I love the blank page…

I once wrote an entire manuscript by hand on a legal pad during my breaks at work.  I have no idea where that legal pad is today, and I’m sure Harper Collins would be knocking down my door if I could locate it, but le sigh, such is life.

There is something intrinsically satisfying about sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and a pen.  How many great ideas were born of rough sketches on the back of a cocktail napkin or the Sudoku puzzle page of the in-flight magazine?

Dan Roam has an entire book devoted to back-of-the-napkin thinking.  There are stories (some true, some not) of great business ideas, songs, even novels getting their start on tiny scraps of paper.

Sure, we’re in the digital age, and we all want to save the trees so our grandchildren can actually live on Earth, but we haven’t eradicated the true written word.  Studies have been done that show that when you write something down you are more likely to remember it than just having read it or even typed it.  In my first year at the illustrious University of Texas Creative Program, we were all forced to use nothing more than our brains, and pen and paper to get our great ideas across.  And guess what? We did.

So, I’m glad paper isn’t going anywhere for a while.  What about you?  When you show up for the big meeting, important lecture, or to get that creative idea out, what tools do you bring with you?

The Power of packaging and positioning

My weekends are often unexpected lessons. I’m sure this is true for any parent with young kids who are really starting to figure out the world. A few weeks ago, strolling the aisles of Whole Foods, my daughter said “I want the Robot Tea”.

Scanning the shelves, I quickly told her, “There’s no robot tea. Do you want blueberry, strawberry, etc, etc.”

Adamant as only a three-year-old can be, she demanded once again, “I want the Robot Tea.”

My eyes finally lit on what she saw. A cleverly packaged caffeine-free tea by Allegro. “Robot Tea.” A quick look at the ingredient list showed a host of familiar tea ingredients: roobios, spearmint, licorice, lemon peel and orange peel. Nothing terribly kid-centric, but the smart folks at Allegro figured out putting a cartoon robot on a package sells tea to kids.

We marketers have figured out who’s really in charge of the purse strings, haven’t we? I can’t walk the aisle at any major big box store without a slew of Disney characters peeking at me from everything from toilet tissue to diapers to breakfast cereal to shoes. Thankfully, as of 2006, we can take junk food off that list.

Oh yes, we’ve figured it out.

So, how do we responsibly wield this power? What good will we do with it?

PTC to buy Axeda its second acquisition for the industrial internet of things

Big things happening for PTC and IoT

Gigaom

PTC(s ptc), a company better known for its supply chain management and logistics software for manufacturing firms is now getting hot and heavy with the industrial internet. On Wednesday it said it had agreed to purchase Axeda, a company that has been providing cloud services and expertise to big name brands as they try to add connectivity to their product, for $170 million in cash. The deal is expected to add $25 million to $30 million of revenue in the company’s fiscal 2015 beginning October 2014. The deal should close by Sept. 30 of this year.

Late last year, PTC purchased ThingWorx which also offered back-end cloud services and expertise. Essentially, while there are plenty of hot new startups attacking this space such as Ayla Networks, PTC is going after companies that have been around for much longer. For example, Axeda was founded in 2000, while ThingWorx has been…

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Finding inspiration when it’s doing a really good job of hiding…

I am walking a journey right now to live in the now.  This is an incredibly difficult thing to do as a human being and even more so as a marketer.  We care very much about how what happens today is going to be perceived tomorrow and how what happened last year compares to today.  Still there are strong lessons in being present.  So what do you do when the inspiration you so desperately need is doing a better job of hiding than your 3 year old daughter ever could?  Coaxing it out with promises of extra loops of the Frozen CD are not likely to do you any good.

I have no definitive answers, but I do like to try to remember to breathe…that breath is life and creativity is also life.  So, in some ways, breath is creativity.  I try to immerse myself in someone else’s creation for a while.  WIRED Magazine is great for that as is Creativity Online.

Sometimes the act of going for a walk or to a yoga class are enough to unlock that chi and let the creative juices flow.  And sometimes you just have to put it away for a while and come back when it beckons.

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, noted expert on the topic has this to say about flow: 

In an interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

 

How do you achieve flow?

Remembering MH17

It’s not a good year to be Malaysian Airlines.  For an airline that probably hasn’t registered on the radar of most western travelers to lose two flights in three months is unlucky.  For the hundreds of families devastated by the loss of their loved ones, it’s more than unlucky.  It’s their worst nightmare.

