Elon is lightyears ahead (literally).

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Launching a car into space. WTF.

A) How the fuck do you even get that kinda thing ‘approved’. Like who signs off on that?

B) Musk is an insane marketer. He does epic stunts like this for the PR that help make his company well-known and favorably thought of.

So what if that doesn’t drive sales today?

Things like yesterday’s Falcon Heavy launch and the release of the Roadster into orbit (with that awesome dude strapped into the seat belts) make people care.

And when people know what you do and get excited about it, it makes it easier to raise money, generate future demand / sales and partner with forward-thinkers. All of which helps advance his mission.

So keep doing you, Musk. Your stunts even have non-space-geeks like me interested in what you’re doing.

Brands would benefit to think along the same lines.

Start a blog. Just do it.

When I first graduated from college, I worked in Internal Audit.

Yes, Internal Audit. I hated it. It was a total mismatch for my personality. Some great learnings in hindsight and amazing bosses, but not for me long-term.

I badly wanted to get into the VC world and work with startups. I dug the energy and teamwork and risk and pace.

So I reached out to college alumni for connections and advice. And a VP at Google Ventures responded. A f-in VP at Google Ventures – amazing.

I asked him for advice on how to make the transition. But I don’t remember any of those answers. Instead, I remember one thing he said when I asked him what career advice do you have:

Start a blog. And see where it takes you.

So tonight, when grabbing dinner with a friend who’s looking to make a jump between companies and maybe industries, I said the same thing.

Blogs show people HOW you think, which you just can’t get from a resume. It’s like a better interview into how you are and what your potential is, so a company knows if you’re a potential fit before wasting their time (and yours).

It also helps you build a personal brand. Who gives a shit if it doesn’t directly lead to a job. People may start reading it and follow you and recommend you to other people (or things to you when you need it).

And who gives a shit if no one reads it. Because as this VP said, it’ll show you what you’re interested in. It’ll change a million times, just like his blog did, but it helps flesh out your interests and thinking.

Want free career advice? Start a blog and see where it takes you. And put it in your email signature.

PAST BLOGS OF MINE:

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Influencers, So Hot Right Now

We are in the golden age of influencers.

That’s a loaded statement. I don’t actually know that. I’m not an expert. I’m also not saying anything that’s new.

But common sense, a few headlines and practical time spent on these platforms makes it obvious. 

Facebook is the latest example. You don’t even have to read the article, just the headlines:

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Layman’s terms: Facebook wants to go back to its roots. Less of an ad platform with publisher content / news, more of a place to connect with friends, family and local areas. AKA more personal.

So when publishers have a harder time getting their shit in front of their audience, they need individuals to do so. AKA influencers. 

And for good reason. Influencer content already does well, as evidenced by the below:

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So if you’re a publisher, company, brand, winery, whatever – what does this mean?

Lean more on your existing influencer network. Then grow it to find more influencers who make sense for your brand. These influencers should be creative, communicative with you as a client and powerhouses of content. Then deploy the content on channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. – whether the brand channel or influencer channels (with shout-outs). I’m not saying anything new or groundbreaking, but doing more of it today will be more effective than ever.

Want a sign of the times with this Influencer shift?

Check out Danielle and Ryan and @theguidinglens. They’ve got a relatively small social following (800 on IG at the beginning of the partnership). But they’re a good-looking, fun Millennial couple who wants to explore the world and buys into a mobile, minimalist lifestyle.

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Now think about Airstream. A brand who did well with our grandparents / parents, but now wants to connect with Millennials as they age up, have more disposable income, continue to be mobile / explorative, work remotely / freelance and become increasingly open to a minimalist lifestyle.

Regardless of who contacted who, Airstream likely thinks “Well we’ve got these young peeps who are cool and want to explore. Even though they don’t have a massive following, they can create content for / with us which won’t look like an ad and make us more relatable to Millennials. And then we can post that content on our channels or whitelist it and boost their following to help spread our message. And it’ll likely be more cost-effective (and authentic) than us trying to do it ourselves with hired talent.”

And boom. You’ve got a smart partnership (with their own section on Airstream.com).

Influencers that align with the brand, check. Young, active and creative, check. Cheaper alternative than shooting that content ourselves, check.

Moral of the story? Platforms favor individuals’ content more than ever. Because as consumers, we have enough ads in our lives. Meaning it’s the best time for influencers to grow their own brand while helping brands grow theirs. And the Airstream example is a great example of this.

Nice job peeps.

Simply figuring it out.

Something interesting happened to me last week. On an otherwise routine commute.

I left the gym and headed towards the subway to go to therapy. Outside the F train were about 60 people, all standing there.

Why is this massive herd of cattle hanging out here? There a walking tour or something

Worse. The train was down. And 60 people were outside, standing in the cold, all doing the same one thing: staring at their phones, desperately trying to book an Uber, Lyft or some other car-sharing transportation savior.

