Art

Personality Goes a Long Way

How far does a little chalk go? A very long way if you’re “Not a Burger Stand” in Burbank, CA. These guys run a thriving business with some daring food choices – Coco Puff encrusted fried chicken, anyone? In addition, they have fun with their clientele. Each week they post a new chalkboard outside their place inviting their patrons to live a little and, in combination with their evidently amazing food, has caused quite the sensation.

Check out some of my faves in no particular order:

Stefon lloyddobler ronswanson samelliot mattfoley doubtfire joker thriller everything-is-awesome

powerrangers zissou

The lesson? Let your people share their art -in this case, literally. Don’t be afraid to have a personality and make a connection with your customers.

The artists for "Not a Burger Stand" - Lila & Kyle

The artists for “Not a Burger Stand” – Lila & Kyle

“Made To Stick” – Make messages that connect

Advertising is more often than not, about interrupting people. A lot of it is imitating what someone else has done and what other ads look like for that same type of product or service. There’s a straight and narrow path and plenty of people that would prefer to walk down it. For them, it’s not about connecting with people, it’s about being safe.

For these scared few, their creedo can be summed up simply:  CYA BAE, or “Cover your ass, before anything else.”

Making meaningful, original, honest work that aims to connect the brand/team with the client isn’t high on that list of motivations. If asked, they’d answer that they’d love to connect with people, and many may believe that their benign work is doing just that.

I’m in the business of housing college students, so being relate-able scores major points with our customers. In addition, our students have grown up with the internet since birth – and having ads thrown at them through every medium their entire lives is a constant. Originality goes a long way towards breaking through their defenses. Honesty has immense value.

I saw the following two flyers on ebaumsworld.com and immediately fell in love.

Set Rations to "Meager" and Pace to "Grueling"

Set Rations to “Meager” and Pace to “Grueling”

If you’re anything like me, you LOVED Oregon Trail as a kid. There’s an immediate emotional connection, coupled with the unexpected and the humorous. I’m hooked. I’m connected. Granted, it’s not advertising anything, but imagine a little logo in the corner and this posted at your property’s crosswalk across from campus? It’s enough to highlight the sense of you humor of your team, and to show that you’re human.

The next is a little rougher around the edges as far as language is concerned, so if you’re easily offended by light cursing, might I suggest skipping this one.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Caroline, please edit this blog for $15 an hour.

Probably without realizing it, Caroline totally nails the bulk of the Six principles of Dan & Chip Heath’s best seller, “Made to Stickwhich I wrote about in the past.

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

Six Principles of Sticky Ideas

To wit:

1. Simple: She’s got a simple message! “I fix your paper so it doesn’t suck!”

2. Unexpected: You didn’t expect this, and certainly not with the cat picture.

3. Concrete: Caroline. Edits. Papers. Got it?

4. Credible: There’s a decent sample of her writing, so you could argue she’s credible, though her target customer wouldn’t know that for sure.

5. Emotional: She’s funny! By stating bluntly what she’s thinking she makes an emotional connection to her audience – especially  the type that’s likely to purchase her services.

6. Stories: She tells one for sure. She even gives example of exchanges she’s likely to have with you.

Essentially, the Heath brothers analyzed all kinds of messages to find out which ones stuck with people and which didn’t – and what qualities they possessed. You don’t need all six apparently for a compelling message, but the more the better. Caroline is almost perfect here. If asked weeks later, you could tell that; Caroline edits papers, won’t do so after 9pm because her meds wear off then, and that it’ll run you $15 and hour.

That’s a sticky message.

What would you have told Caroline if she’d made these for you and wanted to place them around campus, but YOU owned the editing service? Would you have said it’s too risky? That you’d prefer something a little safer? Maybe just straightforward – “editing services, $15/hour, call Caroline.” You could have, but then you wouldn’t have nearly 2.5 million views on imgur.

Understood, this doesn’t work everywhere and for everything. We’re not going to run the same style ad here, but the lesson is important – take away the reasons why it works and apply to your own marketing and advertising. Resist the urge to play it too safe next time. Aim to make a connection and get your message to stick!

What Have You Broken Lately?

