The Good Old Days

I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you’ve already left them.” — Andy Bernard

Everyone can relate to this feeling — this longing for the good old days that we are sure have passed us by. For some of us, it was high school, where we lived like kings and queens as big fish in small ponds or maybe we didn’t blossom until college where that tinge of awkwardness that kept potential suitors away floated into the ether and we came into our own. Late night parties and staying up until 4 in the morning just to talk because we could.

In my mid-30’s, it’s easy for me to look back on those times and reminisce about that one time we packed 9 people into my green Dodge Avenger (3 in the front, 4 in the back, 2 in the trunk) for the 10-minute drive from our small Iowa college town to the only place that was open that time of night — the truck stop diner that never closed across the state line.

I like to think that I enjoyed those times of my capricious youth to the fullest, but even then I remember the times where I found myself sad and longing for the past or for the future.

What is it about us as humans that keeps us from savoring the moments of our life like we would each morsel of a 9-course meal prepared by a master chef?

When we are in our lives, we’re often sidetracked by just that: life. Life sometimes gets in the way of us finding beauty in ordinary. The one person who I never saw this in was Michael Scott, played so brilliantly for 7 seasons by Steve Carell. Everyone has had a Michael Scott in their life: that bad boss who just doesn’t understand the line between friendship and management. The guy who inevitably says the wrong thing, not out of malice, but out of a desperate attempt to be liked.

(Michael was always the heart and soul of The Office and why they continued the show after he left is beyond me.)

The thing about Carell’s portrayal of Michael that was so damn endearing despite his many peccadilloes was that he was one person who seemed to live in the now…to enjoy his life at every aspect. Sure, he got depressed at times, but his zest for life and the people around him made him such a likable character who, despite his obvious flaws, was just good. He believed he was an amazing basketball player and the World’s Best Boss (according to Spencer Gifts) and he fell head over heels in love with a woman who WAS THE MODEL IN AN OFFICE FURNITURE MAGAZINE.

When the executive producers decided to make Andy the boss after Michael left, I think that they hoped that he would find that same wide-eyed appreciation for his life, but even in his relationship with the adorable Erin Hannon, he couldn’t see past the end of his nose.

In the finale of the show, seeing Andy say this quote resonated with a lot of people. I remember watching the episode live accompanied by Twitter (an irony that is not lost on me) and seeing so many people tweet out that quote over and over and over again. We all have that same longing for understanding what is good about our lives and appreciating it in its time rather than six months or years or decades after the fact.

But what I’ve found in my life is that you just need to make a decision to start enjoying the mundane. Find beauty in the normal. And embrace your life wherever you might find yourself. Sure, it might not be the place you thought you’d be at 36, but it sure hasn’t sucked up to this point either.

“I went to the woods to live deep and suck the marrow out of life.” — Henry David Thoreau, as quoted by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

So live deep and recognize that even at the worst, you are alive in the most amazing time mankind has ever seen.

Here’s to the Good Old Days that are yet to come. May we find ourselves enjoying them.

Why You SHOULD Sweat the Small Stuff

Richard Carlson, Ph.D. became a famous author and motivational speaker behind the strength of his book: Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff…And It’s All Small Stuff.

This phrase has to be one of the most overused pieces of advice that we share with one another. When it comes to worrying about tiny wrongs that people do to each other — in relationships, at work, etc. — it makes sense.

However, when you start to add up these small things, they tend to pile up into huge issues, especially when you consider there are 7 billion people in the world with “small stuff” bogging them down.

But what if we treated the small stuff like big stuff? Especially when it comes to the problems facing the world today. Issues that may seem small to us can have a massive impact when solved on a macro scale.

Take the example of Blake Mycoskie and TOMS Shoes. Several people don’t like what TOMS has come to represent or maybe they just don’t like their shoes, but Mycoskie saw a small (to us) need that he wanted to do something about — getting access to shes for people in need, particularly in third world countries.

The results can be astounding. Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water had a similar experience. He saw something small (OK, access to clean water isn’t exactly small…maybe specific is a better term) and he created a charity solely focused on solving this specific problem. Once again, we saw remarkable results

Back in May, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg decided to use his amazing influence to solve another very specific problem: organ donation. And by enabling Facebook users to easily register as an organ donor within the confines of Facebook, he saw staggering results overnight. The state of California saw an over 5000% spike in their organ donor registry in less than one week.

This small-issue problem solving can be applied to business. I work in the retail industry and I know the massive effect that something as simple as a clean bathroom or new seats can impact a business.

Oftentimes, we hear our leaders talk about “solving big problems.” We look for the next “game changer.” The phrase “Go Big or Go Home” gets bandied about. The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is like trying to eat an elephant. Now the common answer to the joke is that you do it “one bite at a time.”