But what I didn’t see were people walking away from the station. Or looking at Google Maps to see where the closest train station was.

Instead, in an unpredictable moment of inconvenience, panic sets in and the gut reaction is to have someone else save us, rather than figure it out on our own.

I knew another way to get to therapy. It was out of the way, but 10min away by foot was another train that’d take me into Manhattan. My gut reaction wasn’t this route though – my gut was to open Uber / Lyft as well because I was in a bind.

Next time you’re in a jam or lost, do you have the ‘old school’ wherewithal to ‘figure it out’ on your own, or do you need someone (a driver, for example) to come rescue you.

There was something very confidence boosting about having ‘figured it out’ on my own. I hope others can do the same.

ROTR Reads – Week of 12.18.17

Been toying with the idea of a weekly newsletter. Starting as a post first. Drawing inspiration here from Tim Ferriss’ 5-Bullet Fridays.

STAT:

Ads relevant to a viewer or feature people like them capture 3x the attention of the average ad.

TAKE: Stop making one ad and thinking it’ll work for everyone, everywhere.

SIMPLY PUT:

HBR on the future of brick and mortar – if online retail is ‘time well saved’, then in-person must be ‘time well spent’ to be relevant.

TAKE: Experiences, experiences, experiences. That online can’t offer.

WHAT I LOVE:

Daybreaker. Yes, those morning raves. Positive message with accepting people. All good vibes. 100% recommend.

TAKE: Transition to become a media company instead of events company and they could take off.

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WHAT I LOATHE:

Mid-roll Facebook ads. So interruptive. Irrelevant to what I’m watching. Horrible experience.

TAKE: Think it impacts brand negatively. If I’m a media buyer, I’m avoiding at all costs.

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WHAT I FIND CURIOUS:

The Diderot Effect. This read tries to help you avoid it, which means it’s powerful. Worth knowing.

TAKE: Having a great singular product is a missed opportunity. Build a suite around it to offer.

WHAT I WATCHED:

Senna, the documentary about F1 driver Aytron Senna, by recommendation of Tim Ferriss.

TAKE: His stoic, even keel was remarkable. Smooth and attractive. He’s worth emulating.

WHAT’S SEND ME DOWN A RABBIT HOLE:

Trying to learn more about 29-year-old White House Comms Director Hope Hicks.

TAKE: Being the White House media filter yet remaining a near ghost in the media is impressive.

QUICK AD EXERCISE:

Pre-roll ads are annoying. But the exclusivity, time-pressure, personalized and colorful nature of the below from Yoox are good. It’s probably pretty simple – got the UI and can drop in product photo / price that tailors to your audience (blazer for formal female, sweatshirt for casual guy, etc.).

Let’s apply this to another brand – say Ford and their US Marketing team. The mock objective is to sell more F-150s (because Chevy is outpacing sales) and to do so, you need to drive in-store test drives at dealerships nationwide. And test drives start with booking an appointment for a test drive. First, think about who likely buys F-150s – predominantly men. Second, let’s assume American pickup truck customers over-index as pro sports fans (safe assumption). Third, let’s push all our :15 pre-roll dollars to Facebook, where we can target based on geography and sports likes / content. We’ll pair that with where they stand in the consumer journey (i.e. basic searches, car feature comparisons, pricing, etc.) by leveraging Google search data. Fourth, in terms of the creative, we’ll split the screen throughout the :15 so one half plays the car porn, the other shows the countdown until the ‘Ultimate St. Louis Fan Experience’ deadline passes (for fans in St. Louis). The split would vary by city. Clicking on the pre-roll would bring you directly to a site to do a one-click appointment booking. Limited time / spots left to get this entry will create a sense of urgency (like Voox), while speaking directly to a targeted audience based on something we know they like (St. Louis sports) based on where they’re at in the consumer journey (shopping around).

Side Thought: The fact that Ford doesn’t have a dedicated landing page (or app experience) where you can book a test drive appointment in one click is baffling. Especially in a digital age. No brainer and it should sync with a uniform booking system that all dealerships adhere to.

GOOGLE PLAY STORE APP TRACKING:

Every week. Snapchat stays Top 5. Coinbase cools off. Games still dominate downloads.

TAKE: Snapchat can’t be that fucked as a business if they always beat Instagram in downloads.

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QUOTE I’M PONDERING:

“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength” – Marcus Aurelius

EXPANDED PRODUCT OFFERING I’M STEWING ON:

My girlfriend helps run Text Rex (real-time restaurant recommendations via text) for the Infatuation (a super popular Millennial-focused food website). Text Rex is completely free. Basically, anyone can text in with a situation like the following: ‘I’ve got two friends in town who are super into dumplings. But they’re dumpling snobs which is a pain in the ass. We’re downtown and hoping to stay here. Any ideas on where to go that doesn’t require a 2hr wait or a communal table?’ That specific and a human responds on the other end (a human who knows everything about a city’s food scene). It’s free branding tool for them.

