Thursday, April 30, 2009

The ONE thing

The origin of this blog was my thesis about being The One & Only (1&O). A simple idea that follows Gerry Garcia's thought: "Don't be the best at what you do. Be the only one who does it." If that smacks of monopoly, then I am sorry, monopolies always work for the people who own them. People who create things have relied on the monopoly afforded by copyright, trademarks and patents. I have a feeling that system is fraying at the edges, but we can talk more about that another time.

To be unique or utterly distinctive you have to determine what will set you apart. I had a fascinating conversation with a friend the other day. She was dissatisfied with her life and felt that she should improve all sorts of things that she - frankly speaking - sucked at. She felt anxiety about her weaknesses and had become fixated on them. How could she accomplish anything if she could not communicate in writing? (She has dyslexia). My advice was not to bother with writing. Her talent for interpersonal contact is achingly obvious - attractive, personable and well liked, why not concentrate on those strengths and forget about writing. Or, if writing was important then turn the madcap malapropisms into a strength. Write insane stories of everyday life in uncorrected prose (seriously it would be hard to duplicate her quirky style) - don't apologise. Hey, Bob Dylan has to be the world's worst singer - and yet he has a long, illustrious career behind him and a substantial fortune to match. He has recently inflicted yet another collection on fans, who can't get enough.

What is the one thing that you can do, that guides your energies and keeps you focused. If you're lucky - it will set you apart.

Whether you are a brand owner or an individual - what sets you apart. You might be happy cowering under the rocks with the rest of the river bugs, eking out an existence. But there comes a time when you should let go and succeed or fail in the mad venture that is both life and business. If you've read Richard Bach's story Illusions, you'll know what I mean.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One of the best ads of all time

Back in the 80's John Webster was a leading figure in the advertising community. He was a believer in telling human stories. In 1988 I clipped an op-ed piece in Campaign (UK) magazine by Webster. Back then he bemoaned the rise of the technology and tricks - which have become commonplace today in advertising. This ad is genius for its idea, or should I say insight - The Guardian newspaper gathers all the facts to offer its readers an informed point of view (presumably instead of a rabble rousing opinion).

Not only has journalism declined, but so has advertising - both crafts that went hand in glove to tell stories that helped us form opinions.

Maybe a nice recession will push the reset button. We'll go back to the truth well told and be suspicious of tricks - except when they challenge bigoted, biased views.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Trent Reznor shows the way forward in music marketing

Trent Reznor has a band called Nine Inch Nails.Quite good, by my muso brother's reckoning. What interests me more is how he has become a legend in the music industry - loved by those who believe power should reside with the artists and reviled by those who exploit the artists and alienate the fans - the recording industry.

Reznor criticised Universal Music Group (parent company of the band's record label, Interscope Records) for their pricing and distribution plans for the NIN album Year Zero ('07) He said the company's retail price "Absurd" and said "as a reward for being a 'true fan' you get ripped off","the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more."

In September 2007, Reznor continued his attack on Universal Music Group at a concert in Australia. He urged fans to "steal" his music online instead of purchasing it legally. "Steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin'."

Needless to say Reznor's comments made news, infuriating the recording industry and the band split from Interscope Records.

The guy is a legend. The video above does the forensics on how Reznor has developed a successful business model that tips the old music industry model on its ear.

In essence Reznor succeed using the following formula:


where CwF = Connect with Fans
RtB = give them a Reason to Buy
and be rewarded with money.

One of Reznor's first acts of CwF was to place a code on tour T-Shirts, when highlighted letters were combined they spelled out 'Iamtryingtobelieve'. It didn't take long for fans to figure this would lead to a web site. on the site fans were engaged in further decoding what it all meant.

Reznor also irritated his record company executives by leaving flash drives in bathrooms at concerts containing unreleased NIN materia, to be found by fans who, naturally soon began sharing through peer to peer networks. RIAA responded with threats and 'take down notices'. This did nothing to endear RIAA to fans.

But Reznor also offered fans Reasons to Buy physical editions of his tunes - he created a CD that changed colour when it heated in the CD driver - an experience impossible to duplicate or share.

Other RTBs included extra features and benefits.

When he released his next album the first 9 songs could be downloaded for free. Is this guy insane? I hear you cry. Well, no. in short order the album and its variations ranging from a $10 double disk set to a $300 deluxe boxed set - which included a DVD/BlueRay and book, personally signed by Reznor which took less than 30 hours to sell out and raised $750,000. NIN made 1.6 million from direct sales - all the while also giving his music away for free. NIN's album also became a best seller on

He has innovated in other ways - including profiling his fans by asking them to complete a 10 page survey.

When he release The Slip album sales data was overlaid onto google maps to dramatically display to fans where the NIN tribe was distributed around the planet and building a sense of community.

Reznor uses the web to promote live concerts, the ultimate NIN experience. He not only promotes his own work but also the supporting acts touring with him - who also offer their music for free on a sampler.

He creates community all the time - online through forums, chatgroups and wiki. Fans can also upload the photos and video they have taken at concerts to Flickr, which are aggregated and displayed on the NIN website.

Recently he released hundreds of gigabytes of high definition concert footage with the comment that '..some enterprising fans might make something pretty cool."

He's a genius. But it is nothing that brands, large and small couldn't do (other musicians too)- if only you can shake of fear and the illusion of power and control.

Here's an interview with the man himself: watch and learn people. Watch and learn.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Journalism's red ink.

The future of journalism is something of a hot topic in the media. Probably because it is a subject near and dear to the media - their bread and butter. Blogging comes under scrutiny for its lack of 'rules'. Bloggers can, and do, say what they want without the fetters and constraints of editors or fear of offending advertisers who, whether journalists like it or not pay for the existence of the mass media.

Amongst the mudslinging I came across this list of suggestions from blogger Peter Cresswell (via the Whaleoil blog who, like Cresswell makes no bones about his conservative/libertarian views). I agree wholeheartedly with the points on the list. The fact is that media in New Zealand (and I am sure the rest of the western world) have created their own crisis by failing to observe an objective standard:

* don't editorialise;
* don't pontificate;
* don't ask how people feel, ask instead what they saw;
* don't report events as if people are outraged, just report the events themselves;
* don't report what "celebrities" do as if it matters a damn;
* don't report puff pieces about actors/musicians/writers as if they're not just puff-pieces for their new film/album/book;
* don't report what everyone knows is just spin) -- report instead what's being spun, and the news that someone is spinning, and who;
* don't assume the whole world has the same values as your friends;
* don't just rewrite press releases as if they were news;
* and don't create the news yourself.
* In short, just report the news. All of it. As if the truth actually mattered.

Here here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Honda - Let it Shine

It's not enough to make a beautiful commercial. Which Honda has done. Now you need to produce a documentary to go with it:

When your customers are media savvy they might well be interested in seeing the background story - Some of us enjoy the extras on DVDs as much as the film. One of may favourites was the creative process behind HellBoy 2.

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