So, let’s pause today to remember the 298 souls who didn’t complete their journey on Thursday. 

Violence is not the answer.

Try…

There’s been a lot of talk lately of Colbie Callait and her new video, Try.  Obviously as a woman, a mother, and a marketer, it strikes a chord on many levels.  If you haven’t seen it, take a look.  It’s a great song with a great message for all of us.

 Does this message apply to our marketing as well?  To our brands?  I think so.  We like to think that we are in control of our brand.  We hire brand managers and launch branding campaigns, but the truth is, we shine up our message, put it out there and wait to see how it’s received.  If we are walking the walk of our core values and holding our heads high as we go about the business of doing what we say we’ll do… If our interactions are genuine and sincere… What we project and how we are perceived are likely to be in sync.  If we are dishonest with ourselves and worse yet with our people or the public, there is likely to be a large disconnect between who we say we are and who we are perceived to be.

So, how hard do we try?  In the famous words of Yoda, there is only do or not do.  There is no try.

Social and Accessible

Today’s market is used to being able to find out exactly what they want to know when they want to know it.  According to research by Tata Consultancy Services, average sized companies were expected to spend between $13 and $22 Million to market, sell and service digital mobile consumers through their devices. These numbers are expected to rise dramatically by 2015.

That’s no surprise, right?  Why then aren’t companies keeping pace?  According to Google more than 79% of its largest advertisers don’t have a mobile-friendly site.  Mobile is the wave of the future, friends.

So what do we expect as consumers and people with interests while we are searching millions of pieces of data to find exactly what we need to know.  We expect to be able to connect with exactly the right piece of data, be that a new recipe, a friend request, or access to people with influence in the companies we want to know more about.

David Meerman Scott posted a fantastic blog today about the #SocialCEO.  In it he cites the success that such household names as Richard Branson, Marissa Meyer, and Arianna Huffington have achieved by being accessible to their customers. So how social and accessible are you? 

While wandering the streets of San Francisco between meetings, my colleague Taylor Johnson and I happened along this setup in the lobby of Umqua Bank.  It’s simple and old school.  Not mobile at all.  But it’s certainly accessible.  There it is, right there at the top  — a direct line to the bank president.  And any customer can literally walk in off the street and call.

Brilliant.

How are your customers reaching you?  How are they interacting with your brand?  Are you part of the conversation?

To Do: Nothing…

Doing nothing is extremely difficult.  How often have you actually tried it?  In a world where we simultaneously talk and text and surf the web, we have lost sight of our “off” switch.

In researching productivity, I came across this amazing little site that promotes exactly what you’d think:  www.DoNothingFor2Minutes.com.  I lasted a whole 30 seconds the first time.  It is extraordinarily difficult to shut down even for 120 seconds. 

If you have any kind of project management experience, you are likely quite adept and as proud of your ability to multi-task as I am.  What I am less proud of is the inability to unplug.  When the brain is always on, you can’t step back, reset, and come back with an amazing solution to the problem.  You are not even really focusing on the problem at hand.  So give yourself a break today (and maybe tomorrow too) and find some time to do nothing.

It hurts to be wrong…

If you believe Slate, I am.  Constantly.  Count the spaces after my periods in this piece if you don’t believe me.  It’s a legacy from 9th grade typing class, and it won’t go away.  I am a two spacer.  I’m sure I could do a lot of yoga and meditation and retrain myself, but it’s muscle memory at this point as much as grammar.  And I have other intentions during yoga for now.

As marketers, we can’t afford to hang on to old habits.  Doing things because it’s the way we have in the past, is the worst possible strategy.  So what do we do in a constantly shifting landscape?  Do we jump on every new trend in the hopes it’s going to be the next platform du jour?

I’ve never surfed, but I imagine, it’s a similar process.  You take stock of the wave of information, paddle out and do your best to keep your head above water at first, but then you get very good at wading through the information and eventually you’re soaring.  There will be tumbles.  Spectacular fails that may even make it into a business class or two, but without those fails, there cannot be spectacular success.

The culture of fear…of being afraid to make a mistake is by far the biggest thing holding us back.  So, yes, it hurts to be wrong.  But it’s devastating to never have the opportunity to be wrong.  In that opportunity are all the lessons that make us strong, fierce, and unbeatable the next time.