But what you’re left with is a belly stuffed full of elephant and it can take an awful long time to choke down those tusks.

Perhaps we should try to solve smaller problems first. Smaller problems are more digestible and not nearly as overwhelming (and they don’t make you fat like eating a full elephant does).

See, unfortunately, when all we do is focus on the big problems, the small problems can get worse. Have you ever been in a movie theater with someone who is texting or talking really loudly? In the scheme of things, it’s a small thing. But anyone who has experienced that knows that it can have such a detrimental effect to your movie-going that it has the potential to become a “big problem.”

I’m not saying we should ignore the big stuff entirely. I am saying, however, that small, specific problems like texting in a theater are much easier to solve than something bigger like: “less people are going to the movies.”

Take a moment to look at your life or your business or your relationships with others. Are there small specific problems that you can solve? I truly believe that if you would actually sweat the small stuff a little, you might actually start to find some solutions to the bigger problems.

So what is your small stuff?

Originally posted on the BrandSocialites Blog.

Very Cool, Cookie

As someone who works on the web and in social media, I’m always looking around at the industry, finding great ideas and best practices, particularly when they pertain to brands. I work for a brand. A pretty big one. And working for a brand, especially in social, requires a certain finesse. You have to encapsulate the voice of the brand and yet it needs to feel appropriate for the channel that you’re on.

As someone who works on the web and in social media, I’m always looking around at the industry, finding great ideas and best practices, particularly when they pertain to brands. I work for a brand. A pretty big one. And working for a brand, especially in social, requires a certain finesse. You have to encapsulate the voice of the brand and yet it needs to feel appropriate for the channel that you’re on.

One brand that is just way beyond everyone else in terms of engagement and knowing their audience and their brand is Oreo. Not only are these cookies beloved and universally known throughout the world, they have a passionate audience to the tune of over 27 million Likes on Facebook. Part of the reason that they’ve got such great engagement is their Daily Twist campaign like the one below that they shared on Pride Day:

Daily Twist - Oreo Pride

One of the great things about having something as identifiable as a black-and-white cookie is that it can be modified to be so many different things, including items that are movie-related:

Oreo Daily Twist - TDKR

I’m a big fan of Oreo and what they’re doing. Yesterday, they tweeted:

 

Now, my company has a “No Outside Food and Beverage” policy (as do most theatres, concert venues and sporting arenas). Oreo knows that because they even used the #slicksnacker hash tag to indicate that outside Oreos are contraband in a theatre. So I decided to have a little fun.

 

8 minutes.

8 minutes was all it took for us to craft a 3-word response. No legal departments. No approvals. Our social media team has such a great amount of trust from our leadership that we can speak off the cuff through our brand voice and know that we have their support. It helps when we’re clever, too.

Shortly after we sent the tweet out, I left the office for the afternoon for a Kansas City tech conference. Now, I’ve got AMC’s Twitter account connected to my phone. I kept up with the feed during the conference and watched as our terrific followers began retweeting and retweeting and retweeting. By the end of the night, the tweet reached over 200 retweets, which translates to a WHOLE LOT of reach in the world of Twitter. I was pretty proud of what I had done. I shared it on Facebook and went to bed thinking that was the end of it.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sometime between the time I woke up this morning and the time I got to work, it exploded. It made the front page of AdWeek, thanks to this AdWeek blog post and my Twitter feed began getting inundated with congratulations and kudos. The number of retweets was over 500 and climbing rapidly and Oreo even responded.

 

Not a #humblebrag, but a point

I promise this post isn’t meant to be one giant #humblebrag. I have a point to all this. The truth is that an interaction like this is why I believe so fervently in the power of social media professionals within brands. With the proper structure and governance (and a buttload of trust from your superiors), stuff like this can happen.

Trust is important.

I cannot emphasize this enough. As the AdWeek story circulated around the office, I wanted to make one thing clear to my superiors: successes like this are not purely the result of being clever. Being given the latitude to react and respond is critical for a social media group within a brand. Trust matters. The trust that we have been given is an invaluable asset in instances like this. And I will continue to live up to that trust…why wouldn’t I? I am a representative of the brand (a brand that I am proud of), so why would I do anything that would harm the brand?

That ownership in what we do better equips myself and my colleagues to do amazing things. It helps if you have a brand whose voice is defined as “fun and engaging.”

Now what?

The story continued throughout the day. More and more retweets of our “NOT COOL, COOKIE” post (it’s now over 1,000) and too many congratulations from people around the office. Still, we saw one more opportunity to engage with Oreo’s response.

What we came back with was pretty fun, I think (big hat tip to my colleague and AMC’s Social Media Manager Justin who had the idea).

 

Yes. Those are Oreos on my eyes.

If there’s anything to learn from my story, it’s this: if you are a brand representative in social spaces, be sure that you understand your brand voice. Fight for an amount of autonomy where it makes sense so you can be agile and respond not just to customer service-related questions, but to the pop culture zeitgeist as well.

