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May 2014 - PS Insights

TO A “T”

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Used to be that one of the fun parts of travelling to California was reading and laughing at vanity license plates. In the Bay area, where cars are less valued than LA, the trend now is vanity T-shirts. Two in particular made us laugh out loud: “Vegetarian is an ancient word for the village idiot who couldn’t fish or hunt” and “Bad Decisions Make Great Stories.” What “vanity” communication have you seen that’s made you smile lately?

IT’S IN THE PHONE

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Steve stopped at a UPS Store to ship off a Mother’s Day gift. The owner, Indee, who was behind the counter, asked for Steve’s mother’s phone number. After a moment’s hesitation, he had to look it up. Because we use smart phones, we no longer have to remember things like mom’s phone number. Indee laughed and said, “It appears smart phones are making us dumber.” What knowledge did you have that you have ceded to machines?

BY DEFINITION

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The NY Times has been mining bizarre legal depositions and hearings. We were recently sent this link of a deposition regarding the use of a “photocopying machine” in an Ohio county office. It’s funny. It’s frightening. It’s almost unwatchable. In our most litigious society, do you have the skills to face down an attorney…or better, get specious lawsuits dismissed?

MAKE US BETA

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This is a tease for our soon-to-be-released app, MKTG. It’s a dictionary of the hottest new marketing terms and an analysis of how to use that knowledge. We’ve got a Beta version in the Apple store and we’re looking for some beta testers to help us make it better. If you’d like to be one, send us a note (reply to this blog) and we’ll send you a link. What are you doing to put new content out there…and how are you inviting trusted sources to help you make it better?

GOLF (REDUX)

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Our story the other week about golf’s fading appeal prompted one of our readers to forward us a link to a less-than-forgiving editorial. Blogger Marco Arment had a totally different take on what’s wrong with the game. He said the problem isn’t the challenge of the game, it’s the elitism of the players. The hidebound tradition of old white men playing in restricted golf clubs is (thankfully) a turnoff to a more egalitarian, more open-minded younger generation. As Marco observed, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see a group of Silicon Valley programmers flying to CES a day early just to play a round of golf with their buddies. How do you break the paradigm of failing models to make them appealing to changing audiences?

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

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Much has been written about openly gay football player Michael Sam who was recently drafted #249 in the NFL draft. We bemoan the label “openly gay” which probably depressed his ranking in the annual football derby. He indicated that there will be a lot of quarterbacks who will likely prefer if he were drafted earlier and on their teams. Gay or straight, we’d sure like him watching our backs! What do you do every day to shed the labels and recognize great talent?

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

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At the end of World War II, two airplane manufacturers, looking for ways to keep their factories running, decided to manufacture cars. Both started with peculiar, uniquely post-war vehicles: BMW’s Isetta (at left) and the SAAB 92 (right). Both companies, starting from scratch, designed uniquely non-traditional vehicles. But only one of the companies recognized that being different isn’t always the best way to build a business. SAAB? They took the road less traveled…and their continued sputtering sales figures show it. What do you do to stay relevant in the marketplace?

YOU CALL THIS HOSPITALITY?

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Steve stayed in a Hilton last week at his client’s suggestion. When he went to the business center to print out his boarding pass, the computer was locked – with a minimum $3.50 charge to use the computer plus $1.00 per page for printing out a document. In what ways do you annoy your customers in an attempt to squeeze a little more money for your bottom line?

VIRAL VIDEO

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There’s no way to guarantee that a video will go viral. And what’s a measurement of success, anyway? A million views? 10 million? 100 million? As we write this blog, the video we have in mind has gotten 6.5 million hits. And we’re two of them. The title will tell you all you need to know, and like all viral videos, it’s the right balance of inane, adorable and funny. It’s called Tiny Hamsters Eating Tiny Burritos, and if it doesn’t make you smile then you’ll never be able to create your own viral video.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

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Steve flew out to Palo Alto last week to lead a seminar at Stanford University. Driving down 101, he was tuned into KQED—San Francisco’s public radio station—which was hosting a pledge drive. While WNYC and Thirteen in New York might offer tote bags and mugs, in San Francisco they know they’ve got a different audience: A large donation could get you a sea kayak and free lessons; and every contributor was entered to win an all-electric Nissan Leaf…which KQED promoted by emphasizing the zero-emissions vehicle would be able to travel in the HOV lanes during rush hour. How do you tailor your message to fit your audience?