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NIKE should do the same thing, except for their products and consumers’ interests. Looking at something online and wondering if it’s fit your high arch? Text in. In Minneapolis for the next 6hrs with time to kill before your flight and looking to sneak in a run? Text in for the best running paths in Minneapolis. And in a day in age in which Voice and Bots are rampant, the idea of having a human on the other end who speaks in the brand tone helps not only provide a premium service to consumers, but establishes humanity with the brand. This way, Nike isn’t just a retailer you buy from. It’s your go-to fitness partner for all things in life.

The new bar for brick and mortar.

So about a month ago I did a post called ‘Nike Stores Aren’t Stores‘.

And if that was a hint, today was a dead giveaway about where the future of retail is heading, especially when it comes to brick-and-mortar.

I kicked off a snow NYC Saturday with a trip to American Eagle’s new prototype stores – AE Studio. Holy shit am I glad I did.

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American Eagle, the once struggling teen-centered clothing brand – somewhere wedged between American Apparel on the low side and J. Crew on the high side – rolled out AE Studio in Union Square to test out a new shopping experience.

Before you even walk in, there’s an AE Studio truck outside giving away free hot chocolate to anyone (literally ANYONE). Then you walk into a colorful, electric vibe with the first room lined with hundreds of jeans and iPads, digitally demonstrating the fit of each pant.

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There are loads of patches that you can get sewn onto your jeans while you’re in store, helping hype up this notion of personalization that AE is really trying to drive home. It helps the customer feel like they’re getting something truly unique. And because it’s done right then and there, it’s an EXPERIENCE.

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Move further and you’ll see a laundry room. Yes, a FUCKING LAUNDRY ROOM. Why? Because NYU dorms are literally next door and they want young college kids (totally their demo) to come do laundry for free, chill and potentially buy some shit. Or ‘gram from inside so their friends can see.

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Want more chill? You go upstairs and there’s a lounge. Yes, a lounge. Outlets, chargers, bottled water, free WiFi, music, etc. All to not only entice people to come into the store in high-foot-traffic Union Square, but to then STAY AND HANG OUT. All of this is free, regardless of whether you buy something or not.

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So. Why does this make any sense? Why bother doing all this stuff for free for consumers? Who really gives a shit and wants to hang out in an American Eagle?

Well first, the place was crowded. Far more crowded than I’ve ever seen an American Eagle before. And it sucks people in with perks like hot chocolate, free laundry, WiFi, outlets and bottled water. And the thought it was once you walk into the store, the product is cool enough and prices are low enough that you just may make a spontaneous purchase.

And if you don’t? It’s still a win, because people like me now think American Eagle is infinitely cooler than it was before I walked in, which means I’m more likely to consider them going forward or even to promote it (like in this fucking blog post).

SO GOOD ON YOU AMERICAN EAGLE. You absolutely nailed this. I really hope this proves to be a slam dunk for the business and that you roll out more of these going forward, because this is the future of retail, especially for brick and mortar. And in high traffic areas.

Good on ya, mate.

Still think we’re scared of brands having our data?

Based on the below screenshot of all Twitter activity surrounding #spotifywrapped, it sure as shit doesn’t look like it.

To celebrate the year-end, Spotify amassed all of our individual data into a customized experience on their microsite – Wrapped. And you could not only see everything you’ve listened to and how your musical tastes have grown, but you could share / compare with friends and get customized playlists based on your data.

This type of data usage by Spotify helps create a personalized, 1:1 experience. Consumers feel like the company not only gets them, but cares about them.

Moral of the story as a brand: Ask for data, leverage data and turn it around to provide value and entertainment.

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God I love Lyft.

What a fuckin’ year for Lyft, right?

I mean Uber shat the bed on so many levels – poor guys have had it rough. And Lyft, like Aaron Rodgers-style, was just waiting in the wings to pounce.

I switched over full-time to Lyft a few months ago after all of the Uber London miscues, which just felt like the last straw to make me thing ‘Uber is a mess’. Plus the drivers don’t like it.

So I’ve loved Lyft ever since, especially Lyft Line. Awesome branding all-around, drivers seem happy and I thought the founders’ story on NPR’s How I Built This.

But this latest campaign I just saw pushes me over the edge. Lyft has managed to make it about the DRIVERS, thanking them and strengthening the community so drivers feel appreciated. It’s not about praising the consumers – it’s more familial (and thus special) than that.

And as a customer, that makes me want to love Lyft even more because if they take care of their drivers, I view them better as a company and assume the drivers will be happier and thus better towards me. Especially in light of Uber’s year.

Beautiful insights here about Lyft drivers doing this as a means to something else. The company is championing the drivers’ dreams outside the company – such humility. And the visual direction is totally spot on – such a quick read for consumers.

Even the OOH is beautiful and clean. And that’s not easy to do because, well, it’s OOH.

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Fuck, well done guys. See you in my next Lyft.