Archive for General

Industry 4.0 – Digitizing of Everything Else

In 2012 I wrote about the Digitizing of Everything. Since then, even more than I imagined has been reduced to 0 and 1, stored in the cloud or on drives, and changed the world forever.

Looking back, I realize that while I stuck a toe into the science fiction of the future as it was then (how do you refer to the future in past tense – the historic future?), the realities of just how much can and will be digitized is growing at an amazing pace.

Bill Gates and others are now raising concerns with the impact robotics and artificial intelligence will have in social, not technical, terms. This is a recognition that the realization of these technologies is now a foregone conclusion in the minds of forward thinkers, and the human impact is top of mind. Bill also sees some other technologies that we are on the verge of realizing.

Old MediaMuch of what we have digitized has been in the consumer and data worlds – music, video, text, shopping, documents, information, etc. While there are new formats that challenge the old – playing music on mobile devices rather than records; reading on screen rather than on paper; shopping online rather than in a retail store; filing a medical claim and getting paid online; completing HR process at the office – they do not destroy the old formats. Books, records, retail stores, paper medical claims all still exist and the Millennials seem to like these more tangible formats. (Everything old is new again).

Fringe concepts like face recognition for security, self-driving cars, 3D printed items, and unmanned aircraft – from the military to home delivery – are now all part of today’s world. They may not have had their Janus Moment and become the “norm”, but they are no longer the fringe.

We are however entering a period that I referenced to in the “historical future” of 2012 where computers are beginning to do new things, not just in new formats. I wrote:

In the book AFTER THOUGHT The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence James Bailey proposes a completely new impact on humanity due to the computer’s ability to “think” differently than we do.

One example he uses to illustrate the impact of the speed of computing is weather predictions. Given the same data, humans could calculate the predictions just as machines, but in hundreds of “man-hours”. By then, the prediction would be useless.”

Today, we find Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Bots, Predictive Analytics, Conversation as a Platform (where Bots talk to each other instead of humans). Quantum Computing, and more. These concepts were talked about in 2012, but today they are fully realized if not fully implemented.

The result? What the World Economic Forum refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This may sound familiar as well. That’s because in 2012 the Economist wrote about the Third Industrial Revolution. Yup, the Third Industrial Revolution lasted a brief 4 years. (it was televised and is available for streaming via NetFlix.)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution connects systems and computers in ways humans can’t (fully digitally) and begins to form new processes and tools around how computers, not humans, think.

Imagine this: a sensor in a subscription oven (one where the restaurant pays based on usage rather than all up front) sends its report to an intelligent system that predicts failure within 2 weeks based on usage, model, location, and more. This triggers the calendar bot to schedule the appointment with the restaurant based on day/times it’s open and the service center’s availability. Confirmation of the appointment is sent to the chef and the oven which displays the information on its screen – if a technician is needed at all.

Instructions are sent to the 3D printer at the restaurant (crediting the monthly invoice for materials used) and the restaurant’s alarm system pairs with the bot in the service tech’s device to allow access when he arrives. Or, an interactive bot walks the restaurant owner through the process of replacing the part using a video recognizing app or augmented reality glasses.

So why should the event and conference industry care?

  • Fewer Workers means fewer attendees: The example above shows that there will be fewer service techs and training in the future. If service teams and training are your audience and content, they may be greatly reduced inside of 50 years. Add autonomous vehicles like trains, trucks, ships, tractors, taxis, buses, and more and there will be even fewer audiences for these types of events. (More on the impact of Autonomous Vehicles in a later post). At one time, every elevator in the world required an elevator operator, now almost none do. In the future, one or more drivers per vehicle or one service techs per service call will seem as strange as one operator per elevator does now.
  • New workers mean new attendees, content, and conferences: However, new skills, technologies, and industries means new events. All the technologies above will form into mature industries over the next 20 years. The concept that a chef will also do maintenance on their kitchen appliance via augmented reality glasses means new and different skills for many attendees at what do not appear to be “technology” events. Tech, IT, Robotics, and more will become more mainstream and therefore more necessary curriculum for attendees everywhere.
    Robot at Microsoft Ignite

    Robot at Microsoft Ignite

  • Changes in business process: Bots and connected systems will replace the order taking, warehouse, and quality control process by sending orders directly to robots and drones for assembly into self-driving truck, or a 3D printer on site. How does a warehouse change if there are no humans involved in the storing and gathering? How can you change the Event and Conference business as an event owner, agency, or service provider?
  • Online attendee experience will change: Richer media, attendees navigating physical space via robots and/drones (just piloted at Microsoft Ignite), sessions streamed globally by attendees, attendance fees based on content consumed not physical or online access. Skype Translator alone allows for global audiences for content consumption.
  • Interconnected data: Just as Facebook and Google profit handsomely from the broad sets of data related to their user and their preferences, event data will become more broadly used and valuable beyond the event itself. Publishers once were the channel to new audiences with mailing lists; today all sources of information have increasing value not only to marketers, but to the systems that provide the augmented reality, predictive analytics, conversations, and more.

Robot Attendees

The birth of SkyNet is coming.

While Terminator shows one fanaticized version of what self-aware machines learning and working together might be, the events industry needs to digest the realities of how the digitizing of everything will impact, well – everything.

Be assured, even if the machines do rise, they will need an annual conference for networking, planning, and training. And the Resistance will need a series of events as well!

Who will be first to introduce an event for them?

 

 

One of these things is not like the others. | How to ensure your MC fits in

Some say that you learn all you need to know during kindergarten. If this is true, one of the biggest lessons for me was Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the others” segments.

In these segments, four items are shows; three are related to each other in some way, the fourth is not. Your job is to determine which is not like the others.

Part of what I enjoyed was also determining how the other three were related to each other.

Despite this early life lesson, and Sesame Street’s over 4,000 episodes since 1969, it seems some have still not applied this learning to the key moments at their events.

HiResI’m referring of course to the Host or Master of Ceremonies (MC) who is out of sync with the flow of the keynote, whose jokes are falling flat, and who is not like the others. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen it at least once. It makes us cringe, cover our eyes, or shake our heads in confusion.

Some feel an MC or host is essential for introducing presenters, covering housekeeping announcements, or making sure executives are not “reduced” to these chores. In some cases, the role is needed or the experience improved as a result of having one. But like comedy (an unfortunate place many MCs tend to go even in a serious keynote) hosting is not easy.

But an MC gone wrong can be far worse to the sense of Place, Purpose, and Pride than asking someone associated with the hosting organization or the audience to fill this role.

Another childhood experience may lend some guidance on how to make sure the MC does fit – the circus. The Ringmaster serves as the Master of Ceremonies at the circus, helping direct the attention of the audience from one stage/ring of the big tent to another, but they are much more.

Like the Ringmaster, MCs fit best when then they are:

Authentically Relevant and to the story and experience: Traditional circus Ringmaster have a big top with several performance areas (rings) where performances take place. Their relevance to the performances (and the audience) is to direct the audience’s attention to the right performance. Their creditability came from the fact that they are the leader of the circus – it’s performers, performances, and story.

Modern circuses like Cirque de Soleil still point the audience’s attention and string together the performances, but in a new form. They appear in the form of a character(s) more woven into the storyline, who interact with the audience and the story. They bridge the two. Their connection to the audience is increased by being part of the story as well as the audience’s guide.

Today’s new program hosts are different from anchors in the past who read the news. News hosts today are part of the storytelling, direct the discussions, and act as the “voice of the audience” in asking the questions the audience might if they could. Hosts at award ceremonies are often relevant as they are from the industry such as actors hosting the Oscars or Tony’s; journalists hosting a press core dinner; your parent’s hosting Thanksgiving.

If your host is not relevant to the story, the experience, or the organization putting on the event, they may not be a good fit.

Recognizable to the audience: The audience should be able to recognize the host – if not as an individual, as a persona or type.

It’s best for the audience to recognize the individual as they do when they tune into the favorite sporting event and hear the long time announcer. However, even in situations like a corporate event, there are ways to “introduce” the host prior to the event, and show their relevance to the audience.

Whether an outside professional MC, or an employee within an organization, using social media, videos, blogs, and other communication channels can position the individual as the host for the entire event rather than just for the MC for the keynotes or presentations. This also provides a connection to the event pre and post, using the same host as during the event.

Another method of speeding up recognition is to use a recognizable persona – like a news reported, industry analyst, or other recognizable (and relevent) type of person even if the specific individual is not well known. In most cases, audience don’t recognize the actual Ringmaster at the circus, but they recognize the persona of the Ringmaster.

If your host is not recognizable by the audience, they may not be a good fit.

Relatable: Finally, the audience needs to relate to the host or MC in order to feel they are representing their interests. The more “like” the audience, or the more creditable to the audience, the more the audience will “follow” them through the experience.

Part of what makes comedy funny is that you can “see” yourself or others in the humor. The same is true in an experience like a keynote. If you do not relate, you will likely tune (or actually walk) out. If the host is not relatable, it can make relating to the balance of the experience even harder.

And as mentioned above, comedy is a tactic many professional MCs use to be relevant and relatable to the audience. Not only is comedy difficult, but if the tone of the event is not comedic, it can result in the opposite of its objective – less relatable and less relevant.

If your host is not relatable to the audience, they may not be a good fit.

 

There are many ways to manage the housekeeping and announcing/introducing aspects of a keynote or event. Audio announcements, visuals on screen, pre-recorded videos, and more. Even the largest events such as sports, awards, and the recent political conventions use a combination of these tactics with or without a host.

However, a host who is Relevant, Recognizable, and Relatable can easily carry some of these duties with no issues. An MC who is not relevant, not recognizable, and/or not relatable will certainly make it feel like they don’t belong.

“Yes, And” – The Power to Ignite Groups and Leaders | Guest blog by Kelly Leonard from The Second City

Yes and Available Today

Rule number one in improvisation is that when you are tasked as a group to make something out of nothing, you can’t start with the word “no.” You also can’t simply say “yes.” To build something original as a team, you must begin with “Yes, And.”

Why?

Because great original work isn’t easy. In fact, it most often emanates from some discomfort. This can be a real physical discomfort that pushes us to innovate a better wine bottle opener or more comfortable mattress; or it can be a societal discomfort, how do we feed more people or how to we provide a better education for those without access to well equipped or well staffed schools.

These are all real world, tactical issues. But the fact is, most working human beings are part of teams and groups that are also tasked with some level of original thinking. New slogans, new software, new processes or new methods of employee engagement.

A “Yes, And” approach does a few things.

  • It speaks to an individual orientation of not only accepting someone else’s idea, but building on that idea – even if it might seem a bit crazy.
  • It also speaks to a group orientation, with broad participation and increased value on every contribution.
With those two orientations in place, it creates a greater abundance of ideas. With more ideas to choose from and positive reinforcement for all ideas – you can get to the best ideas more quickly and without shutting people out of the process.

In some ways, “Yes, And” makes “No” a whole lot easier.

Mind Map Team - IllustrationThe fact is, people are not practiced at working well in groups. Except for the occasional team building workshop, there is no group “warm up,” no group “practice” before we set off on our collective working day. This would seem unfathomable in sports. No team practice? You won’t win.

At Second City, we call our teams “ensembles.” And there’s a reason for this. The ensemble is an orientation, a guiding practice, a methodology that various individuals move in and out of all the time. Indeed, that means the ensemble changes – sometimes dramatically so – with each addition and subtraction. But the same “Yes, And” principles apply.

Here’s another thing about ensembles. We’ve all heard the adage that “we’re only as good as our weakest member.” We don’t buy that. We offer, instead, that “an ensemble is only as good as it’s ability to compensate for its weakest member.” In our world, the onus isn’t put back on the individual, it’s put back on the group. Because at any given time one of us will be the weakest member. And it’s at those crucial moments that great ensembles reveal themselves.

And what about leaders?

We have some thoughts on that as well. We were leading a workshop for The Spertus Institute in Chicago, covering some basic improv exercises. We began playing the game “Follow the Follower,” which is a silent game in which an individual is picked to be leader, and the rest of the group has to imitate their movements until the individual – in silence – successfully hands off leadership to another. The rest of the players need to keep keenly aware to recognize the new leader and begin following their lead.

Dr. Hal Lewis, who runs the center, pulled me aside and said, “You know you’re teaching Peter Drucker’s theories on management. This is all about a flat organizational structure.” I nodded in agreement and then went home and looked-up Peter Drucker. Hal was right.

There’s a great improv phrase, “All of us are better than one of us.” Great leaders know how to lead and how to follow. In Sydney Finkelstein’s terrific book, “SuperBosses,” he calls this kind of leadership, “hands on delegation.” Leadership operates in a dynamic that is decidedly non hierarchical in nature. Leadership is a practice, not a position. We’ve all seen amazing leaders who are nowhere near the top of the corporate food chain. Just as we have seen singularly terrible leaders who are running the show.

Our lab for understanding this work is about 60 years old. We’ve been actively beta-testing these theories in our classrooms and on our stages for decades. Just recently, we made the initiative to move from anecdote to actual. We are teaming with the Center for Decision Research (CDR) at the Booth School to test out our improvisational theories and practices with a broad swath of scientists and researchers.

I really like the language that we put in our proposal with the CDR: “This research initiative examines improvisation in a more expansive sense: as an elemental feature of human experience in an inescapably dynamic and social world…In essence, we can make it possible for people to practice being unpracticed, and thus to encounter life’s many such moments with greater courage, resilience, and success.”

Yes, And.

 

 

Editor’s note: Kelly Leonard has served in executive creative roles at The Second City in Chicago for nearly three decades. He has developed productions with such talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Keegan Michael Key, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell and more.

His book, “Yes, And: Lessons from The Second City” – about the seven elements used in improvisation and how these elements can be used in business to improve creativity and collaboration – was released by Harpercollins in 2015.

Kelly has presented at The Aspen Ideas Festival, TEDxBroadway, Chicago Ideas Week and The Wharton School of Business. He currently hosts the podcast, “Getting to Yes, And” which has featured conversations with Dan Pink, Christie Hefner, Mike Birbiglia and more.

He agreed to write a guest blog for Janus Dialogs for which he has our enduring gratitude.

