Thursday, October 13, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
The world changed on January 11, 1992. On that day, the album Nevermind by Nirvana replaced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous as the number 1 album on the Billboard album chart.
Symbolically this was the end of the era of manufactured pop music, which MJ came to represent. A new age of real music began, some even called it the coming of age for American punk. Kids started buying guitars again, and a new generation fell in love with the glory of punk rock. I was one of them.
Hit songs were once again written in garages and basements, rather than being engineered in clinical Hollywood hit factories. Thanks Kurt…
That’s the same context in which I see the legacy Steve Jobs leaves behind. He was the greatest storyteller of his generation. He also happened to be businessman. His success also in many way marks the emergence of a new era; perhaps a new era of business.
Before Apple became the most valuable company in the world, the model of success that everyone agreed on was different.
Sam Walton turned a local variety store in to the world’s biggest retailer by taking a clinical view of his supply chain, and with laser focus squeezing out as much efficiency as he could find. The relationships people used to have with their local store owner were forgotten, but it worked. And it worked very, very well.
Jack Welch took a scalpel to the cost structure at GE and turned around one of the world’s oldest companies, by making them profitable again. Sadly this came at the price of massive layoffs, and a huge hit to the corporate culture at GE. Employees were just cogs in an assembly line, and a job was never guaranteed.
Steve took a different approach. He believed that you could think differently. His focus wasn’t on a spreadsheet, it was on his customers. He created a passion at Apple for elegant design, and a perfect customer experience. From the packaging, through the retail experience, to the products themselves; the customer experience of Apple was and still remains different than every other brand. Apple cares about its customers; that superior experience, has made them not just a computer company, but for some almost a religion.
Perhaps with his passing, this will mark an era in business where Apple isn’t the outlier, rather the model of success for others. Take a customer focus, invest rather than cut, and innovate rather than stand still. You might end up being the biggest company in the world. Thanks Steve…
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
My commute home is a great time for my mind wander to wander. There isn’t much else to do while stuck in the sea of cars headed home. Last night while my mind was wandering one of my favourite songs came on the radio - Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. The song is a bit of a downer, but it gave me a chance to reflect on my younger days, and made me realize there may be a lesson in marketing hidden inside those memories.
One of my favourite albums ever is the one that the song comes from - The Downward Spiral. I enjoy it immensely both for the music itself, but also for what it taught me about the art of storytelling. There was a time when as a young music listener, I’d simply take the individual songs that I enjoyed the most and put them on repeat. The Downward Spiral forced me to break that habit. All 14 songs created a story arc, within which Trent Reznor took a listener through a multi-layered journey of a person trying to uncover all the layers of emotions that affect him and his mental well-being.
Very deep stuff; But it taught me that an album could be more than just a collection of individual songs. The songs themselves can be written to speak to a common theme, and be structured in a way to take a listener through a much longer story arc, with defined acts that touch on various emotions at different points in the plot.
Without question content marketing and inbound marketing are the hottest topics in marketing circles today. Armies of professionals seem to be pumping out great content components each and every day - Infographics, videos, blogs, eBooks, you name it. In this community however, the lesson on storytelling that Trent taught me years ago is relevant again.
Every piece of content should tie back to a common theme. Every piece of content is an opportunity to reinforce your core value proposition and positioning. For products that require longer sales cycles this is particularly important. In those cases, each piece of content should map to a particular stage in a longer customer education process.
Content and storytelling both need a defined arc, and plot.
Without that, you’re just picking your favourite part and putting it on repeat…