The 80’s have been enjoying a nice little nostalgia revival in popular culture lately, as all of us who were children at that time are now having children of our own. My favorite part of the whole shtick is seeing all the old things I used to disassemble back then (dust buster, RC cars, Atari system, Rubik’s cube, Toy Robots) all done with a smuggled screw driver lifted quietly from dad’s tool kit.

I broke ALL of this stuff, man! The vast majority of it worked at the time I stripped it down and I told my parents (when caught) that I was just seeing how it worked and I was going to put it all back together the way I found it. Good story, young Rob.

So what did I do with all of it? While ruining a lot of things, I also made some really cool stuff: A keyed switch box from an old security system I found in the trash became my means of keeping my little brother from using my RC car when I wasn’t around by wiring it to the main power source. The old Dust Buster turned into a sweet battery powered fan I took everywhere with me. More things than not, just wound up as junk pieces I would tinker with for hours on end.

All this brings me to the main point here, the one covered in Seth’s speech below – so much of what we are given to do as children is rehearsal for jobs of following instructions. No one wants us to innovate anything, or more importantly – to fail in the pursuit of innovation. It’s messy in the short run and we’re conditioned to be scared to death of that fear of short term failure. Maybe we think the single effort that turns out to be fruitless will infect the rest of our actions – winding us up as one big eternal loser – the starving artist, the hermit inventor, the failed dancer.

Because I really like what I do I’ve never stopped tearing apart my toys. Only thing is, now, instead of wires and electric motors it’s spreadsheets, policies, and marketing efforts. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t tear something down for the simple sake of destruction. We tear things down because a better way is possible and achievable and can only be built on the foundation of the old. We tear it down because what we have is ugly and outmoded and we have outgrown it – it no longer serves us, or other people.

I’m not going to lie, a little more than half of people I’ve worked with over the years have hated this. These could be corporate support people, or bosses, coworkers, vendors, etc… anyone who’s life was disrupted by my curiosity and instance when a better way was possible. “This is the way we’ve always done it” or “It’s fine! Just leave it alone! Who cares anyway?”

The other half though?

That’s what and who you do it for. Those that want a better way, a simpler, faster, higher quality way. A more elegant way. Not just the veneer of progress, but actual, honest-to-goodness ingenuity coming through with a higher quality process for… anything!

So break something this week. Crack open your corporate policy on how to handle customer concerns, or some internal process and see if you can’t actually make a better mousetrap. If the process doesn’t make you smile at it’s simplicity and beauty, it’s probably ready for a revision.

“Too Many Mind” or Why you feel flustered

I was watching “The Last Samurai” the other night on AMC with the movie notes (love that) and a scene stood out to me. At one point, Tom Cruise is getting his butt handed to him by a high-ranking Samurai and his host stops the sparring long enough to tell him:

Nobutada: Please forgive, too many mind.

Nathan Algren: Too many mind?

Nobutada: Hai. Mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind the enemy, too many mind… [pause] No mind.

Being present is the whole game. Existing right now, right here – with no other distractions is how excellence is born.

How are you going to make ends meet? What about the check engine light in your car? What are you going to do for dinner tonight? Relatives are coming in town and you haven’t cleaned the house – what are they going to think? Are these pants too tight? Is this shirt too big? Am I eating enough vegetables?

Stop.

Breathe.

Live here and now. Open your eyes. Quiet your mind. Too many minds, too much trouble, too little excellence.

My wife does this with our kids – she’s always present with them fully in her mind. Getting them ready to go, teaching them right from wrong, helping them – she’s always focused on them and nothing else. I admire that level of focus and dedication. Lord knows I have it when deep into a spreadsheet build, or when I’m working on this blog, or cooking – but not often when I’m with the kids.

We can focus on anything we want, regardless of how exciting or mundane it may seem. Folding laundry puts me in a deep zen state where all the swirling turmoil of life just dissipates into vapor. Laundry does that. I want it to be perfect, and beautiful and efficient. It’s not something I want to get over with, but something I want to master.

What part of your gig would be made better by eliminating some of your “mind” – losing the burden of worry that’s not serving you?