 

 

 

 

The New Era of Silent Movies

In a short attention span, “I’m not listening”, world – communicators need to ensure that their visuals carry the story on their own when needed.

To address the “mute” button and multi-screen society, some of the best broadcast commercials have told moving stories without spoken words for years. Check out the Budweiser #bestbuds series with the sound off – still moving, emotional, universal, and effective.

Social media and streaming services now offer a preview of rich media in one’s social posts, but until your click to view, without sound. This is further changing how people engage with video and rich media, forcing creators to look for ways to capture attention and tell the story with visuals only; or in the best case scenario, solicit a click to view the content with sound.

to

Fortunately, there are lessons to learn from Silent Movies. The golden age of Silent Movies was the result of new technology (moving pictures) and the lack of technology (no real way to capture and sync sound as well). Stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Mildred Davis all rose in their craft by telling stories that captured the imaginations of the audience through their acting, visual techniques, and intertitles. An audio soundtrack was in some cases provided by an organ or piano in the theater, and added to, rather than carrying on its own, the storyline.

Adding simple subtitles and captioning can make the difference between a video that’s “silent ready” and one that isn’t. The BBC has a series called BBC Trending that does a nice job of using subtitles graphically and selectively. In contrast, KOMO News in the Seattle area posts “QuickCasts” on Facebook without captioning. Adding captions would immediately change the value and view-ability of these otherwise concise and relevant local news.

Using techniques from broadcast, commercials, and silent movie era – and lessons from live presentations such as graphics, charts, and animations to carry the story – the new era of silent movies has arrived. These tactics also benefit in reaching diverse audiences by allowing those with hearing disabilities to receive the message, and by using multiple languages, reaching a broader audience.

Some organizations are leading the new ear of silent movies. Robert Reich’s Big Picture series on MoveOn.org,

 

and Home Cooking Adventure

are good examples where silent movie techniques allow the message and information to be told with the sound off, or understood more when the audio is on. Unlike the mini-stories of broadcast commercials, both of these examples have specific details, information and actions, and both are part of series which is also not lost on the viewers.

So if you want to know just how “silent-ready” your rich media is, turn off the sound and see if your message is being communicated.

 

 

Seeing Around Corners – ECEF 2015 Keynote

Social norms, technology and the economy are under constant pressure.

Small but meaningful changes that have the potential to disrupt our plans are advancing every day. Like pressure on a fault line, they can release small tremors or become major earthquakes. From the decline of intermediaries to the growth in protests, the shocks will affect your event, your attendees, and your business.

How can you be ready for the inevitable and the unknown? At the Exhibit and Conference Executives Forum I shared my thoughts on a strategy I have used to help you anticipate the worst, while preparing for the best.

How Celebrities and Copy Cats create “Janus Moments”.

BlackSwans

The gift bag at the recent Emmys included tens of thousands of dollars worth of products, trips, samples, and more.

Product placement in movies and TV shows – whether subtle or more obvious – can expose a product to millions of people, and in a situation and use that is most positive to the brand.

Celebrity sponsorships – from sports to musicians to “constructed celebrities” like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians (a name that I just found out is in my spellcheck dictionary) – can have spectacular impact on the sponsoring company, just ask Nike how valuable their relationship with Michael Jordan is.

Even a 140 character tweet (paid or from the heart) from someone you follow can trigger the exploration and/or purchase of just about anything. Or, in a less material slant, support of a cause or individual.

What all of these tactics have in common is the power of influence. More and more, what your friends – real or “I know we’d be BFFs if we ever met” – feel, think, know, or do influences what you feel, think, know, or do.

And it can cut both ways.

A simple comment about what’s wrong with a product, how the experience went bad, or even a whimsical slam can have a negative impact to the same degree as the positive.

This type of influence is not exclusive to purchases or opinions. It can, and does, expand to culture and actions of other kinds.

Researchers looking to explain suicide clusters – an abnormal number of suicides in a given community or area – found that the actions of an individual or two can trigger a “copycat syndrome” where others who may have never truly contemplated suicide are drawn to do so.

AMPS TweetThe speed at which a single incident can become a more common occurrence is something to watch carefully and be conscious of. In the one month after Marilyn Monroe’s suicide there were 200 more suicides than average. This is part of the reason that there was criticism of the way some looked to celebrate Robin Williams at the time of his suicide.

A “flywheel” effect can take place, where the energy from a small beginning builds on itself to become much bigger. The phenomenon of “flash crashes” in financial markets issimilar – where one action triggers an ever-building set of actions, often computer trades based on specific price or data levels.

This increasing speed, influence, and reach – both good and bad – is one way that the fringe or Black Swans (something unthinkable because it’s never been seen, but none the less is very real) have Janus Moments and become the norm.

 

 

No Respect, No Service

The famous ad – “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – is successful both in it catchiness and truism: in Las Vegas you can let your hair down and behave in ways you may want to forget. Given Vegas’ place as a center for conferences and trade shows, the reference is certainly not just to personal visits, but to event attendees as well.

num5_mThe events environment – not just in Las Vegas – has for some people offered an opportunity to act in ways different from how they might at their grandparent’s dinner table. At one product launch, not only did organizers need to ensure the audience didn’t “overly interact” with the band members (and vise-verse), a crew member was locked out of his room while dressed in women’s clothing, and two marriages resulted from the 4 days on site.

Mostly innocent, antics such as these were referred to as “road rules”, even before the popular MTV show of the same name.

Now a new trend is emerging that attempts to put restraints and context to the more extreme and disruptive of this behavior. With an increased awareness, and declining social acceptance, of any behavior that is harassing or disrespectful, event hosts and organizers are publishing Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment statements.

Not totally new – codes of conduct have been common at internal events and as reminders of employee everyday codes of conduct – these policies and statements are becoming more common at external and 3rd party programs. Also new is they are now more prominent including as posted reminders at the venue and in the show guide, not just as part of the registration and confirmation micro type.

comicon code_editAt their core, the Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Statements outline the consequences (mostly being asked to stop, or being removed from the event) for engaging in unacceptable and/or harassing behavior. Many are short, sweet, and to the point appearing to have been written by legal. Others are page long documents (seemingly written by PR) in a more casual voice that address the need more directly, and contain long lists of (interesting) reasons people harass each other.

For instance, the DreamForce Code of Conduct contains over 700 words, and a list of 13 specific “unacceptable behavior”, while “Conduct” in Apple’s WWDC online details, contained a total of 77 words.

Google’s Anti-Harassment Policy starts: Why do we have an official anti-harassment policy for Google events? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at events is incredibly common.”

And the Conference Code of Conduct includes a list containing:gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof).”

A discussion around the need for such policies, much less their increased prominence, quickly becomes heated and passionate. Some argue (correctly) that the vast majority of events already manage such incidents quickly, privately, and in much the way the Code of Conduct states, so what’s changed? Others ask if there is truly a need for the event to play such a “parental” role or if the parties involved should be left to manage the issue as if it occurred on the public street instead of at the event.

The conclusion, by a growing number of events, is that they do have a responsibility, and an active role, in creating and ensuring a harassment free experience at their events.

 

 

 

Note: Microsoft’s Code of Conduct states:

Microsoft mission is to empower every person and every business on the planet to achieve more. This includes at [EVENT] where we seek to create a respectful, friendly, and inclusive experience for all participants.

As such, we do not tolerate harassing or disrespectful behavior, messages, images, or interactions by any event participant, in any form, at any aspect of the program including business and social activities, regardless of location.

We encourage everyone to assist in creating a welcoming and safe environment. Please report any concerns, harassing behavior, suspicious or disruptive activity to the nearest security guard or show staff.

Microsoft reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person from [event name] at any time in its sole discretion.

 

 

 

Five Remedies for the Four Horsemen

num5_mForgive the religious (and gender specific) overtones of the Four Horsemen, but challenges at events – from small to apocalyptic – are as much a reality as they can be epic. From the simplest of misbehavior, to the more significant of world changing events, it is the overcoming of a wide variety of challenge that the old event professionals talk about over beers, usually at an airport bar somewhere between flights.

Fortunately there are five counter forces that you can, and should, have at your disposal for moments such as these. These are:

  • Human Relations
  • Public Relations
  • Legal
  • Travel
  • Security

These day to day mild mannered teams can yield amazing power separately or together. For instance, when a highly contagious (but very common) disease broke out at one event, the PR and communications elements were critical for the media as well as all participants including crew, attendees, and others. Great advice from the PR team countered the initial “instinctive” reaction allowing for more thought to go into other fronts including extended hotels for those effected (travel), and sourcing replacement crew for the balance of the event (HR).

At one event, a hired professional moderator made an off the cuff comment that offended members of the audience, including an employee of the host company. A thirty-minute call later and all details from finding a replacement moderator, to contractual, to press management, to employee relations, to booking the moderators flight home were handled. In some organizations, it could take thirty minutes just to reach the right parties, and bring them up to speed on the context.

To get the most out of these powerful five it’s advisable to:

  • Know your contacts: Ensure before going on site that you have an assigned contact from each team who is available and willing to take you calls at any time.
  • Make sure they can make decisions: Given the possible time pressure associated with the decisions, make sure the contacts are empowered to make a decision, accept/reject your recommendations, and action it. Nothing is more frustrating and potentially harmful than “let me escalate this” while Rome is burning.
  • Prep them and yourself: Ensure that you have prepped these teams on the scope and scale of the event, audience make up, objectives, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out: Take the time to reach out to the full group, even if you don’t believe that they are all needed. It’s better to have them all know what is happening than to catch up later.
  • TALK, don’t email: Get on a call (or Skype) together. There are often interlacing issues, interdependent decisions, and the value of active brainstorming that an email thread can’t recreate.

As the old saying goes “plan for the worse, hope for the best”. With these five areas of expertise at your fingertips, you’ve got a leg up on the planning side of things.

The only thing we have in common is that we are all different.

In live marketing such as tradeshows, events, conferences, etc., feeling welcomed and being included is critical. It can mean the difference between having the broadest impact, or not; having relevant experiences and receiving the right content, or not; and most importantly, walking away with a positive impression, or not.

iStock_000001568739smallerDiversity – The aspects of diversity people are most attuned to are those apparent to their eyes and ears, or which are in the headlines: gender, skin color, national origin, sexual identity and preference. But there are many facets that make us who we are and it is important that we think broadly and also consider less-apparent traits such as life experience and heritage when planning events.

People are also diverse in physical capabilities or needs – for example sight, hearing, or mobility challenges. These may be temporary or permanent – think of accommodations that would be appreciated by an audience member with a broken leg or one who is pregnant.

Diversity is also evidenced in beliefs and backgrounds – a person may have religiously-motivated needs or assumptions based on political views, educational focus and accomplishment, or socio-economic upbringing or current status.

Diversity is good, and in more ways than may be apparent. In scientific and social disciplines, bio-diversity leads to better outcomes. In metal-working, mixing multiple raw materials creates stronger or more pliable composites. For investors, diversifying financial holdings reduces risk and increase yield. In civil society, consider a 1978 decision by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell (Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke), in which he contended that the “future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this nation of many peoples.”

 

iStock_000035156314small

Inclusion – Inclusion is the intentional response to diversity. Organizations should plan, structure, design, and execute events to ensure all audiences are welcomed and accommodated. Planners can make logistical, environmental, and other decisions to make audiences comfortable and eliminate any elements that are intentionally or inadvertently dismissive or exclusionary.

Customers and partners are sure to be as diverse as the world they come from – around the globe and from all cross-sections of the population – and will respond best to being surrounded by a diverse crowd, to recognizing those who “are like them,” and to feeling included by all event elements – especially those that recognize and respect their particular diversities.

Inclusion exemplifies “Yes. And…” thinking. Yes, inclusion is right for moral reasons. And, inclusion has direct business impact. The more people who feel included in the experiences, messages, communications, marketing – the more potential customers there are.

An example: shops in ancient Roman forums often had mosaics depicting the commerce taking place within – fish for a fishmonger or a ship for a sail-maker – because not all locals could read and many foreign visitors did not speak the language. Merchants using just the written word would have cut off much of their potential market. While illiteracy is not likely to be a problem at events today, the lesson remains – recognizing diversity through inclusion can drive increased business.

Companies and organizations big enough to host conferences are likely to have corporate diversity policies and event professionals’ efforts should begin there. This could include partnering with human resources teams where diversity plays a critical role in recruitment and retention of employees, and where a broad and inclusive workforce has benefits in building relationships with partners and customers.

 

Event Planning – From the time planning begins, an inclusionary mindset can help reach the broadest audience. Even setting event dates can benefit from sensitivity to the diversity of the audience – for example, planners in the U.S. think to plan around majority religious events like Easter or Christmas, or national milestones like the Fourth of July. It’s equally respectful to note other cultures’ or religions’ significant dates such as the Jewish High Holy Days or Ramadan for Muslims.

Bring diverse voices into the planning process. This could mean including other business groups to create a more compelling agenda, or reviewing event plans with representatives from key gender, race, and cultural groups to add details and avoid pitfalls that a less diverse team might miss.

Recruit a diverse speaker base – speakers can include employees, customers, partners, industry experts, specialists from other industries, even celebrities.

The same considerations apply to third-party events. Booths, side-rooms for meetings, and any sponsored activities should be accessible and inclusive, and on-site staff should represent the diversity of our company and customers.

 

Event Logistics – From working with caterers to address the array of food options available today – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, halal, and more – to designating and outfitting new mothers’ rooms or prayer rooms, there are many ways to make an audience feel respected and included.

Diverse conference greeters can smile warmly and say “good day” to everyone, while aiding to those who may need it without drawing undue attention.

Arranging services for attendees with hearing, vision, or mobility challenges is now standard and many service providers exist to help. This may include arranging ability-aware lodging options for these attendees, and transportation options that take this into account. Clear signage and wide hallways clear of clutter will be appreciated not only by those of different abilities, but all attendees.

Even taxonomy can play a role. A recent conference in the southern U.S. offered a themed evening for which all attendees were asked to wear white, and it was billed as the “All White Party.” More thought might have led to a more sensitive and inclusionary name such as “Wear White Party” or another theme entirely.

