For the past several years, I’ve been keeping a list of my favourite new albums each year. Here’s my list for 2012.
- Beach House – Bloom
- Tame Impala – Lonerism
- Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
- Joel Plaskett Emergency – Scrappy Happiness
- Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
- Chromatics – Kill for Love
- Grizzly Bear – Shields
- Jack White – Blunderbuss
- Hot Chip – In Our Heads
- M. Ward – A Wasteland Companion
- Matthew E. White – Big Inner
_Edit:_ I somehow overlooked the fact that Jack White’s Blunderbuss was released in 2012. Added to the list.
I’ve been watching with great interest this silly little debate about integrity and journalism between Marco Arment, John Gruber, and Joshua Topolsky, and I couldn’t resist the urge to comment.
First, a quick summary of the issue. A number of prominent tech sites, including The Verge and Engadget, wrote articles about the HP Spectre One all-in-one desktop computer, which looks suspiciously like an Apple product ripoff (think Thunderbolt Display bolted on top of a MacBook Air, with the same wireless keyboard and Magic Trackpad as an iMac). Each of these sites neglected to mention the similarities with said Apple products.
And so Marco noticed and alleged this was due to said tech sites being toothless and wanting to remain chummy with OEMs because their business model depends on it. Gruber chimed in and believes that this has more to do with these sites taking an editorial position that more closely aligns their views with those of certain readers who believe these manufacturers are not copying Apple, are entitled to do so, or one of many other similar positions. Topolsky responded with a pretty emotional and heated post. After that, a bunch of Internet ego dick wagging happened on Twitter.
Egos aside, I’m more interested in discussing what I believe to be the core issue with the business model of sites like The Verge that leave the door open for these types of omissions.
I haven’t worked as a journalist, but I have worked on the other side of the fence, in PR. Tech news sites, like any other news sites, are faced with a few fundamental problems: a high volume of news stories, too few resources to adequately cover them in depth, and fighting the clock to get “breaking” news out the door and on the site. These sites primarily make their money through advertising, which either directly or indirectly pays higher returns for greater pageviews. This means there is an incentive to be the first to break a story, to have an exclusive scoop, or take a controversial position on an issue. With so much competition, if you’re too slow in getting to a story, you’re losing out on potential “eyeballs” from referrals and other sources.
On the flip side, companies like HP and their PR agencies spend a lot of time and money trying to craft compelling pitches and use other tactics to get the interest of journalists. The gold standard for PR is that your press release gets published verbatim in whole or in part. Runner up would be that your messaging and spin is intact, even if the words aren’t. Providing the messaging isn’t totally over-the-top, journalists are happy to do this because they are working on deadline, and need to post a high volume of stories in a timely manner. This means there’s no time for editorializing straight news like a first-look piece. This is how the PR business stays alive and stays successful, and news sites keep costs down and revenue up.
What it comes down to, I think, is not a desire to suck up to OEMs, or to pander to Android and PC loving readers, or willful maliciousness by sites like The Verge, as Marco and Gruber seem to believe, but rather a sort of unintentional journalistic laziness that results from the pressures of the job and these publications’ business models.
About a week and a half ago, the relationship I was in came to an end. She and I lived in a small apartment together, so sticking around didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. I’ve been living off my friends’ generosity since then.
I’ve been back to that apartment twice now to pick up some essentials (read: clean clothes) to keep me going for the next little while. My ex wasn’t there. On the second visit, it struck me that both nothing and everything had changed.
On the one hand, it looked as though nobody lived there anymore. The television remote had moved, and her favourite record was now sitting on the turntable. She made the bed for the first time in a long time. But everything else was the same, right down to a few lone beard trimmings around the bathroom sink that always seemed to avoid my attempts at cleaning.
And yet, this isn’t home for me anymore. It doesn’t feel right. It’s no longer the place where I can retreat from the world when I need to switch into Introvert Mode, or simply relax after a long day. That sense of security, familiarity, belonging, love and trust disappeared overnight. It’s just a space like any other. A shell of its former self.
It has never been so powerfully apparent to me that home is a feeling, not a place.
When I was growing up, our neighbours across the street had a dog. He was a beautiful, smart and loving collie. But he had a few behaviour issues.
When the owners were training him, they taught him to give a paw on command. “Give me your left paw,” they would say.
However, the dog was extremely apprehensive about this. When asked to give a paw, the dog would slowly raise the left, then the right, then the left… with incredible hesitation. He was looking for some type of visual or verbal cue that he was doing the right thing.
The problem was that, when he was first being trained, one of the owners would ask for the “right paw,” and that owner meant the dog’s right paw. When the other owner asked for the “right paw,” they meant the owner’s right paw.
Each owner would reward and punish different behaviours in different ways, leading to incredible confusion and a behaviour that was difficult for them to correct. Even if the dog was consistent and rewarded for what he was doing for one owner, the other owner would punish him for the same action.
This is a story about the importance of consistent behaviours and incentives. Think about your life, work, and the people in it. Are you inconsistently rewarding and punishing behaviours because of your lack of clarity?
In a recent article on the Harvard Business Review blog, Karen Freeman, Patrick Spenner and Anna Bird argued that our traditional thinking on customer engagement is dead. A study of more than 7000 consumers indicated that “companies often have dangerously wrong ideas about how best to engage with customers.” They attempt to debunk three marketing myths:
- Consumers don’t want to have relationships with your brand. Only 23% of those surveyed said they wanted to have a relationship with brands. Relationships, they said, are reserved for friends and family. So why do brands feel the need to act like a consumer’s best friend? I love this quote from Mike Arauz: “If I tell my Facebook friends about your brand, it’s not because I like your brand, but rather because I like my friends. I want to share something with them, in exchange for their attention and affection.”
- Frequent brand interactions over time won’t build relationships with consumers. The authors argue that relationships aren’t built on interactions, but rather on shared values and trust. Simply because a consumer uses a particular product doesn’t mean they’re looking to be bombarded with product offers. Instead, we care about the brands that stand for something that’s equally important to us. I’ll get back to this in a minute.
- More interaction isn’t always better. In marketing, increased interactions result in diminishing returns. There’s no correlation between the number of interactions and the likelihood a consumer will be loyal or more likely to recommend or purchase a product.
Instead, the authors make the case that consumer attention and trust are precious resources that must be cherished instead of abused. I want to take this a step further and argue that, as we are increasingly bombarded with media in every area of our life, that disruption marketing is dying.
It’s no longer good enough to tell customers about how great your product is and hope they will rush out and buy it. Especially in the digital space, consumers are increasingly looking for value and utility. Modern brands that truly get it and are succeeding in digital are those who have understood they need to stand for something meaningful and deliver on that purpose at every consumer touchpoint. They do so by creating compelling products, services and experiences that flow from that purpose.
Several years ago, Simon Sinek presented a simple idea called the Golden Circle in his TEDxPuget Sound talk ”How great leaders inspire action.” He argues that the traditional marketing model of What > How > Why is dead.
Here’s how not to inspire: “This is our new widget. We make these widgets using cutting edge technology. They’ll increase your performance by 200% and make unicorns happy. Want to buy one?”
People buy why you do it, not what you do. It’s time to flip the model and change the way we interact with customers.
Here’s how Simon presents Apple’s value proposition:
In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, easy to use, and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?
To truly embrace digital marketing, brands will need to understand that they need to start standing for something meaningful that consumers identify with, and create branded digital experiences that people care about – beyond a one-off contest or microsite. Some brands, like Nike, have shown that they understand this in the digital space far better than others. Brands who don’t get it are leaving themselves open to disruptive innovation from new or unexpected entrants.