Events and Scrappy Established Brands

How does a software company founded nearly 50 years ago compete with startups? One of the first software companies ever, Cincom®, competes every day in this era of startups and quick evolution. What’s their secret? They continue to connect with their audience on a personal level at every opportunity. And for one of their product groups, that means a variety of events.

Read the complete post, Events Keep a Fresh Face on an Established Brand, first published on May, 24, 2017 at

Changing Brand Audiences—A Dilemma for the Circus and Every Brand

The fear of the millennial generation disappearing individually into their devices and a virtual world hasn’t materialized. Maybe because of the digital separation, they are much more willing to spend their income on experiences instead of things. Whether it is to fulfill a need for human interaction or just to have something to share later, American spending on events and experiences has been on the rise since the digital generation arrived.

In the face of overall category growth, how did the circus fail and what’s in store for other iconic events and their changing brand audience?

Read the complete post, Ladies and Gentlemen, Say Goodbye to the “Greatest Show on Earth“, published on May 21, 2017.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Say Goodbye to the “Greatest Show on Earth”

Ants, Twitter, and the Intelligence of the Masses

intelligence of masses - ants

If a collection of unbelievably individually stupid and irrational creatures can create something wonderful and self-sustaining – why do so many big businesses really, really, suck at doing either? By that I mean doing something wonderful or self-sustaining. That’s what I thought when listening toradiolab’s rebroadcast of emergence. Seriously. Certainly a collection of educated people should outperform a field full of fireflies, a bee-hive or colony of ants? But that’s not always the case.

The one glimmer of hope I took for humanity and the internet from this podcast was an example from Francis Galton’s observation at a county fair. In it, a collection of ordinary people generally presumed to be unfamiliar with the actual weight of oxen guessed at it’s weight. No single person was correct. However, the average of the all of the guesses was remarkably close.

It’s essentially how google works and part of what makes twitter so great. I believe and hope this is how democratic societies and the internet can work going forward. The collective of non-expert masses, or the wisdom of crowds, when applying themselves to do their best, can be collectively smarter than a small group of experts. The key is applying themselves to do their best.

So why do businesses fail? Sometimes while there may be collection of people, the actual decisions and action are only taken by a select few. Hence, it’s not really a crowd. It’s a few people with many underneath them. Another scenario is that often there are people at all levels doing less than their best, or working contrary to best interests of the organization. In either case, their colony – and their work – ultimately perishes. They get outworked by ants. Outsmarted by bees.

C’mon people, set a high bar for yourself, and your work.

Multi-tooled Marketers


The desire, make that necessity, to connect through stories hasn’t changed.

What has changed are the methods we can use and places we can tell those stories. And measure the results. And re-purpose those stories to different audiences and through different media. There are a lot of things to do, to do it well. That’s why you need marketers with a broad skill set that are razor-sharp and able tackle any content job. I call them Swiss Army Marketers.

The Swiss Army Knife was designed for one purpose, but a variety of jobs. It gives Swiss Army soldiers all the tools they’d need for any setting they are likely to encounter in the Swiss Alps. Similarly, Swiss Army Marketers have all the tools that a business will need to produce, promote, and measure relevant content for their audience.

Some of the skills they possess are:

  • Content Strategy
  • Creative Writing
  • Journalism
  • Analytics
  • Creative Direction/Editing
  • Marketing Automation

For more information, check out this quick overview, Swiss Army Marketers.

This entry was posted in Business Marketing, Creative Marketing, High Bar Marketing, Marketing Automation on March 13, 2013

What Happens When They Know Your Secret?

The Santa Story Cycle

Kevin McCallister: Okay. I know you’re not the real Santa Claus.
Santa Claus: [his beard is pulled down, revealing his real face] What makes you say that? Er, just out of curiosity.

Kevin McCallister: [to Santa’s helper] I’m old enough to know how it works. I also know that you work for him. I want you to give him a message …

Thats what Kevin McAllister tells the Santa on the sidewalk in the first Home Alone movie.

This is a process that Kevin and many children go through in their relationship with Santa Claus, presents and Christmas. They start out completely believing in the magic of Santa Claus. Then they turn to a slightly edited version of the story, because they want to believe. But eventually they arrive at a completely different version of reality. It’s still a great story and experience, but it’s very different than what we were told initially.

