When is the last time you visited the obituary section of the New York Times (NYT)? For me, it had been a good number of years until my interest was recently piqued by—of all people—Alec Baldwin. In his “Here’s the Thing” podcast, Baldwin revealed that the obituary section is one of his favorite components of the paper and a daily read for creative inspiration. So, I followed his lead, began exploring past articles and was somewhat surprised to uncover some compelling takeaways that relate to the modern day marketing and media landscape.
Compelling storytelling. From the perspective of both a consumer and marketer, the personalization of brands through storytelling is in high demand. Chronicling a person’s life is much like the chronology of a brand.
Cultural depth. Context is now king (dethroning content’s long-standing reign), which means that now more than ever marketers need to keep a better pulse on the world around them to effectively garner attention. The obituary section of the NYT is a valuable shrine of cultural grit — from ring shouts to concentration coats—this captivating content is sure to spark creativity.
Vocabulary-stretching syntax. The words ubiquitous, musculature, and polemical make rare appearances in my daily news feed—as well as memorably vivid descriptions such as a “sharp-elbowed world”, “triply marginalized” and “prolific procurer.” Drawing inspiration from the obituaries can help freshen your vocabulary and add distinction to your message.
Astoundingly succinct headlines. In a world of 140-character tweets, there’s something to be learned from a powerfully pointed headline. The NYT’s formula for headlines requires intricately crafted wordsmithing—an incredibly valuable skill across a wide variety of marketing tactics.Tweet
What inspires you? What inspires your co-workers and employees? What about your children or significant other? It’s obviously different for everyone, but for me, two words that I feel are very important (both at work and at home) are “positivity” and “perspective”.
Here’s a quick, bite-sized look at a couple of recent (and not-so-recent) examples that I have found interesting and inspiring. And maybe you’ll feel the same way.
Bobby McFerrin summarizes the key to happiness nicely, but it’s more than just a matter of letting go and feeling better.
Or is it?
“The Happy Secret to Better Work” is a stellar TEDx video that I stumbled upon a few days ago and I’ve already shared it several times— including with my three kids. It talks about how people often seek a goal, achieve success, and expect happiness. When, in fact, they should really be seeking and living a happy life, which will help them achieve success. And there’s scientific evidence to back it up.
Check is out. It’s definitely worth 12 minutes of your time.
NOTE: Bob Knight has recently parlayed his anything-but-positive approach into a book deal with his new book “The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results.” According to a few reviews I’ve read, it’s not really about negative thinking, rather it’s about planning for the worst and expecting the best. It’ll probably sell millions.
Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace. The title alone should be enough to pique your interest, as it did mine.
Published in 1998, this atypical business book isn’t new. But it’s among my favorites that watch over me every day from their bookshelf perch. Author Gordon MacKenzie worked for Hallmark for three decades (not overly corporate on the corporate scale, in my opinion) and learned to successfully navigate the written and unwritten rules of the business world.
Even though he held the title of Creative Paradox (a title he gave himself), it’s written from somewhat of a proletarian point of view, which provides an interesting perspective for worker bees and queen bees alike.
It’s an easy, entertaining read and I’d recommend picking up a copy here. Or feel free to swing by my office and borrow it off my shelf.
We have many team members at MB, including interns, whose jobs keep them occupied, and we don’t often get the opportunity to introduce them to our clients and the rest of the world. As part of an ongoing weekly series, we’re sharing a fast, interesting Q&A with one of our people that will let you (and us!) get to know them a little better.
1. How long have you been at MB?
I have been here for 16 years. I moved around from Media (as an intern), to Production Management to Project Management, to Account Manager, and now back to Media. I have come full circle in 16 years : )
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
I love all aspects of my job, but I particularly like planning the media with a set budget. It is a challenge I always look forward to. I also like that I am able to work with both outside vendors and our clients.
I would say History. I am a huge fan of the History channel.
4. What movie did you recently see and enjoy?
Over the holidays I watched Nanny McPhee and Nanny McPhee Returns back-to-back and I loved them both.
5. Where would you move tomorrow if you could, and why?
Hmmm, this is a tough one. I have lived in Indianapolis since my parents moved here when I was 3-years old. If I would have to move from Indy, I would say Wisconsin. I visit the Milwalkee area at least twice a year to see extended family. I love the weather, agriculture and social scene. Wisconsin Badgers are very laid back, extremely nice mid-westerners.
6. What is the best thing about growing older?
I treasure the simplest things out of life. I have become a better person from my life experiences and I am able to make a difference for other people—friends, family and even complete strangers. Especially in the past two years, I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by the people I have in my every day life.Tweet
The Mayans were an impressive group, as ancient civilizations go. From art to architecture, urban design to mathematics, they made significant contributions that helped lay the foundation for today’s modern society.
Plus, they were making predictions long before Nostradamus started growing his impressive facial hair. Including this one: Earth is coming to an end on December 21, 2012.
