books

Why Jeff Bezos Buying the Washington Post is a Good Thing

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.

Four Steps To Becoming a Marketing Rockstar

 

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.

Influence

Great presentation by Graham Brown,founder of Mobile Youth. He's a super smart guy connected with other super smart people all over the world(including me, if you leave out the super smart part), teaching brands how to connect with young consumers.

I just got my copy of his new book, All Is Social (thanks Graham!). The subtitle — Social Thinking and the End of the Big Idea expresses an idea I've been saying for years: Ideas are nothing, action is everything.

The road to hell has so far has been paved with big ideas, which is advertising-speak for an idea developed by a creative director with a big ego and bought by a client who isn't really paying attention. In most cases, these ideas are not driven by any real knowledge of how consumers really live.

Discretionary income is in the hands of an educated generation with exacting standards. Brown's book talks about the shift away from big agency ideas that throw money at an invisible consumer. At the very least you come away with a discussion on the new keys to brand success, but more importantly it's a story about the new global community and the social codes that connect us all. Read the book and let us know what you think.

 

We Do Weird Marketing

In this interview with Seth Godin, in promotion of his 300th book We Are All Weird, Seth does a great job of explaining why Rebel Industries exists (thanks, Seth!).

Weird means people who are embracing individuality instead of working hard to fit in.

He goes on to say that the world is splitting into two groups: one that wants everyone to stay the same, and another that encourages individuality, tribal behavior, and weirdness.

Clearly, the tides of change favor the latter group, and this is the group that Rebel serves. We market to the gamers, music fiends, tuners, foodies, art enthusiasts, social media mavens, and others who define themselves by the things that make them "weird." We understand what makes these people special, and what makes them tick. And we know what it means to brands who make products and deliver experiences that these people want.

What about you? What makes you weird? What tribes do you belong to? And what brands are doing a good job of appealing to your weirdness?

Rework

Rework by Fried & Hansson, photo by Emily Norton What are you reading? You should be reading Rework by Jason Fried from 37Signals. His company makes a ton of money by selling software and has very little infrastructure and the typical corporate bullshit that weighs down too many companies. No offense, of course, to all of the companies weighed down by the typical corporate bullshit. If you're not ready to get the book, you can see an excerpt here at Change This. My favorite bit:

Start making something We all have that one friend who says, “I had the idea for eBay. If only I had acted on it, I’d be a billionaire!” That logic is pathetic and delusional. Having the idea for eBay has nothing to do with actually creating eBay. What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan. Think your ideas that valuable? Then go try to sell it and see what you get for it. Not much is probably the answer. Until you actually start making something, your brilliant idea is just that— an idea. And everyone’s got one of those. Stanley Kubrick gave this advice to aspiring filmmakers: “Get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.” Kubrick knew that when you’re new at something, you need to start creating. The most important thing is to begin. So get a camera, hit record, and start shooting. Ideas are cheap and plentiful. The original pitch idea is such a small part of a business that it’s almost negligible. The real question is how well you execute. Embrace constraints “I don’t have enough time/money/people/experience.” Stop whining. Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative. Ever seen the weapons that prisoners make out of soap and other everyday items? They make do with what they’ve got. Now we’re not saying you should go out and shank somebody—but get creative and you’ll be amazed at what you can make with just a little.

But seriously, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments.