What’s happening is that Yahoo! employees are learning what leadership truly values, which may be different than what they’ve been saying up to now.

Below is the memo in full. Your thoughts on the work from home ban?

 

 

 

 

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Walking the Path

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William Ury: The walk from “no” to “yes”

William Ury is a very smart guy. His book Getting To Yes is among the most successful guides to negotiation.

His TED talk is about what he calls the third side in any negotiation. It’s about getting out of your own head and out into the world where both you and your opponent have to live.

In many ways, marketing is like negotiation, and your target customer is like your opponent. In this model, the third side is the community that your customer belongs to. From the beginning, Rebel has advised clients that understanding the demographics and psycho-graphics of consumers is not nearly enough. You have to understand the community — how it functions, what it values, the ways that influence moves throughout.

You won’t get this from research reports. You get it by walking the path. You get it by physically walking through the community, virtually visiting the websites and Facebook groups, reading the magazines, listening to the music. You get it by talking to people.

If you aren’t willing to do that, you’re not ready to negotiate with people to earn their attention, much less their hard-earned dollars.


 

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Presentations

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Even if you don’t make presentations for a living, it pays to know what a good one looks like. Whether you call them decks, power points, or the traditional slide presentations you need to know how to keep your audience from taking a nap.

 


STEAL IT…. I DID

 

 

 

 

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Rebel Industries Casting For Brand Ambassador

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Rebel is looking for a female who knows the gaming world

You will travel to Major League Gaming live events to represent one of our premiere beverage brands. We are looking for someone who has 2+ years marketing/promotions experience with a personality that can connect with gamers and influencers. A self-motivator who works well in a team environment, and has an active athletic lifestyle — fit for days spent connecting the brand to an audience.

This job involves traveling to some cool events. You’ll interact with consumers, sample and talk about the product and play some games. So gaming knowledge is a huge plus.

Interested? Email us at casting@rebelindustries.com with:

  • Resume
  • One head shot
  • One body shot
  • Short blurb on why you should be considered

 

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What’s Wrong With Social Media

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Sometimes the Hard Way Is the Only Way

Check out this social media conference:

In one day you’ll become an expert in:
  • How to get people to “like” your brand
  • Developing a winning content strategy to engage your followers
  • Measuring the impact of your Facebook initiatives
  • Creating your Facebook dream team
  • Mastering Facebook’s latest features and adding a new gear to your PR efforts
  • Integrating Facebook into your overall communications plan

At least they’re not over-promising.

Have you ever become an expert in anything in one day? What about six things? If it were that easy, would you really need to attend a conference about it?

The real promise of social media is that it helps human beings create a more connected, more creative world. The promise for brands is that they get to participate in that world and more importantly thrive in it.

But it isn’t going to be easy.

If you think it’s about a one-day seminar, you are sadly mistaken. If you think it’s about having the receptionist, intern, or PR person load your TV commercials into YouTube, you are in big trouble. If you think you can outsource it and forget it, you had better forget it.

Social media is not a new media channel that companies can buy, like the way they buy billboard space. I know it would be SO MUCH EASIER if it was, but it just isn’t. It’s a new way of having relationships with customers, and non-customers, and people who may never be interested in your product at all but might have something to add to a conversation that makes it more interesting for everyone else.

What the marketing world needs right now is not seminars and white papers that purport to make everyone experts. What if they said:

You know what, this is hard stuff. You’re not going to get it right over night. We can help you ease the pain and make sure you get it right over time and avoid the potential disasters along the way.

I guess if they did that, they’d sound a bit like us and ticket sales would surely be affected.

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Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?

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I picked up The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. If you don’t know him by name you definitely saw him during the election. He’s a baseball statistics guru turned political forecaster who essentially predicted the last two elections. Silver introduces the idea of a being a hedgehog vs being a fox; which he borrowed from the essay The Hedgehog and the Fox by philosopher Isaiah Berlin.

Hedgehogs are type-A, headstrong, leader types who walk around like they have “the answer,” often with little regard for whether that answer happens to be correct. They view the world through the lens of a single idea.  Think political pundits (whose predictions, Silver points out, are generally right about 50% of the time, which means they know essentially nothing) or TV weathermen, who know even less.

They’re also the CMOs who wasted billions on banner ads that nobody ever sees, and continue throwing other billions into TV commercials that the audience is skipping or ads in newspapers that no one ever reads.

In our business, it means picking the biggest artist of the year for a tour sponsorship, even though the kids have already moved on. Or paying a celebrity to Tweet for you, even though she has massive reach and zero influence.

Clients these days want to know if Facebook is THE ANSWER, or maybe it’s Pinterest.

My answer: Stop asking the wrong question.

Why? Because I’m like Nate, a fox. The fox doubts the power of the big idea. Guys like us aren’t so concerned with being right. We want to find out the truth. And the truth is generally much more nuanced. There are often dozens, hundreds, or even millions of small answers that need to be aggregated, analyzed, and tested over time.

Foxes realize there are multiple approaches to a problem. This way is much harder and often less satisfying. Just about the only thing it has going for is accuracy.

Sounds simple right? But you may be more hedgehog than you think. So ask yourself the question: Are you a hedgehog or a fox?

 

“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog only one big thing”

Isaiah Berlin


 

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