 

Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Marketing Events and Production Studios.

MPI World Education Congress 2014 | Closing General Session

The Closing General Session at MPI World Education Congress 2014 featured Scott Schenker, the General Manager, Events and Production Studio at Microsoft and Founder of Janus Dialogs.

Scott believes there is magic in discovery and innovation. However the process of innovating is not magical – it comes from observing what others are doing, tapping the collective imaginations of empowered and engaged individuals, and embracing the fringe for new norms.

Developing a habit of appreciating, understanding, and being energized by these new norms – rather than fearing or dismissing them – has been one of Scott’s key to success in the Events industry.

Scott will share insights on how he approaches innovation, searches for new ideas, and “borrows” them from completely different industries to introduce them into the events he and his team organize. He will explore the four reasons for, and the four types of, innovation as well as the importance of looking at social, political, and economic realms, and the bright and shiny technical innovations.

 

Demystifying the Big Buzzwords In Events | BizBash LA

Posted August 4, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT by BizBash

At the Event Innovation Forum in Los Angeles, Scott Schenker examined some of the latest buzzwords the event and meeting industry is obsessed with.

These days it seems the event and meeting industry is obsessed with a constant stream of new buzzwords. But are they really as original as they seem? Do bright and shiny ideas blind us to the lessons—and the smart practices—of the past? At the Event Innovation Forum—Los Angeles on June 19, Scott Schenker, Microsoft’s general manager of worldwide events and Microsoft Production Studios, discussed concepts like selfies and gamification, exploring their origins to discover the core lessons they offer planners and marketers now—and how the industry should really look at innovation.

 

Areas of Agreement

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Unity and alignment are powerful forces, and when they can be harnessed they can drive great accomplishment.

I think about a personal collection I am very proud of, a set of posters from the Second World War, posters made by, in part, my grandfather who was the creative lead of the Sheldon-Claire Agency at that time. They were made to encourage participation in the war effort, and each instills an emotional connection, elicits a personal commitment, and builds energy to achieve the goals of the times.

We are not at war, and the stakes are not as high.

Yet, despite being 70 years old and related to a heavy topic, the posters used techniques similar to what we use today in modern marketing. For instance, they are short and sharable (almost tweet-able), use engaging story-telling methods, and each has compelling imagery to resonate with the audience.

WP_20140703_14_12_42_Raw (3)One series is entirely devoted to “This is America…Keep It Free.” These purposeful images and messages created a vision of what was at stake, clearly defining the problem and how to solve it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WP_20140703_14_11_56_Raw (2)Another “The American Way Works” reminded the reader of what it was that made America unique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WP_20140703_14_12_04_Raw (2)Another, with a more direct call to action, showed the impact and significance of the reader’s work as they “Produce for Victory”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most important, all focus around “areas of agreement” that everyone – from labor to management, men and women, different ages, races, and backgrounds – could identify and agree with. This was very intentional; developed to make everyone feel part of the effort; to represent the collective that America is; and start from an undeniable place of unquestioned agreement.

A common ground was important then, and it is important today. As any team works to deliver a multi-faceted, multi-objective, and multi-stakeholder experience, there will be times where not all agree on all aspects of the undertaking. But there will always be “areas of agreement” from which they can work.

Look for, develop, and start from these “areas of agreement”. It is from these that conversation, consensus, and cooperation can grow; that alignment can be realized; and impactful experience marketing achieved.

Maximizing Space

spaceNew ways of thinking about conference flow and design are disrupting old formulas about how to locate and lay out large events. That disruption begins with the first question, which evolves from “how much space do we need?” to “how little space could we do this in?” It’s a question that carries a surprising amount of upside for the audience experience.

Making better use of space can open a broader choice of venues in more desirable locations. It minimizes sprawling, confusing layouts and sprints between far-flung breakout sessions. Efficient space design in more compelling and convenient locations spells opportunity for event marketers. We can create higher-value experiences for target audiences, and to reach them in places they want to be. Space-constrained (but otherwise desirable) venues can more than make up for their limitations with efficiency and savings downstream.

Creative event organizers can take a page from the microhousing trends in large cities around the globe, where demand outstrips capacity and the price per square foot is skyrocketing. Microhousing often showcases ingenious architectural design with convertible spaces that result in a liveable 250-square foot apartment with many of the amenities expected in larger units.

MicrohouseIf the same dollar buys 10,000 square feet in Las Vegas, or 5,000 square feet in Seattle or New York, conventional wisdom sends many large-scale events to Las Vegas by default. This has, over time, been a recipe for wasted space. Registration areas get used once and then sit empty, or a keynote room remains dark from after opening session until the closing party.

Every live gathering encounters a set of fixed assets: money, space, and time. A lot of creativity and strategic thinking goes into how monies are allocated across an event, to get the biggest return on dollars invested. Time is also carefully spent: a tremendous amount of attention goes into building an agenda that will be attractive and relevant to attendees. But room configurations and function spaces tend to play out along the same old inefficient patterns. New ideas often run into legacy, resistance, and budget challenges right out the gate.

Space maximization is an objective that needs to be established at the outset of the event plan, and everyone—technical directors, set designers, producers, logistics team, etc.—must be committed to designing a versatile, multi-purpose space.

A classic example of reusable (and often wasted) space is the keynote hall. With proper planning in advance for rigging and a/v design, it’s feasible to turn the hall, immediately after a keynote, into three or four large breakout rooms. Another example is the lunch area, often a large, generic banquet room. An alternative is to create ad hoc gathering spots throughout the venue to allow more flexible, configurable dining areas.

Registration is another chronically underutilized area, after the critical mass has moved through badge pickup.

Partner showcases often end up being dead zones at certain times outside a welcome reception or the lunch hour. These can be turned into higher-value centers of interest and activity by locating social and online media broadcast studios or a series of satellite stages in the space. With proper acoustical considerations and screen placement, content can be piped onto the showcase floor, and generated there, to encourage traffic and discovery. At the most recent Microsoft Build conference, the expo was located throughout the venue in high-volume hallways, eliminating the need for a dedicated space and ensuring good exposure throughout the event.

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A high-impact example of bringing interest to the exhibitor floor helped SAP event organizers address space challenges for the growing SAPPHIRE NOW conference. They combined the keynote and exhibit spaces, eliminating the conventional keynote hall altogether. They created a theater space open to the show floor with seating for six thousand and an 80-foot stage. Not only did they recapture most of the square footage normally consumed by a keynote hall; they also created a more inclusive environment for partners and exhibitors. And the conference was able to accommodate meaningful growth without changing venues.

Reinventing the approach to venue layout—room configurations, keynote capacity, and functional areas (registration, meals)—can open new options for event organizers and audiences. A smarter approach to space utilization saves time, dollars and shoe leather, and is another way to build value into the conference experience overall.

 

Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Marketing Events and Production Studios.

Plus Pass: Increase Interest and Value with Unique Experiences and Limited Packages.

package

Across diverse industries, customers eagerly embracing upgrades that offer increased convenience, are more personal, are viewed as more valuable, and offer access to exclusive activities.

Audiences will naturally gravitate toward activities and enhancements that are most relevant to them.

Everyone wins when attendees can craft their conference experience in ways that excite and captivate them.

Taking a page from the travel, retail, and entertainment industries, tradeshow and conference organizers are improving attendee experiences with exclusive offers, upgrades, and value packages. They are inventing new, more enjoyable ways to engage audiences, while at the same time increasing revenue and improving attendance satisfaction.

 

Package vs. à la Carte: Which Model Works Best? There are two main approaches to up-level the attendee experience:

  • Package a collection of high-value offers into a premium single price offer.
  • Allow attendees to pick and choose the offers most important to them with à la carte pricing.

concertConcert organizers, entertainment industry conferences, and theme parks find success in the “packaged” route. Live Nation, for example, creates “experience packages” for their headline concerts. Customers buying tickets for the Justin Timberlake concert had the option to purchase the Perfect Vision Tour, Perfect Vision Party, or 20/20 VIP Bar & Lounge package. Each level offered a unique experience, increased convenience, special access, and merchandise.

Offering packages like these creates high value for concertgoers and provides an opportunity to increase the average ticket price for a show or an event. For the recent Rolling Stones 50 and Counting tour, the show was staged in smaller venues compared to previous tours–but thanks to various VIP packages, the average ticket price jumped from $50 a show to $250 a show. And, production costs were reduced because of the smaller venues.

Universal Orlando Resort and Parks offer consumers the star treatment with custom tours, private entrances, and expedited services for varying days and parks.

The alternate approach is to offer guests à la carte options based on what is of highest value to them, and at times as “in the moment” decisions. Movie theaters pioneered this trend many years ago, increasing their profit by offering concessions to go along with the movie. This innovation is expanding in the modern day to include full menus and professional chefs.

The travel industry has taken this model to a new level, focusing on what matters most to the traveler and developing a wide range of add-ons to meet those needs and desires.

Hawaiian Airlines, for example, offers travelers the opportunity to pre-order inflight amenities such as premium meals, Made-In Hawaii snacks, or tablet entertainment systems before boarding their flights.

Delta_Air_Lines_-_N365NW_(8351131571)Delta recently gave its flight attendants wireless devices allowing them to sell passengers last-second seat upgrades and more on the plane. And Jet-Blue is bridging the packaged and á la carte experience upgrade by announcing the new Mint Experience, which, for a single fee, offers travelers a private suite on the plane plus tapas-style dining and plush amenity kit.

Total airline revenue generated by these ancillary fees skyrocketed from $2.45 billion in 2007 to $27.1 billion in 2012. In fact, a full 14% of United Airlines’ revenue comes from these fees, with passengers spending, on average, an additional $38.11 on extras.

 

Putting the Right Offers Together What value attendees put on premium offers is largely dependent on the degree to which relevance comes into play. What is relevant or valued by one attendee may not be for another.

Customization can address the relevance, and can be based on a variety of factors—job title or level, content interest, geographical location, even gaming platform preference.

Some may value a convenience pass that includes express registration lines, preferred keynote seating, or a preferred hotel block at the hotel nearest to the convention center. Others may choose increased networking opportunities such as private meeting room access or a lunch with well know industry representative.

Here again, the travel industry offers a model. They segment offers by trip type (spa offers for leisure travelers, extra Internet bandwidth for business travelers), location (packages that include fine dining for Las Vegas or NYC trips), and status (executive room upgrades only for non-Gold or Diamond members.)

Cross-promotion with sponsors and partners can extend the value of these packages even further. There are valuable opportunities for partners to increase awareness of the partners’ products or offerings by making special offers or activities available that further highlight the value and relevance to key audiences.

 

Limited Availability

Limited red grunge vintage seal isolated on whiteOnce a relevant upgrade package has been developed, an important aspect is its limited availability. In most cases, limiting the availability (due to limited resources or by design) increases the interest, perceived value, and urgency to purchase. The result is a shift from the purely economic value and an “I can get it any time”, to an “I want that so I should act soon” mind-set.

The legacy price based approach of offering “early bird” pricing to attendees can be offset by the availability of a series of highly valued packages available for a limited time or in limited quantity. This contributes to an increase in interest without needing to discount, and in increase in average attendee revenue without the need to raise prices for everyone.

 

Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Marketing Events and Production Studios    .

The P’s of Event Marketing

Event teams can adopt a classic marketing model to focus efforts and achieve their objectives.

In early 2013, Harvard Business Review posted an article titled, “Rethinking the Four P’s” suggesting that the classic marketing mix model1 (product, place, price, and promotion) should be retooled to better address the needs of B2B marketers. The article was based on a five-year study of more than 500 B2B marketers worldwide, and suggested a model that explicitly emphasized more “current” commodities such as solutions and value.

4p_smallThe “Four P’s” durability over time is arguably due not to its rigidity, but to its flexibility. It often expands to six or more P’s, folding in such concepts as people, packaging, positioning, process, performance…the list goes on.

The “P’s of Event Marketing” defines parameters that can be used to ensure that all aspects of event strategy, experience design, and execution support core marketing objectives and are aligned with broader marketing strategies.

The P’s of Event Marketing include the following elements: Place, Purpose, Pride, and Promotion. At a glance, these may seem more similar to the original Four P’s of Marketing than they actually are.

Sense of Place –  sense of place for an event marketer is not about geography or venue. It’s about “owning” the space as if it was yours, your office or your “home”. When the audience arrives do they get the feeling that this is your place or just a venue you rented that you will be leaving soon? Does it feel like an executive visitor center, your ideal game room, your best research facility, or lobby to your global headquarters? Is it unique, organized, and special? It should be.

In designing a live event, you need to craft a place for experiences, conversation, information sharing, influence, and dialog that is worth the time your audience will carve out to participate. This may sound slightly esoteric, but it just might be the “secret sauce” that makes live events such an effective and desired component of the marketing mix.

The objective is to ensure that the question “Where am I?” is answered firmly with “at ____”, not just with “at a _____ Event”, or worse “a conference”.

A Clear Purpose – A sense of purpose, not generically but with regard to serving defined audience segments, is an important criteria for attracting attendees and delivering an experience that resonates. It is critical to understand Purpose in terms of what strategic marketing initiative an event needs to support (lead generation, product awareness, perception change, revenue generation, community.)

It is equally important to design the experience with a sense of purpose tailored to each audience member, with the increased levels of personalization and participation that event audiences have come to expect.

Purpose can – and should – change over the course of the event – from initial awareness to considering a purchase; from arriving to learning to departing – so the purpose may need to change over time as well. Different messages entering and leaving, on day one to day last.

 

pridePride – Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising, and nothing says “You don’t need to care” more than saying “I don’t care.” The pride and passion of the host needs to shine from every corner and mountain top. How the temp staff greets the audience, how the cables are laid and how clean the venue is, how fast the social media comments are responded to. Pride is contagious, as is the lack of it, and as events are one of the most engaging live experiences the audience may have with a Brand, they need to feel the pride.

 

Cross Promotion – Traditional B2B marketing has evolved to a more Person-to-Person approach, a truism has emerged – inside every commercial business or technical decision maker is a consumer. Further, consumers are often fans of the products they buy, a state of engagement those who market to commercial buyers should look to achieve.