We discover the whole story. But we still want presents. And we still want to be surprised.

Business sales cycles often follow a similar path. How we move forward when people know everything about us is the question.

Believe The Magic

Our understanding and acceptance of truths ultimately impact what we believe. In the beginning prospects want to believe that your “X” will be the best and most magical thing ever. And that’s what you tell them. If the only time a person approaches perfection is their resume, the only time a company does is in their first series of sale contacts. This is a magical time–and customers want to believe! They have issues, pains, that need solved and you’re offering a solution. Of course they’re more than interested, they want to believe that this will be the savior, that you will take away their pain.

And of course, few things, even your spectacular offering, isn’t without some negatives. But you don’t reveal them now.

I Know How This Works

Eventually over time, some things won’t quite add up and customers will have questions. Much like Kevin can put together that a Santa with a fake beard in Chicago isn’t the “real” Santa from the North Pole, customers will begin to notice that some things aren’t as perfect as you’ve led them to believe. But they might be OK with it as long as they still get presents. That’s what really matters – will your solution do what it promises to do – and are the negatives small enough that they can be overcome.

While Kevin can believe a version that’s slightly different – satellite Santa Clauses – it’s not too long before the whole truth is out.

What Do You Mean You’re Santa?!?

As they get deeper and deeper into the process, they realize it’s not all silver and gold. And it’s not really magic. There will be some work to do. But it will still be worth all of the effort in the end. And actually, much of the feeling of satisfaction from the new solution will extend longer, if somewhat tempered. It’s much like parents get extended pleasure from planning gifts for their children.

As customers, the excitement is there, but it’s changed. But one thing hasn’t changed. Customers still want presents. They still want to be surprised (good unexpected surprises) by the decision they made to select your company. Don’t forget about them. Delight and surprise your customers with important things.

We know that Kevin is well on his way to completing his journey when the message he wants the Satellite Santa to deliver is the following:

Kevin: This is extremely important. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys. Nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And if he has time, my Uncle Frank. Okay?

He might not know all of the story, but he knows the important parts.

Sometimes that communication is a non-verbal tell, maybe just a look.

“I know you’re not the real Santa, but …”

The time is going to come when they know. The time to recognize and prepare for that moment is now. How will you explain your story?


This entry was posted in Business Marketing on March 16, 2016 by Devin Meister.

More Intelligence of Masses – How Clever

I love @radiolab. I was clearing out podcasts today and had more thoughts on how groups make and can drive decisions. The “Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of an actual human.” Quite a goal. It led me back to Again.

Cleverbot “learns from real people” based on previous interactions. It’s using the all the interactions to get smarter and more real in its interactions. It’s getting close and can feel real at times. But it’s not quite there, unless you have really strange conversations. It is interesting. Check it out, if you haven’t already.

Added: Or today you could just ask Alexa. Or Google home. Or Bixby.

This entry was posted in High Bar Marketing on May 29, 2013 by Devin Meister.

Stepping Stones of Content

stepping stones of content

There’s a river near my home that has a constant flow. The riffles there are not terribly deep. It is however wide enough that you can’t jump it and deep enough that you’ll be more wet than would be comfortable continuing the walk. There are no bridges. There are however lots of stones. In several areas, they form a series of stepping stones across the river. What series of stones will get you across depends on the amount of rain. But there are always more than one way across.

Content stepping stones are the paths that lead to conversions on the other side.

Define the Goal, Not the Path

Similarly, there is more than one content path to your ultimate conversion or sale. Not every piece of content, no matter how great, leads to the desired objective. Most often, it will be a series.

When you’re looking for metrics that matter on your website and through your content, look for these “stepping stones.” These are the paths that lead the customer to your ultimate goal and conversion. There could be multiple paths to the same goal. It’s likely more than one step. There could be multiple goals. But these are the real metrics. Not time on page, or even page depth.

Use your analytic software to view the entire path leading to the conversion. Don’t just look at the previous page. How they arrived at the previous page could be just as important (this is especially true in longer B2B sales cycles). Finally, record and note what happens after this conversion. Which paths lead to actual revenue? While one path might lead more visitors to your conversion, another more circuitous route might lead to more revenue. It might be less worn and less obvious at first glance. But getting more people to choose that path could lead to more insight and success.