The Show

Several years ago, when I was still on the other side of 30 and Twitter didn’t even exist yet, there was a man named Ze Frank who created things on the Internet. One of the greatest things he ever did was a video podcast (back before it was called a video podcast) called The Show with Ze Frank.

Every day, he would post a new 5-7 minute video covering current events, pop culture…pretty much anything that entered his mind. He wrote songs. He made up new terms. He entertained and delighted his Sports Racer audience.

The Show lasted exactly one year, starting on March 17, 2006 and ending on March 17, 2007. I never missed it. In fact, I looked forward to each day around 3:00 when the new show would be posted. My friend Kevin and I would anxiously refresh our browsers until the new one showed its bug-eyed face. And we were rarely disappointed.

After The Show ended, Ze went on to do even more amazing things, posting web content for Time and speaking at conferences like TED.

Earlier this year, I heard about a Kickstarter campaign he was running to start another season of The Show. The Internet came through and now, he’s published his first video, something he’s calling, “An Invocation.”

I’m thrilled to see his face on the web again. Every day, he came through with a wonderful video that entertained and inspired through the monotony of a work day. His “Invocation” is a reminder of everything that was great about The Show — his cadence, his editing, his never-ever-ever-blinking, his writing. He’s really one of those things that make the web great.

I’m so excited that he’s putting on A Show. I hope that you’ll tune in too.

My favorite Super Bowl Ads

A lot of people watch the Super Bowl. Something to the tune of 400 billion in 250,000 countries or something like that. Some watch for the game (and a great game it was!), others watch for the halftime show (my wife was in that group tonight) and lots of people watch for the commercials.

In this world of DVR fast-forwarding, this is the one time of year that advertisers are pretty much guaranteed that a metric crap ton of eyeballs are going to be watching. A lot of money is spent on agencies and a lot of rich people get a lot richer (#OccupySuperBowl, anyone?).

I could care less who won the game…in fact, when Boston and New York play, I think most people root for both teams to lose, if that’s possible. I do watch the game, and this was definitely an exciting one. But as a marketer, I definitely pay very close attention to the ads.

This was my setup during the game: Twitter on the left, ad notes on the right.

My Twitter setup during the Super Bowl

After, I went back through and looked at my notes…tried to figure out which ones I liked best. Here were my favorites:

Hyundai – “All For One”

Now, I just bought a Hyundai Sonata last year. I love my car. I also loved what Hyundai did as the sponsor of the pre-game show. This nod to the Rocky theme was pretty great.

Best Buy – Phone Innovators

This ad from Best Buy was terrific. Phone-agnostic, but showing the type of amazing innovation that has come from the smartphone industry. And hats off to Instagram and Square…both amazing apps. And the Words with Friends nod was the perfect amount of funny.

Chevy – “2012”

Detroit came with a couple great ads and I thought Chevy had a great night. This one was the better of their two (the other being the extreme sports Chevy Sonic), especially the use of “Looks Like We Made It.”

Doritos – “Man’s Best Friend”

Doritos puts a lot of effort into their Super Bowl ads and they’ve really done a lot of user-generated stuff. This ad made me laugh. Plus, dogs > cats.

Chrysler – “Halftime in America”

This ad easily won the night for me. Not only do you have Clint Eastwood, one of the biggest American icons, but you have this message that could have very easily gotten super political and ended up being inspirational. Loved the timing (obviously, right at halftime but before Madonna). I didn’t think Chrysler could come up with an ad that would eclipse what they did last year with Eminem. Turns out I was wrong. Other people felt the same, including Chevy, who put out this very classy tweet:

To me, that was pretty cool. The ad highlight of the night to me.

Some other thoughts

  • The highly-publicized “Matthew Broderick’s Day Off” ad for Honda really missed the mark for me.
  • When it came to movie trailers, The Avengers won, in my opinion.
  • The Coca-Cola polar bears are over.
  • I really love Betty White, but she runs the risk of overexposure, in my opinion.
  • The Hulu Plus ads are terrible.
  • I saw a ton of hash tags in commercials. Some good. Some bad. Very few were on screen long enough to be noticed. Keep them on the whole time. #solongvampires
  • The VW ad was funny, but that Star Wars end to it was totally lame.
  • At the risk of being a “defensive fan boy,” I thought the Samsung Note ad was a good ad for an absolutely terrible product. Nice to see someone trying to take on Apple. Is a mini-tablet (or is that a giant phone?) with a stylus really the best product to attack with?
  • Go Daddy is the worst.
  • After a bunch of terrible halftime shows (all since the infamous “wardrobe malfunction”), Madonna set the bar for the next 10 years. All halftime shows should be measured against that.

What did you think?