The art is in the mix of primary and secondary message, ensuring that the reasons the audience is participating are meet, and adding some unexpected, relevant cross promotions.

 

Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Global Events and Production Studios team.

The Secret Sauce – Fans

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Who will stand in line for hours to buy the latest device or see opening night; invest their time and money to be part of the experience; or support what they believe in to boundless levels?

A fan will.

Sport teams, entertainers, and even politicians have known the power of fans for years – they bring a level of engagement, loyalty, and advocacy that transcends that of a simple supporter, customer, or attendee. They bring a sense of community and excitement that can be contagious. Fans embody the best of the “after I buy” side of consideration. This is why corporations sponsor stadiums, events, and products; why consumer marketers celebrate fans and the role of loyalty programs such as frequent flyers and fan clubs.

Experience Marketing” highlights the experience that a loyal customer or fan has. But there is room in the Event and Sampling areas of Experiential Marketing to incorporate fans as well.

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BMW developed an “Owners’ Lounge” on the second level of their booth at several Auto Shows. Presenting your BMW car key gave you access to the second story, and literally the opportunity to “look down” on all the other car brands at the show. Seemingly at odds with the traditional objective of a tradeshow booth (leads and awareness/interest building) they segmented the owners from the prospects, allowing for separate but equally relevant experiences while also celebrating the owners in a way that inspired prospects to join their ranks. They also moved customers to fans by recognizing and celebrating them.

Far too often the loyalty and advocacy side of the sales continuum is forsaken during prospecting and awareness activities. Making fans a central part of your audience, content, and experience planning can change your perspective for the better. Successful Fan Strategies should include:

  • Identifying your Fans – Everyone has fans. Some maybe more obvious than others, but even the driest of products and services have a segment of buyers/users who are more avid than others. If you truly don’t, consider shutting your doors or (better yet) developing your fan base.
  • Empower them – Who better to amplify your messages than your fans? They can share content, access, and unique experiences.
  • Incorporating them – Include them in content and event activities as more than case studies and endorsements. Let them host their own tracks, content, and online channels. They are likely doing it anyway.
  • Engage with them – Take lessons from musicians who literally bring fans on stage to perform or simply dance. Let them be more than a reference, let them be excited and exciting!
  • Celebrate them – Via social media, recognition programs, and experience marketing activities.

As with all experiential marketing, the objective of the program needs to remain clear – is the event the business; or should it drive the business of the host organization? If the event is being used to drive the business of the host, then fans of the host are more important than fans of the event.  They are BMW fans, not fans of the auto show. A User’s Group or Owner’s Lounge celebrates loyalty to the business, whereas Alumni Lounges and Badges celebrate loyalty to the event.

 

Experiential Marketing – “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it”

In the later decades of the 20th century a new term arose from the board rooms of Madison Avenue to the halls of convention centers around the world – “Experiential Marketing.” Given the diverse elements and definitions of marketing itself (see here), adding a word such as experiential wasn’t very clarifying.

Clarity wasn’t the objective – differentiation was. Firms quickly began carving out their space with new mission statements, tag lines, and offerings. This was accelerated by the arrival of digital, online, interactive, and social technologies which were truly disrupting marketing, and changing the conversation with target audiences – much more than “experiential” was.

So what types of live marketing are there?

2013 SAP SAPPHIRE NOW1st and 3rd Party Events – The “classic” and most visible, events are a one to many, owned (hosted) or paid (sponsored) activity. Think conference, tradeshow, sponsorship, etc. Much of the content is presented in keynotes, breakouts, labs, conversations among groups, and the networking that occurs. Brought “online” in the late 1990’s, events remain roughly the same. Just look at the traditional metrics: reach, satisfaction, leads, and impact on executive egos.

sample“Sampling”, “Demos”, or “Promotions” – A 1:1 or one to few owned (hosted) experience – repeated. Sampling is a more personal, flexible, and repeated experience. The rise of “viral”, and “street” marketing changed the experience from handing out a sample of a product, to experiencing the brand in a broader sense. But at the end of the day, it is the opportunity to sample an item that distinguishes this category. At a 1st or 3rd party event, sampling may come in the form of a demo, trial, or private “preview”. In any case, there is an earned element if the experience is shared by the participant via PR or social.

experienceExperience Marketing – the newest and most “experiential marketing” in nature, is a paid (if not in compensation or sponsorship, in exchange of some value) and earned (those willing to share their stories) activity that markets or promotes an experience someone had, often designed to amplify the user’s emotions, endorsement, or showcase the value of the product. Skype does this very well with a series of promotional videos showing how a family portrait can be taken “virtually” and in real time using their product.

All of these share common elements such as:

  • They use social media and online strategies to amplify and interact
  • They are live, and often a moment in time
  • Collectively they represent a significant investment for many companies, consumer and commercially focused
  • There is some level of media or production included

ice2And certainly they have many elements that are unique, which is why some view experiential marketing as one might “transportation”, covering a broad range of activities that deliver a similar outcome (engaging with a target audience in some “live” way or with an experience for “experiential”; getting from point A to point B for “transportation”). Others seem to see it as very specific, as specific as Formula One or an Ice Skate might be to “transportation”.

Regardless of how they are categorized, experiential marketing should be a business driving activity. However, it’s important to know clearly what business they are driving – the business of the experience, or the hosting organization? Look to where financial success is measured to make this determination – if the P&L is the bar, then the business is the experience; if the ROI is the bar, then it is the hosting organization’s business that is the driver.

 

Presentation at CEMA Summit 2013 | “Be a Fool – Innovate”

In July of 2013 I had the honor to present “Be a Fool – Innovate” at the CEMA Summit 2013. That presentation is below.

 

 

Be a Fool – Innovate

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It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Everything changes and nothing remains still… you cannot step twice into the same stream.

Heraclitus

 

These two perspectives on change paint a very accurate picture of the challenges faced daily by experience marketers and event producers. Change is difficult, and yet it is constant.

We see it all the time in the simplest of things. The final version of a deck, an idea, or a business plan is released after weeks of work, only to be revised the next day. This is not the result of the plan being incomplete or the developer incompetent, but of the constant state of change we live in.

For annual events and repeating experiences, the constant state of change is a challenging force on both maintaining legacy expectations and determining when to introduce new concepts and experiences.

For instance, “bright shiny objects” come and go. They either incorporate themselves into the “norm” of events, or burn out and fade away. Sustainability, for example, has become a normal and included part of most programs. Audience Response Systems (once the technology that would change the world) not so much.

Surviving or not, rarely is an emerging trend so unique that over time it continues to require the same separation and specialty that it enjoyed in its early days.

Currently “virtual” events and social media are such items – connecting to, but not fully integrating with, the in-person experience and living for the moment of the event rather than always on in full support of the core objectives.

Often target audiences are audiences all the time while they are attendees for only a short time. They visit the company web site regularly, so why have a separate site just for the event? They come to your primary social media channels, so why additional channels to monitor just for the event?

The degree to which measurement is effected by change is in direct correlation to the amount of time that has passed. This is one reason comparing results of a program to the prior year is far less accurate than comparing them to a pre-event base line. It is hard (at best) to isolate the impact of other influences and changes on the audience over the past year. It is much easier to understand the impact over the few days of the experience.

 

It is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is but the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our business people, our every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.

Isaac Asimov

 

So the weight of planning should be more firmly on the front foot than the back. History and legacy, while important and at times more comfortable, can set boundaries and barriers that at best prevent full response to a current reality, and at worst anchor the experience in the past.

No, this is not easy.

There is a delicate balance and finesse required to introduce new ideas while maintaining and learning from history.

Placing priority on

  • clear objectives rather than lessons learned,
  • experience design rather than improving tactics,
  • the audience’s needs rather than the hosts,

will all point in the right direction.

By placing the objective, experience, and audience first, the question moves from “what to do” to “how to get it done”. Answer the question “what relevant problem am I solving?” This is where the magic occurs and obstacles become opportunities.This is the job of the experience “janitor” or event caretaker.

 

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.

Daniel Burnham

 

In May of 1893 – a short 22 years after the great Chicago fire destroyed much of the city, the Chicago World’s Fair opened and ran for 6 months. It was anything but a small plan.

CWFAmong its amazing accomplishments was its 25 million visitors, at a time when the population of the US was only 100 million. Mr. Burnham had envisioned a city of all white buildings lit with – at the time – an uncommon sight, outdoor lighting.

To complete in time what was to become known as the White City, he needed to remove the obstacle that painting the roughly 100 buildings presented. The traditional method of brushes and buckets weren’t fast enough, so rather than change the experience and the design, he challenged his crews to develop something new.

And they did. The result was spray painting. This new technology directly allowed the vision to be realized and changed the world at the same time.

 

82 years later survival drove another world changing innovation.

kissThe rock band KISS, whose live performances drew thousands of avid fans, was unable to replicate their magic in the studio. Yet albums were needed to reach more fans. They just weren’t as exciting in the studio as on stage.

So on May 16, 1975 12,000 fans gathered at Cobo Hall in Detroit to see KISS in concert. The performance was recorded live for an album called “Alive!”

At that time, live recordings were considered an “illegitimate” method of producing an album and usually only done to fulfill record contracts. “Alive!” went on to sell 9,000,000 copies making it KISS’s number one album of all times, and rocketing the band to worldwide fame and fortune.

To many, the album’s ability to capture the concert and live performance experience, as well as the music and words, was what made it so magical.

 

The best way to predict your future is to create it!

Abraham Lincoln

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay

 

Even when the solution appears as obvious as spray painting was for Daniel Burnham, or a live album was for KISS, it can still be hard to introduce something new, much less get it accepted.

New technologies are a bit easier, as they tend to bring their own “magic” with them. The first moving pictures show and the first Ferris Wheel both débuted at the Chicago World’s Fair and were the bright shiny objects of their time, quickly drawing audiences and interest.

It’s important to remember that in both cases there was an objective, experience, or audience at the core of the innovation.

muybridgehorseThe first moving pictures taken by Eadweard Muybridge in 1872 were to resolve a popular debate of the day – Leland Stanford (governor of CA and founder of Stanford University) wanted to determine whether all four feet of a horse were ever off the ground at the same time while trotting. Muybridge’s moving images proved they were.

ferrisGeorge Ferris built the original Ferris Wheel, as the centerpiece of the Chicago World’s Fair to rival the experience and attraction of the 1889 Paris Exposition’s Eiffel Tower; the Ferris Wheel was the Fair’s largest attraction and lives to this day.

 

New ideas are much harder to introduce.

Machiavelli goes on to say:

 

Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

Niccolò Machiavelli

 

The vested interests of “those who have done well under the old conditions” will run deep and strong. They can appear overwhelming and impossible and will take familiar forms.

 

The first is the Laws of Science. The “it can’t be done.”

This may appear related more to technology than ideas, but it is really an attempt to reject an idea using an often unfounded scientific argument. Yet when coming from the mouth of authority, it can be difficult to challenge.

Thomas Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’theory of evolution, and the person to coin the term agnostic, said “Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.”

Ask Darwin, da Vinci, Galileo, Kiss, and others who brought new ideas to bear. Even Machiavelli’s book The Prince was banned by the Catholic Church and placed on the list of prohibited books.

 

The second way “those who have done well under the old conditions” will resist is the Laws of Legacy. The “it has never been done before.” This is often the most dangerous law, as legacy is the greatest weight on innovation.

As deciding not to decide is a decision, given that the world is constantly changing, legacy equates to “going backwards” while standing still.

John Locke said, “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”

 

The final way “those who have done well under the old conditions” will resist is the Laws of Society. The “it isn’t allowed.” These often appear as an attempt to stop an idea when other barriers have failed. They can be “laws”, or mandates, policies, etc.

For example, recently The New York State Automobile Dealers Association pressed for the New York legislature to pass a law preventing the sale of automobiles directly from the manufacture. All cars would have to be sold via a dealership.

As Tesla is the only direct to consumer car company of significance at this time, this was labelled the “Anti-Tesla” Bill. This was really less about Tesla and the idea of electric cars, and more about the idea of direct sales. The bill failed and Tesla continues to move forward with this new and disruptive idea.

Resistance will not always come easy to recognize, or in this order. Nor is answering each a requirement to innovation.

 

Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.

Samuel Johnson

 

fool

What was true for Daniel Burnham in 1893 and KISS in 1975 is still true today – the best innovations meet a need.

Their value comes not from itself, but from the objectives it serves, experiences it improves, resolves, or addresses and the audience needs it fulfills.

These were not solutions looking for a challenge (pushing a string), they were solutions to specific challenges (pulling a string).

They are easier to accept because they were not mandated and they served to inspire others.

A detailed planning review (Audience, Objectives, Message, Environment, Media, Measurement), and an effective marketing/communications plan (TRDOM) should enjoy the respect of being applied to each experience no matter how often we hear “we know our audience”, “we have always done that”, or “we don’t have the time.”

 

What challenges does your experience marketing face?

  • Budget predictability: consider trigger budgets and capacity events
  • Attracting audiences: again, consider capacity events, custom pricing packages, and online content
  • Proving business value: conduct pre and post event surveys focused on objectives and change and develop closer links to core business online assets including web sites and social channels
  • Measuring business impact: implement on site, actionable diagnostics instead of relying on post survey questions.

 

The vast majority of human beings dislike and even dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and madmen.

Aldous Huxley – Author Brave New World

 

 

 

Measurement 3.0 – Insights on Insights

eyes

“Measurement” has certainly experienced a rise in popularity and relevance in the event and experience space. There is increased focus, activities, and even funding to capture the opinions of the attendees, understand the results of the event, even (in a few cases) the return against the objectives. And when the objective is sales, a true ROI can be calculated showing the financial returns for the economic investment and allowing comparison to other tactics. Organizations are actually (read as finally) making portfolio and experience decisions based on measurement rather than on assumptions, hopes, and sentiments.

This second generation of measurement (the first having been almost nothing, or driven by emotion and recognition of the hard work rather than actual event results), begins to align to event objectives and business impact in positive ways. It’s not easy to move from counting metrics to applying insight and much credit needs to go to those willing to push through.