When you identify these paths, determine when to get visitors to them at the right time and keep them on their journey. And yours.

This entry was posted in Business Marketing, Content Marketing, Marketing Automation, Modern Marketing, Uncategorized on May 12, 2013 by Devin Meister.

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10 Step Content Strategy


If you understand the concept of “content,” then the idea of a content strategy seems simple. Until you start to dig in. Then you understand quickly that it is simple and complicated at the same time. To start your content strategy out right follow this outline:*

  1. Define your marketing objectives and what you want to accomplish. Consider both inbound and outbound.
  2. Identify your buyer personas.
  3. Map out your buyers journey.
  4. Create a content inventory.
  5. Audit the content to determine what is most valuable to the buyers.
  6. Identify any content gaps in the buyers journey.
  7. Determine what content needs to be created to fill that gap. Create it.
  8. Pat yourself on the back. You’re inthe top ½ of marketers now.
  9. Check the results against your marketing objectives.
  10. Likely realize you still have a long ways to go. Get back to work.

*This 10 Step Content Strategy is to a real content strategy as a napkin drawing is a map to the top of the Matterhorn. It points you in the right direction, but the real work is up to you. Or somebody. But there’s work to do.

T and Pi shaped People – Aliens Among Us

Modern marketing requires a new set of skills – and they look alien to many experienced traditional marketers. It’s a combination of technical skills with creative ability and a curiosity to dig into analytics. From the pre-madmen Claude Hopkins era to hey days of Chiat/Day, marketing had strong black and white divisions between identities within the team.

  • Account and C-level executives = suits
  • Finance = bean-counters
  • Creative = crazies, weirdos, and worse
  • Media = well, I’m not sure anyone called them anything
  • Admins = not socially acceptable to repeat what they were called back then.

I suspect that the “suits” created and perpetuated these labels. Just a  hunch. But the lines were rarely if ever crossed. It used to be when you found one of the special weirdos that had some visual sense and understood that marketing should communicate with words as well (usually) you were lucky. You made them a creative director. Somebody that understood using words and images together was a crazy dual-kind of talent.

That has changed with modern marketing. Two tools aren’t going to get it done. According to this article by Econsultancy, ”the term ‘T-shaped’ was first used by McKinsey & Company to describe the type of person they were looking to hire.” In their case they were looking for people with deep vertical skill and expertise, the “|” part of the “T” along with a broad horizontal “─” understanding of all other disciplines required. That’s nice, but it’s not really that different. It’s still basically and expert with some limited understanding in other areas. Limited understanding has limited utility in business.

Later,  Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein coined the term “pi-shaped (Π)“. This introduced the idea of marketers that were adapt at using both the right and left sides of their brains. Previously the balance of analytical and creative skills in marketing were set by the structure of the different team members. Now, with dramatically leaner teams, modern marketing demands team members that possess both. This is a much bigger leap.

On one hand it’s simple numbers: headcounts are reduced. On the other hand, communication has changed. It’s much more personal, mobile, and trackable. It has always required stories. The addition of tracking and automation, of really knowing how people engage with and find stories and being able to deliver it is completely new. Just the idea of moving beyond specialties is new to marketing. You can call it alien, but it’s arrived. Everyone must be a Multi-tooled Marketer at some level.

For more about T-shapes,right vs. left brain, and a people oriented approach, check out this article.



This entry was posted in High Bar Marketing, Modern Marketing on March 23, 2013 by Devin Meister.

Careless Brands Ripe for Disruption

What’s Your Business, Really?

Brands need to ask and answer this question honestly: what business are we in, really? If they don’t, they should be prepared to be disrupted.

The mistake has been made over and over, and pointed out again and again by experts from Theodore Levitt to Gary Vanerchuk.

It’s not the railroad industry. It’s the transportation industry.

The customer doesn’t need a drill. They need to make a hole.

Understand your core business or get ready to be disrupted.

Read the complete post, first published at on May 23, 2016.

Careless Brands Ripe For Disruption