Okay, most people don’t think this is actually going to happen, but those that do believe that Mother Earth could meet her demise in a number of different ways, from being sucked into a black hole to colliding with a planet called “Nibiru”.
Some marketers are lightheartedly using this calamity to help boost sales, including a Pennsylvania winery that’s hosting an end-of-world party and a minor league baseball club from Normal, Illinois (Go CornBelters!) that’s selling single-game tickets. From their press release: “Just in case the world does comes to an end…they want their fans to go out with the finest tickets in hand. Best case scenario… they make fantastic holiday gifts!”
Of course, using “events” like these to promote a brand is nothing new. In fact, one of my favorite TV spots of all time is for Nike, showing a runner’s unwavering focus and dedication, even during the much-hyped chaos of Y2K.
But truth be told, year in and year out, businesses face all sorts of challenges, roadblocks, hurdles and (dare I say) cliffs. And the companies that survive and thrive are those that outsmart their competition while staying true to their brand.
Imagine that. I’m an advertising professional who believes you should continue to advertise. But there is some data to support my biased thinking.
According to the recent book Sexy Little Numbers: “Budget cuts during a recession are often the result of a short-term view. Advertising rarely pays for itself – let alone produces a proﬁt – during the short run. Yet study after study shows that it increases shareholder value. Cutting ad budgets has an even greater (negative) effect over the long term. There is still a lot of work to be done to absolutely prove the case…the understanding of long-term effects of how much you spend on marketing is incredibly important.”
So, when the sun rises on December 22 (fingers crossed), we’ll have a fresh opportunity to plan for 2013—and beyond… And take advantage of your competitors who are still holed up in their bunkers.Tweet
This year has flown by, it’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And recent events, both weather related and on a more personal level, have helped paint of picture of how truly blessed I am.
Everyone has a story. Some more impactful than others, but as the holiday season quickly approaches, I challenge everyone to reflect on how blessed you are by assisting those who may not be as fortunate. I’ve included a few ideas below, but feel free to comment and post others. If you do extend a helping hand over the next six weeks or so, tell us about it.
Want to Help? Try One of These
Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I am not the most technically savvy individual. As a result, I found Katherine Boehret’s article in the Wall Street Journal very helpful.
She shares ten great shortcuts, workarounds, and hidden features that aren’t common knowledge.
Tip #8 will change my life. Did you know your iPhone’s volume-up (+) button doubles as a shutter button for the camera? I love that. I was always hitting it too soon or switching to video by mistake.
The keyboard shortcuts (tip #3) will also be helpful, especially when I don’t have to switch back and forth between the letter and number keyboards. A few of the other tips sound good, but a little complicated for my taste. I will need to practice!
Check out the article on the WSJ website, then tell me in the comments below: what did you learn? Will any of these dramatically change the way you use your device?Tweet
“Experience is what you got by not having it when you needed it.” ~Author Unknown
It is time for the Anglophile in me to come out again. And, no, this time it is not about Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. (Although I will find a way to weave her into this blog post.)
I like tennis. I have played and watched it since I was a young girl. Wimbledon is, by far, my favorite Grand Slam. I watch it every year, some years with more interest than others, depending on my passion for a particular player. I was able to check it off my bucket list in 1998 when I got to go to the tournament in person. I was (and still am) a huge Pete Sampras fan. We were able to watch him beat Tim Henman (Great Britain’s great hope before today’s Andy Murray) 6-3, 4-6, 5-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals and then Goran Ivanisevic (who beat Krajcek in the semis in the 5th set at 15-13) in the finals 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. It was incredible tennis and something that I will never forget.
So, this month, it was time to tune into Breakfast at Wimbledon once again. In the women’s final, Serena Williams (USA) faced Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland). In the men’s, Roger Federer (Switzerland) versus the previous mentioned Andy Murray (GBR). The media created a lot of hype for a few reasons: Andy Murray made it to the finals—something a Brit has not done in over seven decades—hence, the Duchess of Cambridge was in the Royal Box to support her country. Serena Williams, after nearly dying a year ago due to health complications, was back in the women’s championship. And Agnieszka Radwanska was the first Pole, male or female, to make it to the championship.
But to me, there was an additional, interesting element to watch: would age and the experience of playing in numerous Grand Slam finals override youth and energy?
Both Federer and Williams are in their 30s. Young to most, but not in professional sports. Radwanska and Murray are both in their early 20s.
Williams took the stage at the All England Club for the seventh time in her career, having won on four of her six prior appearances. Saturday was her 18th career Grand Slam final appearance, and she has won on 13 of those occasions. Radwanska, on the other hand, was playing in her first Grand Slam final. And it showed: Williams won the first set 6-1.
Going into the men’s championship, Murray had actually been in three Grand Slam finals. That said, he had not won a set in any of those three finals. Federer has played in 24 Grand Slam finals, winning 17 of them.
The men’s final started differently than the women’s. Murray actually won the first set 7-5. While many players would panic after losing the first set of a Wimbledon final, Federer became more focused and stuck to his high-percentage shots.