So what does Measurement 3.0 look like?

Measurement 3.0 will retain much of 2.0 including the triple focus of efficiency (diagnosing how we did), effectiveness (what were the results) and value (return on objective or investment). But these focuses will move beyond the lint in the belly-button to incorporate the audience objectives more squarely in the center, and align to the corporate objectives in financial as well as satisfaction terms.

There are some lessons (good and bad) that can be had by looking at other environments and tactics where measurement and feedback occur. Key elements of Measurement 3.0 are:

Actionable Measurement | The “So what?” syndrome has started to influence what is measured. If the reaction to the measurement is “so what can I do about that?” then it is likely that either the measurement should be adjusted, or the item not measured at all.

One on-campus event showed a relationship between overall satisfaction and the weather at the event. The action of changing the weather to increase satisfaction seems intuitive, but hard to control. The insight is not meaningless, but it is not truly actionable.                                   

pollWhen it comes to the diagnostics (“how did we do?”) of an event, the time between the insight being gathered and any action taken is shortening. Recognizing a less than satisfying experience closer to when it occurs provides the opportunity to correct it, rather than just recognize it. Is it better to know that there is a problem at check-in during the event, or after, via a survey? Adjustments could/should be made on site that improved the experience immediately.

Fortunately social media provides for a general sense of how things are going and other tactics (like instant feedback at the check-in counters as is done at some international customs counters) can provide real-time, actionable feedback. This also gets closer to matching the solution to the attendee having the issue rather than just the very important, but still more generic, “we’ll fix that for next time”.

The response to the feedback is just as important. It must be genuine, relevant, and appropriate. One lesson on how NOT to do this comes from a major restaurant chain. After the appetizers came out after a long wait (and after the main course) the manager (recognizing the problem) come over to the table to apologize. She offered a coupon for a free appetizer at the party’s next visit to the restaurant.

A more genuine, relevant, and appropriate response might have been to subtract the cost of one of the appetizers from the bill for the visit where the problem occurred. Instead, the solution was turned into a future sales opportunity but the customer left having had an unresolved negative experience. When they did use the coupon, they recalled the negative experience that resulted in receiving it.

On the other end of the spectrum – “how effective were we?” – more data might be needed to “action” the data from the event. What happened to the leads captured, how can/did we action the data provided on the new product launch, etc.

One event, working closely with the regional sales team, responded via tele-teams to all leads within 30 days, accelerating the pipeline over 900% from prior years.

Lesson: For diagnostics, shorten the time between the activity and the feedback allowing for   corrections when issues arise. In this time of instant everything, fixing it next time is later than it needs to be. For effectiveness, look to align and accelerate the “downstream” activities.

 

Context | At its simplest, data without context is just words or numbers. A “4.3” means what? However “4.3 for transportation, on a scale of 5, with 5 being the most satisfied, and a target of 4.5” brings the context needed to turn data into information. Yet often the context of targets, comparison, segmentation, or scale is missing.

Adding context often means more data is needed – historical, competitive, or target based. At times related data not directly resulting from the experience can bring context. For example, $6.81 is just a data point. We do not know the target, scale, segmentations, or in this case relationship to the objectives of the event

aptIf we added the data point of “per square foot”, we’d understand that $6.81 is the price per square foot. Adding more data we see that this is for renting ($1,500/month) a 220 sq. ft. “micro apartment” in the SoMa area of San Francisco. More data shows how this compares to studio apartment in the area ($2,000/month and more) and to other micro apartments in Chicago and NYC.

A more complete story emerges.

Further context reveals that at this rate per square foot, the rent on a 1,000 sq. ft. apartment would be $6,810/month! What would your home rent for? More context – in 2012 rents in South Beach area of Miami increased 11% to $2.25/sq. ft. and in Japan, apartments as small as 50 sq. ft. rent for as much as $12/sq. ft. per month!

So which is better – $2.25, $6.81, or $12.00?

Lesson: As more data is added, more context on the results and value can be revealed, broadening the story that can be told.

 

Strategic Value | Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

To some, Maple Syrup is beautiful. To others it is valuable, and to the Canadian Government it has strategic value. In fact, as the producer of 70%+ of the world’s Maple Syrup, Canada maintains a strategic reserve of Maple Syrup much as the US does Oil.

maple3To Canada, the value of Maple Syrup is much more than just its market value. Its impact on the larger economy, jobs, and the need to maintain quality levels elevate this commodity to unusual heights.

At times, events are treated as nothing more than a commodity with endless supply and little “deep” value. We hear, “We have to be there, our competitors are.”, “Wall Street would be spooked if we cancelled that annual event.”, or “We’ll run it as break-even so there is no cost to the company.” as justification for staging an event. Like so much Maple Syrup running down the side of the tree.

In many ways these justifications (which come from the people or organization putting on the event) are cop-outs for not understanding the strategic value of the experience – the unemotional, non-job protecting, objective driven, and audience-centric value that the experience should provide for.

This void of (at best) focus and (at worst) understanding of the strategic value is supported by the “what a great show” emails that come out even before the load-out begins, much less after the post survey has been conducted. The Strategic Value can’t be seen or proven that quickly.

Events that are in the business of being an event – where the event is designed to make money first and foremost – are crystal clear as to the value they are providing for their attendees and stakeholders. Break-even is a failure. These events are in the business of events, the event is their product.

For everyone else, attending a 3rd party conference or hosting their own experience, the experience must be viewed first and foremost as a business event – aligned (and measureable against) corporate and/or customer objectives.

As with context, strategic value requires more data points to move from the optical success to the true value. These data points (pipeline captured, moved, or closed; changes in belief or understanding; even social media sentiment) take time to surface and be captured.

Lesson: Break-even events are bad for those in the business of events and show a lack of understanding or focus on the strategic value for those staging business events. Understand the Strategic Value of the event from an audience centric prospective and measure success against that.

 

New Norm | The Rise of Audio

 

Audio’s day is coming.

Like battles in geopolitics, operating systems, and hem line length, the mediums of text, images, and audio have each been in and out of favor.

Text took an early – and admittedly long – lead with the Gutenberg Printing Press in 1436. This allowed for not only storage of text, but easy sharing in the printed form. The impact of the printing press on religion, politics, thought, education, and the world is nothing less than transformative. There is not a single area of society that escaped the impact of simply storing, reproducing, and distributing text.

In addition to storing the original, print allowed for standardized translations, search via a table of contents and index, and elevated text into an art form with different fonts, colors, and layouts.

It was close to 400 years before images gained the same storage and sharing ability with camera photography, and like printing, several more decades before it became more widely spread. Finally, in 1877 audio finally caught up to the storage and sharing race with Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinder.

With the birth of computers in the 1940s a new race began. Given the complexity and size of image and audio files, it is not surprising that text took (again) an early lead in this realm. While mice and trackballs were added as part of the GUI interface, text became the default input and output media.

Digital audio did gain a short lead over digital photography and the two grew steadily in the 1980s and 1990s. In fact, it is now estimated that 10% of all pictures ever taken have been taken in the last 12 months. With 7 billion people on the planet speaking all the time, imagine the scope and scale of audio compared to images.

Yet behind the majority of the searching, sorting, and organizing of audio and image files is text in the form of metatags, indexing terms, etc. thus limiting the ability to use audio as an input device or to truly search within the file itself.

This is all changing. Just ask Siri or Google Now.

Audio is now being used as a control device replacing keyboards, it can be searched to the spoken word within recordings and videos, and can sync content across multiple screens. Imagine a world with no keyboards, searchable audio, and instantaneous translation.

TVPlus [+] is an interactive television application you use while watching your favorite programs on TV that syncs your second screen device to your television and delivers interesting, relevant, contextual content and social activity about each scene of the show, including actor bios, music, photo galleries, behind the scenes facts and much more.

MAVIS is Microsoft’s Audio Video Indexing Service which uses state of the art speech recognition technology developed at Microsoft Research to enable searching of digitized spoken content, whether from meetings, conference calls, voice mails, presentations, online lectures, or even Internet video.

Shazam, SoundHound, and Tuneup listen for music or audio from commercials and bring you to a web page, URL, or special content. SayHi and T-Translator will translate spoken words in real time on hand held devices.

Even one of the backbones of image tagging – the bar code – is being converted into acoustic barcodes that convert the spacing of the barcodes to unique audio patterns that can be recognized.  Chirp is using unique sounds for sharing between devices. And Gocen is converting written music to audio in real time

We are more than just at the fringe of the rise of audio and we still have a long way to go.

The movies, always a good place to look for signs of new norms, show everything from audio activated spaceships in Prometheus to voice interactive videos in the new Total Recall. And in the real world, SayHi exceeded 10 milliontranslations back in July, Shazam 5 billion songs in August, and specific conversation assistants like Winston are delivering social updates and personalized news in a narrated broadcast format..

Have you started thinking about the voice and personality of your experience or corporate audio? Changing bar and QR codes for unique audio tags? Are you adding voice interface to your event mobile app?

 

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

 

Think Global, Act Local, Be Personal

 

 

The world is not only getting smaller, it’s getting more personal.

Look to retail – consumers are taking a more pro-active role than ever before. “Cash Mobs” are the latest intersection of local, personal, social, and retail. This twist on “flash mobs” brings together a group to one store to support the community by buying local.

Activities like this are as much about highlighting and activating the buyer’s power in the transaction as they are about supporting local merchants.

Yet despite the overwhelming pressures on physical retail, some major brands such as Tiffany, Apple, Lululemon Athletica, and Microsoft are expanding their physical retail networks with great results. How are they succeeding in the environment of empowered buyers where organizations such as Best Buy are not? How are they viewed as “local” while being part of a global network?

The book The Experience Economy laid this out years ago: the differentiators of esthetics, education, escapism, and entertainment can transform a transactional retail environment into a desired experience.

These differentiators need to be focused on the individual. Vocational training, once thought for “dumb kids or the supposed misfits” is experiencing a revival. Focusing on something of personal interest, and with a hands on approach, can increase interest and therefore attention.

SAP began moving from SAP centric presentations to audience centric conversations several years ago at its SAPPHIRE NOW program. The micro forums (unstructured 30 minute conversations around one topic with no slides or presenter) have quickly become as popular as the theater sessions due to their personal relevance and interaction.

Successful retailers focus on the individual with personal shoppers, training, and experiences at – and away from – the store. And it doesn’t hurt that the products themselves are very personal, from “sleep number beds” at Select Comfort stores, to clothing, jewelry, and computers.

Another significant element of these retail experiences/outlets is the staff. They are the brand – not the retail distributors’ brand, but the product brand. Their excitement, the personal interaction, and the relationship translates back to the product. An informed, exciting, and energetic Apple or Tiffany or Lululemon retail employee makes the product exciting and desirable.

It is not surprising then to see some corporate retail outlets exceeding $1,000/sq. ft. in annual sales while larger retailers such as Wal-Mart average a few hundred.

Proprietary experiences and events are like these corporate retail outlets. They offer the opportunity for distinctly different, and uniquely managed experiences that a 3rd party tradeshow or “big box” event doesn’t.

Equally important, they allow for personal experiences between the product and the consumer or buyer and an immersive brand environment and experience. Apple has over 1,000,000 visitors each day at their stores – think of this as 1,000,000 attendees each day at their experience marketing events.

Does your experience marketing offer the right level of personalization and draw this level of engagement? Could it?

 

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

 

The Aging of Great Ideas.

One of the great truths about the United States returns to the surface every four years when it comes time to elect a new president. We are not a democracy, we are a republic.

The Electoral College – a system put in place in 1787 – was established, depending on whom you ask, to prevent the larger of the original 13 colonies from dominating the office of the president, or to offset the power of the antislavery north.

In any case, this system could (and has) resulted in the election of a president with less than a majority of the popular vote. There is a .7% chance that Obama and Romney could actually receive the same number of Electoral votes (small chance yes, but much higher than a tie in the popular vote), resulting in the House of Representatives needing to select the next president.

Like many things in life, a logical and well thought out plan has aged, becoming out of sync with current needs. This is not exclusive to the realm of politics. Typically no one builds a run down building, or neighborhood – but without maintenance and upkeep, some end up that way.

Corporate or experience marketing strategy and design is the same. It needs to be reviewed from time to time to ensure it still fits the current need, delivers the objective, and syncs with the modern reality. If you are not moving forward, you are falling behind.

And then there are the ideas that just “make you go hmmm?” The Hotel Sofitel decided to place the “no smoking” notice on the bottom of an ashtray in each room.

Maybe there was a vote on this decision.

Is your experience marketing strategy getting old? Do you have a method for reviewing, updating, and revising? Start by looking to the fringe – this is where new ideas are born.

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

Learning in the (Right) Moment | Timing and Context in Comedy and Content

 

One of the cores of comedy is timing.

(Pause, wait for it…)

This is true for content and learning as well. (Not a great punch line was it?)

For the first several minutes of the movie “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) pesters George (Richard Burton) with the question “’What a dump!’ Who says that?” Lacking the answer, they go back and forth building tension and anger. George lacked the information to answer the question, and the means to get to it instantly.

Today, George would have pulled out his smartphone, pressed a few keys and answered:

“Bette Davis in Beyond the Forest. Released in 1949, the film tells the story of Rosa Moline, a neglected wife of a small-town Wisconsin doctor. She grows bored and becomes infatuated with a visiting Chicago businessman. She extorts money from her husband’s patients and uses the cash to flee to Chicago, but the businessman does not welcome her. She returns home and becomes pregnant by her husband. The businessman has a change of heart and follows her to Wisconsin. He wants her back, but not her baby, so she attempts to abort by throwing herself down a hill and gets peritonitis, dying in what Bette Davis called ‘the longest death scene ever seen on the screen.’”

Admittedly, such a complete response may have upset Martha nonetheless – another example of comic timing gone wrong.

The (DIKW) Hierarchy represents the relationship between Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom or Intelligence. Timing is one ingredient in the move from one level to another – the association between the need and the data. Something may be data at one moment (the name of the movie) and information another (answering the question).

