Witty Software

Every blogger in the world is required to download Google’s new browser called “Chrome,” and then write about how much faster, easier, buggier, sexier, prettier, memory-efficient, and inexpensive it is. Well, I just did the download, and I’m going to write about how…  witty it is.

Chrome has a feature called “incognito browsing” which works just like normal mode, but doesn’t save any browse or search history, or any cookies you pick up along the way.  Once you close that session, no-one will be able to tell where you’ve been.  Of course, teenage boys all over the world are loving this, but I love the introduction screen:

Google (the company) has a reputation of being a fun, irreverent place to work – their corporate motto is “Don’t Be Evil.”  It’s nice to see that they have enough of an organizational sense of humor to let those last 2 lines through.  Can you imagine IBM or even Microsoft allowing those words to appear in shipping software?

It’s also an example of how your business needs to stick with its “personality.”  If your company (especially a hospitality establishment like a bar) has a fun personality, it always has to be fun.  If you’re edgy, you always have to be edgy.  If you’re a redneck sports bar, having a Goth night is probably not going to work for you.

It’s all part of the story you tell.

I Don’t Get It

For our 16th wedding anniversary last week, Cindy got me a Keurig coffee maker.  I first cottoned on to these devices when we got them at my last job, 3 or 4 years ago.  They work kind of like espresso machines, forcing boiling water through ground coffee to make one cup at a time.  They make GREAT coffee.  Yet every day at that aforementioned workplace, the majority of employees showed up every morning clutching Tim Hortons cups.

My former colleagues were willing to: get up earlier, sit in line at a drive-through, and pay money for coffee in a cardboard receptacle; even though they could get much better coffee, in their own mug, down the hall from their desk, for free.  What gives?

The rumour is that Tim Hortons puts nicotine in their coffee and that people get addicted.  That’s silly, of course, but Tim’s has done something similar and almost as insidious: they’ve used good marketing to tell a story that resonates with a lot of people.  Having a Tim Hortons coffee makes people feel something that drinking better and cheaper coffee wouldn’t.  It’s not the same story as people who drink Starbucks or Sanka drift towards.  And it’s not a story that I personally get, but it sure seems to work.

Wow – The Power of Tiger Woods

Nine days ago, I wrote a piece about how important it is to have complete faith in your marketing message; because if you don’t, there’s either something wrong with what you’re promoting or something wrong with your ability to promote it. I used Tiger Woods’s total belief in his ability to win the U.S. Open last month as an example of someone who totally believes his own “story.”

Notice what happened to by blog traffic in the ensuing days. I had been poking along at anywhere from 1 to 50 visitors per day since starting this blog in April. Imagine my surprise when I checked my stats last night. A peak of 238 visitors Monday, and over 150 every day since. I struggled to think of the cause, since it looks like the Friday post (about Crocs) or Monday’s piece (about TV viewership) would be the cause for the sharp increase, and neither of those seemed like particularly compelling topics. But then I noticed the list of terms people had searched on to find my blog:

Search Views
tiger woods 139
tiger-woods 2
always right 1
wrong customer 1
tiger woods us open 2008 1
cresent street montreal 1
broox wordpress 1
picture of tiger woods 1
pilot 1
viral epmotion 1

Seems like my star-power is slightly eclipsed by Mr. Woods’s.

This reminds me of a stunt pulled by my colleagues at Multiactive Software shortly after they purchased Maximizer (the company) in the mid-90s. They loaded up the maximizer.com home page meta data with terms like “Pamela Anderson,” and our traffic skyrocketed. They were actually quite smart to think of doing this – this was before the term “Search Engine Optimization” had even been coined – but they weren’t smart enough to realize that traffic in and of itself is worthless. People seeking porn or celebrity gossip are unlikely to pause in their quest and say, “Hmmm – forget Pamela, this contact management software application seems quite interesting!”

Anyway, please do not think I was trying to ride Tiger’s coattails. I am smart enough to understand that Tiger fans are not going to magically turn into Stephen fans – I just wasn’t smart enough to realize what writing a post about him would result in. And, of course, I’ve just done it again.

Turns Out This “Tiger Woods” Fellow Can Golf

Tiger WoodsI presume everyone has heard by now that Tiger Woods won a little golf tournament called the U.S. Open last month.  Yawn.  What’s another major championship for Tiger?  What’s different with this one?

Well, he won this one without practicing.  With a badly torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.  With a broken (in two places) tibia in the same leg.  With the 100% knowledge that every time he drove the ball, his knee was going to scream with pain.  With having to recover from horrible drives, caused by that knowledge, on nearly every hole.  With having to walk the course not just the 4 regular times, but an entire extra round in the playoff.  And all that on top of the usual Tiger stuff: having to prove that you’re the best in the world every single freakin’ week, etc. etc.  (Been there, brother.) 

Oh, and did I mention it was the   U.  S.  OPEN!?!?!

There is the story (probably apocryphal, but good nonetheless) told by Tiger’s swing coach, that two weeks prior to the event, after the fractures to the tibia occurred, Tiger’s doctor told him he had to be totally off his feet for three weeks and on crutches for 6.  Tiger’s calm reply was, “no, I’m going to play in the U.S. Open in two weeks, and I’m going to win it.”  To invoke MythBusters’ Adam Savage, he rejects the doctor’s reality and substitutes his own.

The marketing story that is Tiger Woods is so powerful because the most important consumer of that story completely and wholeheartedly believes it – Tiger himself.  I don’t want to get all Anthony Robbins on you, but the total belief that he can (and will) win is a big part of why he does.

When I worked at Maximizer, we made the best damn contact manager software there was.  I didn’t just write marketing bumf to that effect, I absolutely KNEW it to be true.  That’s why I could be so effective at convincing others that it was true.  If you’re not 100% sure of your message, maybe you shouldn’t be telling it…

It’s the Story, Not the Product

Stephen Brooks at Orlando InternationalOne of Seth Godin’s prevalent themes is that people don’t really buy a product, they buy the story that they have associated with that product.  For example, his theory states that I don’t drive a 2001 Audi S4 because I inherently like fast, sporty European-built vehicles, but rather because I enjoy the self-image it gives me – the story it tells me about myself.

I have to confess that even though I am a big fan of Seth’s, this concept seemed a little esoteric up until now.  I thought that surely people were sufficiently self-aware that they could separate their subconscious personal brand-building from their cognitive purchase decisions. But, looking at a photo from our Disney trip just now, I realize he’s right.

The thing is, in the last 9 months or so, I have lost about 30 pounds.  And I really notice it.  I feel thinner and less “flabby.”  I feel like I appear  thinner, too.  I even look at this photo to the right and think I look noticeably leaner than a year ago.  But then I glanced at this old photo down below, taken last May at an awards gala.  (That’s Shawn Graham, the premier of New Brunswick with me.  Because I take most of the pictures in our family, I’m not in many of them.  This is the only electronic one I could find that was about a year old.)

Stephen Brooks and Shawn Graham

And I realized that I look exactly the same as I did a year ago.  But to Seth’s point, it doesn’t matter!  I still feel like I look thinner and better, despite the evidence to the contrary.  I like the story I’m telling myself more than the raw fact that I weigh less than I used to.

So what does this tell us as marketers?  That the product is important, but ultimately the interaction of the customer and the product is what makes a successful relationship. And defining that interaction is what marketing can and should be doing.

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