In both finals, each player had won a set going into the third. And in both finals, there were a couple of key moments in the third that determined the champion. And at these All England Club Championships, those moments went to the player with more experience.
Federer may have summed it up best: “With age, with victories, things get a bit easier,” he said after joining Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with a record seven titles at the All England Club in London. “All your achievements—no one can take those away, so you can play with less pressure. “
Experience (on this occasion): game, set, match.Tweet
Give this question some thought today.
Where would I choose to stand?
As much as I love mountains and (non-technical) climbing to the top, my knees now preclude this type of activity. So, I get an easy pass on this one. I won’t be standing on a mountaintop anytime soon.
As for taking a stand on an issue, my thoughts are, of necessity, a bit more nuanced. Issues have a wide range of “shades of gray.” Pick a topic that creates heated debate among the media big-mouths, and you’ll see what I mean. Issues that used to be managed with quiet deliberation are now politicized and pushed to an extreme liberal or conservative position. All thought and intelligent debate ceases.
So, I vote for taking a stand on a principle. The founder of the eponymous Leo Burnett Advertising Agency once said, “A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.” That “something” could be money, but more often it is much, much more precious.
Where would you choose to take a stand?Tweet
This is one of my favorite times of the year: March Madness. I love basketball. I started going to Indiana University games when I was four. I will not tell you how many years I have been going, but I will say that I am still not over the 1975 loss to Kentucky in the Regional Finals. It was my first crushing blow as a fan.
Filling out the brackets is one of the best traditions of March Madness, in my opinion. My son, Jack, and I have had a “friendly” competition for years. As we were filling this year’s out, we started discussing our approaches. How does one pick? Favorite teams, rankings, gut feel, mascot, colors, players… or does all of the above come into play? And does how you pick say something about your personality or success?
So we Googled “techniques for filling out your NCAA bracket,” and we found a great 10-point guide at NBCsports.com. I’ve summarized their tips here, but you can get the details in the full article. Good luck!
1. Star power Teams who have at least one McDonald’s All-American player have the best chance at the top title. Duke and North Carolina each have five this year.
2. Upset specials As much as we love rooting for the underdog, a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed. Go with a safe bet if you want a chance.
3. Twelve is a “10” It’s likely that a No. 12 seed will beat a No. 5 seed in the first round at least once this year—last year it happened three times. The challenge is choosing who it will be.
4. Hot stuff? A strong season means more than a hot conference-tournament performance.
5. Balk at the chalk Ohio State, who comes into the tournament on top, is not your best bet for taking home the title. It’s only happened three times in the last 26 years.
6. Delete the geeks Ignore the unknown “experts” making predictions and pick for yourself.
7. It’s not automatic Automatic tournament bids rarely advance past the first round, as impressive as the status sounds.
8. There can only be 1 The unpredictability of the tournament is what makes us love it—so don’t put all four No. 1 seeds in the Final Four.
9. Getting sentimental This is usually the time to put emotions aside, but if you’re rooting for Wisconsin and Coach Bo Ryan, this could be the year they make it to the Final Four.
10. Early outs The selection committee knows what it’s doing. Pick your own winners, but when in doubt, go with the better seed.
With these tips, you should be set up to pick a perfect bracket, right? That would truly be amazing: you have a better chance of winning the lottery twice than perfectly predicting the NCAA tournament. The odds of picking a perfect bracket randomly are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1, or more than nine quintillion to one. Best of luck to you.
Are you ready? Who do you think will be the national champion this year?
New ideas and solid strategy come from fresh, energetic, curious, clear minds. I was reminded of this when I had the opportunity last week to chaperone a couple dozen six-year-olds as they explored the world’s largest children’s museum in Indianapolis. Just being a part of their intrigue and excitement was rewarding—and eye opening. As adults we spend so much time trying to teach the young about life. Ironically, it is often through their teaching that we learn what life is really about.
As a result of my recent field trip, I am issuing a request to colleagues, family and friends: fully embrace spring, beginning today, and take some time to explore and recalibrate.
While many might say I am pushing the season, I am 100% okay with that. For me, spring starts at the beginning of March (I find credibility in the fact that some meteorologists agree). Yes, there was snow on the ground earlier this week, but I also saw the little crocus poking through the hard, cold dirt to soak up some sun… the sparrow shopping for a new nesting spot… the crisp air and a general feeling that it is time for some fresh thinking.
Let’s slow down a little bit this spring. Explore new things. Listen harder. Learn from each other. Share good work. And make a positive impact today.
A few ideas to clear out the cobwebs and gain some fresh perspective:
When we take time to recalibrate and refresh, great things follow.
Thank you Rousseau McClellan Montessori School #91 (Class of 2024) for reminding me to take it all in and to be energized by curiosity.
“A light exists in Spring
Not present in the year
at any other period
When March is scarcely here.”
– Emily Dickinson
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