Information at our fingertips certainly changes much, and settles many discussions, but one of its greatest impacts is allowing the alignment of information and need. It greatly increases the value and reach of shared knowledge and collective intelligence, and reduces the need to be knowledgeable, or even informed, in advance of the need.

We are no longer left to our own knowledge to answer the questions we face. We no longer need to memorize the side effects of drugs, the timing of a 1964 Corvette engine, or how to add a sound to the roll over of a button when programming a website. In fact, we no longer need to “learn” these details at all – we can look them up as needed.

Context is another ingredient in the move from Data to Wisdom on the DIKW Hierarchy. For example, data (32) in context (32 degrees Fahrenheit) is information. Information in context (freezing point of water is 32 degrees) is knowledge.

Few would ever have needed to know how to calculate the time on Mars, or considered it part of their formal education. Yet now there is an app for that and with the Curiosity Mission (@MarsCuriosity), more contexts for this knowledge then ever.

Before so much content, data, and information were available at your fingertips (from “official” and user generated sources), you were expected to become knowledgeable (and intelligent) by learning and remembering – at schools, workshops, seminars, continuing educations, etc.

Today, is there still a need for formal education at all, much less for the content coming from events? Maybe we no longer need to waste formative years and hours at conferences learning if everything will be available to us when we need it. Why should I attend a session to hear what I can get when and where I want it?

Given the continued importance of “content” at events (over 95% saying “very” or “its the reason they come” in the short survey done for the Event Marketer Summit) how does this change the content mix and alignment at your program? How do you ensure that your program’s content is more than a modern game of trivial pursuit?

One downside of “available at your fingertips” knowledge is the threat of becoming researchers instead of scholars. Simply getting the information at the time and in the context needed does not mean comprehension, understanding, or seeing the connections to other knowledge. Building this intelligence seems an important place to focus for both formal and program based content. [Knowledge and Intelligence are indeed different – see here]

T.S. Eliot wrote:

“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

In an article in the New York Times Sunday Review, Andrew Hacker – seemingly from the edges of conventional wisdom – proposes one approach when he asks “Is Algebra Necessary?”

A TYPICAL American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. Why do we subject American students to this ordeal? I’ve found myself moving toward the strong view that we shouldn’t.”

And this is where the birth of a Janus Moment occurs – a new thought that brings a new view to the question. Hacker proposes:

“I hope that mathematics departments can also create courses in the history and philosophy of their discipline, as well as its applications in early cultures. Why not mathematics in art and music — even poetry — along with its role in assorted sciences?”

Can we move teaching to a time and context where it is needed, desired, more easily understood? Would mathematics in context with history, economics, arts, manufacturing, etc. increase our knowledge and possibly intelligence? Internships, apprenticeships, and on the job training certainly show a history of success.

For marketers, the challenge is much the same – how, in an age of instantly available data, information, and knowledge, will you deliver relevant information and knowledge where and when desired by the learner, not the teacher?

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

 

Marketing is…

…one half of an unfinished symphony.

Whether marketing communications, product/solution marketing, experience marketing, brand, advertising, demand generations, social media, or anything else, the balance of the melody is “sales”.

“Sales” is in quotes because this word is also incomplete when it stands on its own.

“Sales and marketing” is a “complete sentence” containing an objective and a verb (you decide which is which – it works either way). The complete story requires a need (organic and/or generated), a solution (functional and/or emotional and/or aspirational), and a method of connecting these two.

Are the Apple stores (drop a dollar in the “Apple is over used as a case study” jar) “sales” or “marketing”? Yes, they are. When you attend a tradeshow, are you being sold to or marketed to? Is the special offer via an email sales or marketing?

The classic sales continuum starts with “awareness” and journeys to “advocacy”. Each is touched by marketing and sales activities. Some of the steps have been considered more “marketing” (awareness, interest, consideration, loyalty, advocacy) and others more sales (preference, purchase). But this may not hold as true today as in the past (if it ever really did).

The distinction may best be considered as in the mind of the person being “marketed” or “sold” to. Some look to avoid the sales process, investing time researching and learning on their own, while some jump happily into the sales experience as soon as they decide (on their own or via external influence) they indeed have a need to fill.

The stereotype is that the car buying experience is to be avoided; yet many flock to the Apple store (another dollar) for training and workshops and “just looking around” that often result in the purchase of new software or accessories.

Some are more motivated by the functional differences of the product or the price; some want an account exec or sales associate to work with them through the process. They want to be “sold” to.

Others are more attracted to the story, the message, the meaning, they may be quick to advocate and/or associate themselves with the solution. (“I’m a Cadillac guy”)

So if the distinction is in the eye of the recipient, so is the definition.

At best, sales or marketing is the emotional, functional, and aspirational experience that offers solution to “my need where, when, and how I want it.”

At worst, it is a manipulative interruption that upsets and annoys.

When are sales/marketing successful? When they are:

  • Targeted | Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant | How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires? Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Differentiating | How are you different from other solutions, alternatives? What makes you stand out?
  • Orchestrated | Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured | How do you know you are reaching your objective?

Just like music, a limited number of notes (7 in music, a few more in sales and marketing) can be combined into endless songs, both good and bad.

Lessons from Kickstarter | “Person”-alized Marketing and Re-order the Order

 

While the technology of additive manufacturing (3d printing) is at the foundation of the 3rd industrial revolution, other social, political, economic, and technical changes are fueling this disruption in more surprising ways.

Kickstarter (@kickstarter), launched only four years ago, serves as a crowd-funding site where those looking to start a project can find those willing to fund it. Unlike micro-loans or micro-investments, where the relationship is one of financial stakeholder, the backers of Kickstarter projects receive the final product and/or some form of thank you like a postcard or tee shirt for their support.

The traditional manufacturing model is build, retail/market, sell/fund, and finally deliver. Kickstarter reorders the process to be more like a service transaction – market, fund, build, deliver. You don’t “buy” a completed album; you back the production of it with the promise to receive a copy once it is completed.

While the reorder eliminates the need to guess what demand will be since orders precede the build, the greater impact is the relationship between the backers and the “starter”. The service model lengthens and tightens the relationship, requiring strong communications, regular updates, and trust. This increased intimacy makes all involved members of a community for (at least) the duration of the project. How is your experience marketing doing when measured against these criteria?

Kickstarter is possibly the ultimate in “people to people” marketing – the backing is truly of the person(s) behind the project. This “person-alization” of the project brings a new dynamic to the buying decision. Emotions such as sympathy, pride, exclusivity, charity, and association are deepened, and deeper, than anything a faceless company might achieve even with the most effective social media campaign.

Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) raised over $1,000,000 from 25,000 backer (ranging from $1 to $10,000 each) for an album, book, and gallery tour. Her project video (each project has one) reflects the “person-alization” aspect of the project, and the number of backers with their 850+ comments shows the extent of the community formed. [Warning: there are a few words within the video and comments that some might take offense with.]

Unfortunately, Kickstarter is starting to see failed projects of significant size – either where the “starter” was fraudulent from the beginning, or not able to complete the project despite using some/all of the backing.

One example, ZionEyez, succeeded in scamming $344,000 from over 2,100 backers. Others, such as Solid Watch, run months behind, upsetting the backer community. Different emotions come to the surface at these times. [Full disclosure: I am a backer of the Solid Watch project.]

 

While backing projects can be risky, Kickstarter represents a unique way to market, build community, measure demand, and source funds. Imagine asking a bank for a loan to produce an album on spec, it’s unlikely they would back the project. Ask the Kickstarter community to pre order DVDs, or support the project with a few dollars in exchange for tee shirts signed with thank you messages from the band, and you not only raise the funds needed, but build a following at the same time. “Friends and Family” funding on a global scale.

Many projects are related to the arts including albums from bands, plays from actors, books from writers and animators. But some of the most funded become actual commercial successes including video games and technology. The top 10 projects have collected close to $25 million together and results in companies/product such as:

TikTok + Lunatik iPod Nano Strap From Minimal (@ScottWilsonID): TikTok and LunaTik simply transform the iPod Nano into the world’s coolest multi-touch watches.” [Full disclosure: I am a backer of this project.]

 

 

Elevation Dock from ElevationLab (@elevationLab): Simple to use, quick undocking, and it works with or without a case.” [Full disclosure: I am a backer of this project.]

 

 

E-Pebble from Pebble Technology: Pebble is the first watch built for the 21st century. It’s infinitely customizable, with beautiful downloadable watch faces and useful internet-connected apps.” [Full disclosure: I am a backer of this project.]

 

 

Is there room for a change in the development model of your marketing experience? Have, or can, you put a “face” to your marketing making it more “person-alized”? Some companies use mascots or celebrities – what do/can you use? Can you reorder the production process, or gauge interest on trial elements using lessons from this reordering of the order?

 

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

UPDATE: Thanks to @jessicakausen for contributing an article from @Forbes asking “Is The Crowdfunding Bubble about to Burst?” Talks about topics such as the backlash towards kickstarter projects on a site called KickstarterSucks, which highlights projects “deemed ridiculous” by its two founders; and other possibly misguided uses of the format.

 

Different as a Differentiator | The Value of Differentiating

Can you increase the value of something simply by inventing a story about it?

Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker set out to answer this question with a simple experiment. They purchased roughly 200 items from thrift stores at an average cost of $1.25, invented stories about each, and sold them on eBay for nearly $8,000 – a 30x plus increase.

The results are published in Significant Objects (available on Amazon) and show the power of stories to perception and value.

“Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively.” — Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker

The addition of a story is certainly one important aspect of the changed value, but the objects took on another change that likely contributed to the value shift as well.

Each item became special and exclusive by being part of the experiment. Instead of buying a simple wooden apple core (originally $1 from the thrift show), it is now “Object 45 of 50 – Significant Objects v3” and sells for $102.50. It is different from all other copies of that wooden apple core.

While not fully exclusive, a different Apple, the one that makes computers, software, and consumer items, offers very limited (and therefore close to exclusive) access to its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Tickets to this event are limited to a few thousand, despite demand likely in the tens of thousands, and tend to sell out in a couple of hours. Yes, hours.

Simply attending the events makes you exclusive, increasing the value. When was the last event you produced an event that sold out in two hours? Often the industry leans towards “early bird” pricing to attract ticket buyers – not very exclusive for the attendee.

Many Kickstarter (@kickstarter) projects offer exclusive Limited Edition rewards to attract early supporters with special colors, versions, or experiences. These differentiate higher levels or earlier support with more exclusivity.

Items do not need to be exclusive or limited to increase in value; simply being different can be enough. Differentiation is an important element of successful marketing regardless of availability (exclusivity). In the Significant Objects collection there is a brass boot and porcelain shoe, number 3 and 4 in the top 10. While similar, each has a different story making it stand out from the others.

Several years ago JavaOne (@JavaOneConf) experimented with higher-priced packages that offered reserved seating and name badges with a special indication. Access to content was the same and anyone could buy the package at any time, yet a surprising number of these “special” packages sold. Attendees were looking to differentiate themselves from the crowd.

NetSuite (@netsuite), at their 2012 SuiteWorld event, updated the “attendee ribbon” concept with a series of buttons allowing the attendees to self identify, differentiate, and identify others in a creative and expressive way.

Why does different and exclusive matter? Because being or having something special makes you feel special. In some cases, folks are willing to pay (extra) for it.

How does your experience marketing make the audience feel special? What are they getting that makes them feel exclusive or different from the crowd?

 

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

Too Dumb, too Smart, or Just Out of Alignment?

It would be nice to think that as a species we are forever improving. Stronger, faster, smarter. But what if we aren’t? What if we have passed our evolutionary mental zenith and are now on the down side?

Matt Ridley explored this for The Wall Street Journal concluding:

’Has brain size stopped increasing?’ For a process that takes millions of years, any answer about a particular instant in time is close to meaningless. Nonetheless, the short answer is probably ‘yes.’”

“This neither worries nor surprises me. We ceased relying upon individual brain power tens of thousands of years ago. Our civilization now gets all its inventive and creative power from the linking of brains into networks. Our future depends on being clever not individually, but collectively.”

Immediately concerning is the belief that less clever people will collectively drive the inventive and creative future of our civilization. This “yes, we are losing money on each item, but we will make up for it in volume” argument is in and of itself proof of our decline.

The SunLight Foundation looked at one such collective – the United States Congress – and found that based on an analysis of the congressional records, our elected officials now speak almost a full grade level lower than just seven years ago.

The Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and Declaration of Independence at above a grade 15 level. They were admittedly well educated compared to the average person at the time.

Today, Congress is speaking at a 10th grade level and the average American reads at between an 8th and 9th grade level. So, are our leaders getting dumber or, as a more pleasant alternate theory, is congress simply communicating more effectively?

Like communicating and listening, teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. If the level of teaching greatly exceeds the ability or desire to learn, there is likely to be no learning at all. If it falls short of ability or desire, the same outcome occurs.

Already recognized as one of the more important aspects of any experience marketing, it is more and more important that your content align to your audiences’ needs and desires at the time they are consuming it.

How are you ensuring you are not at too high a level for the audience who wants 8th grade simplicity, or too low a level for the audience who wants advanced knowledge? As the caretaker, this audience alignment is crucial.

Knowledge and Intelligence

Education has changed greatly since the birth of the three R’s in 1825. In fact, so much so that some have proposed they be changed from Reading Writing and Arithmetic to Relating, Representing, and Reasoning. (No comment on the “trickery” of the original 3 R’s that has lead a few to believe them to be Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic.)

Yet more than reflecting a change in education, this proposed change mirrors the distinctions between Knowledge and Intelligence. The knowledge to read, write, and calculate arithmetic is not an alternative to the intelligence to relate, represent, and reason. They are complementary.

Knowledge has been defined as a familiarity with something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education.

Intelligence as “abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, having emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving”

Are your content and message the right balance of practical and theory? How are you aligning these to your attendees’ needs and desires?

 

Pull Learning versus Push Teaching

It is always easier to pull a string than to push it. You have more control over direction, speed, and outcome. The same is true of marketing and learning.

Social, technical, economic, and political changes are impacting education and bringing new and exciting alternatives to traditional approaches. How, when, and why people learn is changing. There is a shift away from the classroom and campus (read as keynote/breakouts and on-site) and towards Pull Learning – accessing knowledge when and how desired by the learner.

  • Using aspects of open source technology, crowd sourcing, peer-to-peer interactions, social and rich media, and online technology to reach and engage with tens of thousand, Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) are to the universities of the world what hybrid and online events are to marketing.
  • Decoded offers a workshop promising to teach anyone to code computers or web sites in one-day.
  • MIT and Harvard are offering inexpensive or free content via the edX platform.
  • Lynda.com offers a universe of user-generated print and video content on all things computing and software from self (and community) proclaimed subject matter experts for a monthly subscription.
  • Peer to peer learning (called unconferences or open forums at events) is also growing in popularity.

Is your content strategy push teaching or pull learning? Can it be accessed when and where desired? Can you teach a new skill in one any day?

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

 

 

Event Marketing Summit Presentation

 

 

In early May of 2012 I presented at the Event Marketing Summit 5 trends facing the Experience Marketing industry. That presentation is embedded below.

 

 

Some additional notes related to this presentation:

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The Means Justify the Means | Occupy Occupies Occupy

More than a tongue twister, it’s a brain twister as well.

Back in November, members of Occupy Seattle opposed to the “power dynamics created by a speaker on stage” occupies and disrupted an Occupy Seattle Town Hall. The Town Hall was designed to bring some direction and clarity to the movement. Instead, it was infected (or effected) by its own tactics.

Recently, at a large conference, a flash mob appeared and performed in the registration hall. When asked after who it was for and what its message was, most present didn’t know. The video produced for YouTube was from so far away, and the sound so bad, the message was mostly lost.

Some see Occupy as an innovative company, others see it as a loose group of individuals with separate and at times competing purposes. When one of the underlying aspects of a community is to allow everyone to participate, it can be much easier at times to share tactics than purpose.

But this is a dangerous course to take.

Yes, everyone is different and may well have a different message, opinion, or take on the subject. But this increases the need for clarity of objective and purpose at an event or experience marketing program. Tactic should vary, objective shouldn’t.

The means should justify the ends.

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.


No [self determined] Good Deed Goes Unpunished

 

During the fundraising for the New World Symphony in Miami, there was a donation for $90 million. The scale of the donation is not the most interesting aspect, the fact that the donation is from “anonymous” is. A business making a donation of this size would want the associated publicity. But why would an individual not?

As the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished”; referring to the challenge, and often failure, of seeing reward for doing something positive. It is much harder to “punish” someone named “anonymous”.

With the increased focus on equality, and the rise of transparency, what was once a good deed may no longer be. Changing times call for a change in goodness.

How could it be wrong to try to help the homeless?

BBH Labs tried to help the homeless at the SXSW event in 2012 with a program called “Homeless Hotspots”. They paid select homeless $20 a day [some say more, some less] to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots.

They received unfavorable press and questions about the morality of the program. The publicity aspect certainly took from the “pureness” of the good deed. Nonetheless, conversation was generated and awareness rose.

It was suggested that had the organizers hired college students like at a tradeshow, there would have been no controversy. However, it is likely these college students would have been paid minimum wage, provided meal breaks, and had their earning reported.

But as a charitable innovation initiative (as the organizers called it) the intent was to “support the homeless population”, not college students. This intent seems to have become well buried. The objective seems lost in the execution; the promotion of the social and economic conditions submissive to the technical one.

It is often quoted in the mobile industry that there were more mobile phones than toothbrushes in the world. Wouldn’t the best way then, to have a positive impact on the world, be to provide more toothbrushes?

Instead of being a Human Hotspot, What would a $5,000 to $10,000 3-month internship have meant to these individuals? With only 13 participants listed on the web site, the costs would have been less than the annual [possibly quarterly] salary of one creative director.

The opportunity to gain more than just a few dollars during SXSW might have supported the homeless population in a different way. The individuals benefit by being exposed to careers and opportunities in the advertising industry, and BBH gains the opportunity to add new talent, voices, and insight on a segment of [admittedly not currently very active] consumers. Who could have a problem with an internship?

It turns out, some interns do.

A staple for career development, apprenticeships and internships are found in many professions from blue to white collar. Interns and apprentices can be found on construction sites and in the White House, law firms and ad agencies, large and small companies.

In some industries, an apprenticeship or internship is a required career step; just ask Mickey Mouse and the Sorcerer. Serious, high schools to doctorate programs encourage and assist in placing interns annually.

Yet with the changes in social and economic norms, the days of  low or unpaid internships may be ending. Once a rite of passage, some internships maybe reaching beyond mutual benefit and towards unfair labor practices.

Equality, like much in life, needs to work for all parties involved – whether the homeless, interns, or large organizations. Maybe the saying should be altered to say:

No [self determined] good deed goes unpunished” 

 

 

Note: As always, the desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

Full disclosure:

  • I make most of my personal donations under anonymous or my cats’ names;
  • I am not the donor to the New World Symphony mentioned above;
  • I had several unpaid internships while in high school and college, and paid internships in college.

 

The extremes of transparency

 

To over simplify the issue of transparency – there are two extremes. One that hides a truth; the other that reveals too much. And the importance of the truth changes with the social, technical, economic, and political context.

In both extremes, the circumstance matters. Does lying on a resume that you have a degree in computer science matter when applying for a counter job at Burger King? The fact that you lied certainly should, what you lied about lesser so. Do the same thing as the new CEO of Yahoo, and both the action and substance matter more.

It appears that Scott Thompson has been telling his lie, or at least not being fully transparent with the truth, for a while. On radio programs, in conversations, and on his resume to Yahoo during the recruiting process.

The level of the job is one aspects that changes the circumstances around “full transparency”, but being in the computer industry and the expectations of senior management weigh heavily on the discussion.

As does the expectation that such a thing would be caught in the vetting process. Given the importance of the CEO job, (certainly at Yahoo and at this time in their history), it would be expected that a complete and thorough review of the candidates would take place. In fact, the board of directors did have one of it’s members (Patti Hart) leading the search, and a prominent recruiting firm as well. Both failed to catch this issue and bring it to light. Ms. Hart has since resigned.

Which is the greater sin – hiding the truth or the failure to catch it?

This is a question experience marketing caretakers must think about. Do your presenters, exhibitors, executives, special guests have secrets or hidden truths that are germane to their character or role with the events? Do they have the education, experience, and background claimed; have they written those case studies and white papers? The lesson from Yahoo so far is that the one who should be “catching” the transgression is as, or more, likely to pay the price.

As such, do you need to ask more, check more, reveal more about the program and the people involved? As the host, it may be implied (or clearly stated) that you are endorsing the content, people, and experience taking place. And the rise of user-generated content means more sources to review. How are you validating that nothing relevant is being hidden?

The other extreme is when too much is revealed.

While some believe that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels promote transparency as a path towards integrity, they also make it so much easier to share that at times too much is revealed too quickly.

Just ask Spike Lee.

The home address of a person named George Zimmerman may not be relevant to most of the world, most of the time, but it was when Mr. Lee released it to his 250,000 followers on Twitter. Why, because Mr. Zimmerman had shot and killed Trayvon Martin while part of a neighborhood watch program.

Why Spike Lee shared this information reveals once again the importance of context to the discussion of transparency. Given the highly charged political environment surrounding the shooting, it was speculated what Mr. Lee was looking for, or at least assisting anyone who might be looking for, “justice”. Likely vigilantly justice.

When does revealing information, even relatively easy to find information, “cross the line”? How hard would it had been to find the address of George Zimmerman? Spike’s actions were again less about the information, and more about sharing too much.

As part of ensuring your event has nothing to hide, how do you avoid revealing too much? Do you share when a speaker doesn’t have the degree they claim? What about a criminal background, law suit, or bankruptcy? Did they plagiarise the case study, or fake the data in the white paper? It is a fine line, but a necessary line to define. Let’s call it the “thin clear line”.

While it would be almost impossible to vet every person, every claim, and every action related to your event, it is important to prepare for situations like these and their consequences. It is likely that someone will “out” some thing related to your event – what will be your stance or position once the truth is revealed? Did you “do enough” and are you ready to react?

Further caution needs to be taken when it is not actually the “truth” that is revealed.

In the case of the address Spike Lee shared with his 250,000 followers (for reasons that may have been less than generous in nature), it turned out to be the wrong George Zimmerman. It was the home of a couple whose only connection to the case was having a son with a similar name. They were forced to relocate from their home after Mr. Lee’s tweet due to fear for their safety.

As Patti Hart – the board member at Yahoo – learned, there is a price to pay for failure to discover if you are seen as the one who should have known. Spike Lee also found out there can be a real price to pay for revealing too much – he settled financially with the couple.

UPDATE: Scott Thompson has resigned from Yahoo but the impact continues.

 

The answer to the protest marketing question

 

It took a week to learn that the “protest” that took place at the Apple store in australia was not from Samsung, nor a real protest as some thought, but a marketing stunt from RIM.

Yes RIM. How anyone would know is hard to say, other than their recent press release.

While the rules of marketing are indeed changing daily, it’s fair to say one important rule is to mention your brand, product, drop a hint, or leave a bread crumb.

The fact that RIM left their name off the protest is interesting in a couple ways.

First, it certainly increased the perception that the protest was real, thought finding this many people who felt this strongly against Apple is a bit hard to believe with Apple’s recent success and growth. (Over 50% of homes in the US now own at least one Apple device.)

Hard to believe, but not impossible.

How would the same protest and message have been received if they were in front of a Samsung store, or for that matter a RIM store. It can be difficult raising doubt about a stronger brand in such a “public” way.

There have certainly been real protests aimed at Apple for things such as the treatment of their employees at the time of new product releases, how green they are(n’t), and the issues at Foxconn. But in those cases, the message and messenger were clear and up front.

Secondly, it raises the question of the true objective – promote RIM or Apple. I’m not suggesting RIM wanted to promote Apple, but only Apple, (and Samsung who is also a RIM competitor) got any press or awareness out of the experience until now.

If the intent was to raise doubt about Apple or their products, a deeper conversation was certainly needed on differences in product features, price, brand attributes, or something.

The message “wake up”, (implying Apple buyers were missing out on something, being tricked, or not getting their money worth), seems the most ironic aspect. If anyone was missing out, being tricked, or not getting their money worth – it was RIM.

Chances are an agency (internal or external) was involved in the strategy, creation, or at the least implementation of the protest.

Would you take the assignment? What advise would you give? What do you think?

 

Protest the New Marketing?

Interesting article on a flashmob outside an Apple store in Australia. Samsung denies, but is this a form of Protest Marketing, User Generated Content, or both?

 

 

 

New Norm | Third Industrial Revolution

 

I was planning on writing this one last week but the Economist beat me to it, and much better than I could.

The impact of this new norm – 3D printing and additive manufacturing – will be nothing less than transformative to all aspects of business, society, and technology.

Think about printing new light fixtures at home whenever you want a new design, to the size and dimensions you need; or restoring a classic car by printing the pieces missing; or going to the 3D printer at home depot for any part for any home appliance every made; or printing custom giveaways on show site, with your prospects and brand together.

You owe it to yourself to read this special report.

MEASURING THE MODERN EVENT

 
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A POST FROM A FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE WHO HAS BEEN A THOUGHT LEADER IN THE AREA OF MEASUREMENT FOR MANY YEARS. IT RELATES TO THE NEW NORM OF EQUALITY AND USER GENERATED CONTENT.

_______________________

The history of the event industry can be characterized as an unending search for the next big “WOW”.

Today’s corporate events and conferences are filled with the best ideas and technology from television, entertainment and social media. They are complex and expensive undertakings requiring large internal teams to develop and support the content, a large portion of the sales force to host the audience, and armies of specialized freelancers to execute the logistics.

Often corporate events cost more then a Super Bowl campaign. Which begs the question of why measuring the business impact of an event has never been an integral part of these complex undertakings.

 

Dynamics Driving Corporate Event Measurement

We believe that a sea change in corporate event measurement is underway, driven by two very different forces.

The first is obvious, economics. CMO’s in every industry are under increasing pressure to demonstrate a return from every line item in their budgets. For the first time, innovative companies are conducting market research to determine how the effect of events at influencing brand perception, accelerating pipeline and ensuring customer loyalty through education.

The second dynamic is that customers are now making enterprise level purchase decisions based on their own independent online research. Traditional marketing departments have lost control of the dialogue, and are no longer the only source of product information. No one knows where it goes from here.

 

Development of The AIR Score

What is needed is a way for event marketers to identify the issues most likely to garner online commentary from their attendees. Working with our client Scott Schenker, Vice President, SAP we developed a technique called the AIR Score, short for Audience Impact Rating.

The genesis of the AIR Score was the realization that the two most commonly used reporting conventions, “Top Box” and “Averaging” are both designed to present data in a way that all but ignores those most likely to be part of an online discussion.

 

The Pitfalls of Top Box Scoring

The “Top Box” system adds the percentage of responses in scoring boxes 4 and 5, and reports the total as the result of the question.

This yields sentences like “80% of the respondents found the xyz aspect of the event to be somewhat or extremely valuable.”

This approach has two shortcomings:

1/ Top Box scoring paints an unduly rosy picture of the results.

“Top Box” scoring combines the ‘5 ranking’ which indicate that the respondent is “extremely” positive; with the ‘4 ranking’ which indicate that the respondent is politely noncommittal – the “somewhat” 4s.

This example clearly demonstrates the problem. A “Top Box” Score of 80% can be derived in many ways, which in no way can be considered equal.

2/ Top Box scores provide no insight into what is going on in the other three boxes.

Yes, a veteran executive or manager with the time to read through the data should pick up these distinctions. But they are not readily apparent in the reporting that most people rely on to make decisions.

 

The Pitfalls Of Averaging

As the name implies, averaging focuses attention on the middle, not on what is going on at the fringes…

This example demonstrates that while “Averaging” is more responsive to the audience then the “Top Box”, by design it mutes (damps) the extremes, the respondents that we are the most interested in.

The AIR scores in this example shift 20 points, moving from Good to Poor, clearly signaling an increasing number of Detractors. The Weighted Average has a subtler downward trend, within a range  (north of 3.5) that is considered acceptable by many companies. This is an important distinction.

  What An AIR Score Does The AIR Score was developed to provide event sponsors and managers with a metric that enables them to quickly identify the issues most likely to influence the larger universe of clients and prospects post-event. The AIR Score is calculated using the data from a Likert scale response.

AIR categorizes the survey respondents into three segments.

  • The Promoters are enthusiastic about the item in question.
  • The Neutral group is neither unhappy nor enthusiastic.
  • The Detractor group is negative and unhappy.

5) Extremely Valuable

Promoters

4) Somewhat Valuable

Neutral

3) Neutral

Neutral

2) Not Very Valuable

Detractors

1) Not At All Valuable

Detractors

Our hypothesis is that the Promoters and Detractors are much more likely to share their opinions then the Neutrals.

The AIR Score reports the relationship of Promoters to Detractors among all scores as a number between 0 and 100, where 100 are all Promoters.

Though they are based on the same data, neither  “Top Box” nor “Average” explicitly reveal this relationship.

In effect, this is grading on a curve that is biased so that a response of  ‘somewhat valuable’ has the same value as a polite ‘neutral’.

  Applying the Air Score

The AIR Score factors the entire range of scores (all responses) into account             (i.e. it is normalized).

We, and most of our clients deem an event to be successful when significantly more attendees go home as Promoters then Detractors. We developed the following scale to aid in interpretation of the scores.

Because the AIR Score reports the results as a single number, it is a useful tool for comparing scores from different questions, and even different events. It can be applied after the fact to any historical Likert scale data; and can be used to compare data gathered using unbalanced scales with data collected using balanced scales.

While for know marketers sponsoring virtual events seem happy to count ‘clicks’, ‘likes’ and ‘tweets’, we are already engaging in discussions about how to connect the participant experiences. The AIR Score will be an important bridge.

We are happy to share the “math”. We invite you to contact us if you have any questions, or would like to have the formula to apply in your own work.

Christopher Korody and Kevin O’Neill are the Partners at Audience Metrix, a market research firm focusing on conducting research at corporate events. chris@audiencemetrix.com

Impact on Distribution Channels


Computing, binary code, and calculating have been with us since the 1930’s. And as devices that needed data, the process of digitizing began as well. Weather data, stock trades, order and inventory, sales transactions, etc. The trio of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are the most visible caretakers of this transformation – but there are databases of ever-growing size in every area of our worlds.

Most digitization has been of existing data, or data we would have recorded in another form one way or another. Media, sales records, stock transactions, inventory, medical records, weather patterns all preceeded digitization and would have marched on with or without the computer age. Just look to the constant stream of new data being added.

The benefits of digitization are numerous and for the most part obvious. Digital files are searchable, sharable, easily stored, faster to analyze, etc. This greatest impact of this has been to the distribution channels.

The most valuable asset for media companies was the channel of distributions – subscribers, airwaves, retail outlets, etc. Owning the prime TV and radio channels in a city, and having a subscriber base in the millions was success. Digital changed this and allows the content to be sent more directly – person to person – without these controlled channels.

As the control of the channels disappears, so do the profits.

Consider the USPS – they do not generate any content, they are strictly a delivery channel yet, the Janus Moment for the USPS came in 2001 when the zenith of First Class mail was reached.

The declining annual rates are threatening to put the post office out of business and at this pace, this 400+ year-old institution (the United States second largest employer) could be gone in our life times.

If your event or experience is nothing more than a channel for distribution, then your time may also be challenged. How are you bringing more value than just the distribution of content?

New Norm | Transparency

“No more secrets Marty.”

The defining line in the 1992 movie Sneakers where the prize is a code breaker (“No. It’s THE code breaker”) capable of breaking into any computer system and ensuring there are never any more secrets.

Since the dawn of time individuals, governments, and businesses have worked hard to protect their secrets, and find those of others. And since the dawn of time, the greatest asset on both sides of this battle has been wetware – people. It is people who are the agents, the traitors, the decoders, and those whose secrets are shared.

New technology is always introduced to secure, or crack, the code but one of the most powerful tools is the social acceptance of keeping or protecting secrets. When is it acceptance to steal or share, and when isn’t it?

Would the president’s disabilities be acceptable to share?

Today, sharing every challenge facing a world leader is the norm, but during the 12 years Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House:

“In keeping with social customs of the time, the media generally treated Roosevelt’s disability as taboo. News stories did not mention it, and editorial cartoonists, favorable and unfavorable, often showed the president with normal mobility. According to famed broadcaster David Brinkley, who was a young White House reporter in World War II, the Secret Service actively interfered with photographers who tried to take pictures of Roosevelt in a wheelchair or being moved about by others.”1

Such interference by the secret service today would cause more of an uproar than the actual story.

Somewhere between John F. Kennedy (who was rumored to have many affairs during his presidency) and Richard Nixon (who was impeached in 1974, 11 years after Kennedy’s assassination) a Janus Moment occurred (likely Watergate) and the press corp. – and the country ­– expected much more transparency into the life, and actions, of the president.

The social constraint on the acceptability of sharing information appears to still to be on a decline. Wikileaks was born December 2006 and serves as a poster child for the ease with which information can be shared from even the most protective of organizations.

The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretaker for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

As such, with an increasing technical ability and reach, and decreasing social constraint, what impact might this rise in transparency have on events? Consider:

  • Measurement | event measurement is often closely held by those who host the program. Specific results (often the best) are shared to prove the relevance and success of the program, and to attract attendees and exhibitors for the next year. How will you deal with the potential sharing of data in all its good and bad? Will you protect it more? Demand to see more? Open it to all?
  • Event Secrets | Mom always said, “don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the paper.” Did you make any deals with exhibitors, the organizer, presenters, or keynoters that you would rather not share? It may be a matter of time before this is shared to all. How might this change the way you conduct event business?
  • Speaker “unauthorized” Bios | what would a background search of all your speakers reveal, and how would the release of this information impact your organization and/or event?

Can you think of other aspects and elements of marketing and events that could be impacted by the rise of transparency?

New Norm | Life Logging

Personal diaries have been tucked under mattresses, hidden in secret drawers, and peeked at by nosy friends for a long time. But as everything analog shifts to digital, technology allows unlimited storage and sharing, and new gadgets are introduced – we’re starting to collect a lot more, and different kinds, of data about ourselves.

Logging has established roots in business and public sector.

For instance, it is now normal to have a video camera in a patrol car. In 2000 only 11% of State Highway Patrol vehicles had dashboard cameras. This rose to 72% by 2004. In 2003 police vehicles in cities with 200,000+ people with dashboard cameras broke 50% – that’s a Janus Moment.

It is standard to have your customer service call recorded, your social media comments captured, and manufacturing lines checked by cameras, thermometers, and other instruments to ensure quality. All logged for “training”, archival, or regulatory purposes.

New gadgets like portable cameras, smart phones, motion-sensing systems, GPS, connected devices, and increased bandwidth are allowing individuals to document and share their lives in new and surprising ways.

 

It is now possible to track your workouts, weight, blood pressure, sugar levels, and many other aspects of your health and to share these with a designated or open community. In fact, the motivational benefits of sharing these details are part of the value propositions being promoted. No more asking “have you lost weight?” just check my Facebook page. (But thanks for asking!)

Insurance companies are adding discounts to policyholders who log their driving in real time much as professional drivers in the business world are tracked. And there are services to track your kids as they start to drive as well.

Some are getting into trouble for tracking too many things – like where’s your iPhone? Nonetheless, the trend is towards this type of life logging becoming more and more the norm.

The Google Glasses are the most aggregating and adventurous gadget to date and could add further fuel to the life logging fire. But what does a future of everything being captured, stored, and shared look like?

Robin Williams starred in an interesting science fiction/fact movie on this subject in 2004 call The Final Cut. He plays a cutter, someone with the power of final edit over people’s recorded histories. Think highlight videos of your life played at your funeral. It reflects on true versus perceived memories, and how we all have things we have done we may not be so proud of – or want to share.

And there are even more powerful possibilities as lives are logged.

Patterns, information, and knowledge can come from sorting through large amounts of big data. What could be bigger than the life logs of say 1,000 people over 50 years; or 1,000,000 people over 80 years; or 100,000,000? The ability to log the physical state, geography, emotions, and activities of larges groups is here, as it the ability to store, analyze and interpret the data.

Is laugher really contagious? Are there places in the world that are truly healthier, is there a link between being caught in the rain and how you will score on a test later that day? What is the human “butterfly effect”? Correlations and relationships never though of before (or provable) could become common knowledge. Whole-Live Data Mining could be an interesting job in about 100 years.

The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

In the near term –

  • Are you ready for your attendees to share every moment of their time at your experience?
  • To record and share their conversations, sessions attended?
  • Do you have a policy for life loggers?

What do you think? Log your thoughts here –

New Norm | User Generated Content (UGC)

Social Media started with content relevant to your “social” world. It was through new channels like Twitter and Facebook and about you. But once released from the bottle, the genie cannot be held to just the social aspects of life for long.

User generated content is typically seen as ‘Conversational Media’, as opposed to the ‘Packaged Goods Media’ of the past century.1 

But while the conversations are certainly growing, user-generated content carries a few more influential characteristics as well.

Packaged Goods Media was centrally controlled and needed costly distribution channels like subscribers and/or airwaves, which required a return on investment. Given the costs there was a resulting correlation between the “professional” look of the medium and the assumed quality of the message.

But in addition to the social change of “who has something to contribute”, the technical and economic changes have equalized the distribution playing field.

The Walla Walla Washington high school newspaper website has the same reach as the New York Times or BBC. [I picked them because they came in second in the 2011 Edward R Murrow High School Journalism Competition.]

Technology has also made media capture and manipulation common for the common man. Print, photo, web, music, and other rich media can be laid out and published like never before. These are the same applications used by the media enterprise. Thank Adobe for this.

As a result User Generated Content with its endless reach, low investment, and equal perception of quality has enabled anyone to generate and distribute anytime. ANYONE CAN DO IT! Look at me. If “video killed the radio star” than the digital revolution killed the radio, print, TV, newspaper, and guest keynoter.

But are we pushing a string or pulling it with this ability? Do people really want to create content?

Jeff Jarvis, Professor at New York University and author of the book “Public Parts” says,

“Sharing is a social and generous act: it connects us, it establishes and improves relationships, it builds trust, it disarms strangers and stigmas, it fosters the wisdom of the crowd, it enables collaboration, and it empowers us to find, form and act as publics of our own making.”

The network on which this user-generated content is shared is making the world smaller. Maybe not literally, but the “6 degrees of separation” are now 4.7. Some bloggers have more street cred and influence than established news writers.

How does this affect the experience marketing and events industry?

First, ANYONE CAN CREATE AN EVENT. Certainly anyone can create valuable content. Your community, competitors, just a guy looking to make a few bucks while you need to make more. What is your real experience advantage? Your event, and its relationship with the audience, is no safer than the radio, video, or TV star.

Second, supply and demand quickly come into play when there are so many willing and able to provide content. Any equation between the value of content and price paid is broken. Thousands will freely contribute content to news outfits, blog sites, or direct to readers, friends, fans.

“FREE” or inexpensive content is expected. If you’re selling something, people will find a back door to getting it for less or free. If content is a key to your financial success – you are in trouble. Professional photographers have been replaced by Flickr searches, record companies bypassed, and comics are producing their own TV specials.

Some organizations have embraced this Janus Moment. The Event Marketing Summit has introduced Unsessions – Targeted conversations created, managed, and executed by attendees. They have looked to “place” as the differentiators in the marketing mix.

 

Lynda.com have done one better. With no direct affiliation with Apple, Adobe, or Microsoft, Lynda.com offers a universe of user-generated print and video content on all things computing and software from self (and community) proclaimed subject matter experts resulting in a differentiating “product” with search, digestible and relevant results, and monthly subscriptions.

The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

How are you dealing with User Generated Content?

  • Does the rise threaten your events value?
  • How can/are you adjusting the content exchange?
  • Beyond content, what other aspects of your program are or should be user-generated? The agenda, tools, locations?

Contribute your user-generated content to the dialog –

The Digitizing of Everything

There are 31,463 digital images in my photo library including scans from my earlier work and old family images, and photos taken in digital form.

Currently there are 416 emails in my work inbox, and 256 in my 5 personal email accounts. I have thousands of emails filed from the past 30 months.

My 5,699 songs would take 16.3 days to play and can be accessed from several devices via the cloud.

I received no printed magazines, instead using iBooks and Zinio to manage my 25 annual subscriptions. We watch movies from iTunes and Netflix, event sessions on YouTubes, and video-conference with the family almost weekly now.

All these items can be stored, searched, manipulated, sent, and shared across digital channels.

You get the picture – the digitizing of our lives has had a material effect on the media, communications, and entertainment realms.

Most digitization has been of existing data, or data we would have recorded in another form one way or another. Media, sales records, stock transactions, inventory, medical records, weather patterns all proceeded digitization and would have marched on with or without the computer age. Just look to the constant stream of new data being added.

These are the “low hanging fruit” of digitization. They have assisting in organizing our worlds, speeding the calculations, and showing patterns but how have they truly changed it?

In the book AFTER THOUGHT The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence James Bailey proposes a completely new impact on humanity due to the computers ability to “think” differently than we do. [Note: this is a 15-year-old book and not an easy ready, but one whose concepts has stayed with me for years.]

One example he uses to illustrate the impact of the speed of computing is weather predictions. Given the same data, humans could calculate the predictions just as machines, but in hundreds of “man-hours”. By then, the prediction would be useless.

This is where the next chapter of digitization is taking us – to digitizing things that we would not think of as digital – like currency, our lives via life logging, and 3 dimensional items not for display on 2D or 3D monitors but for reproduction in 3 dimensions.

Take a minute to look around your world, what do you think can’t be digitized? Chances are you are wrong.

The digitizing of everything is one of the most impacting elements of the quantum change known as computing. It has just started to truly run its course and will, over the next 50 years, bring truer if not greater change than it has in the last 50.

Watch your S.T.E.P.

Growing up, I was taught a memory technique of creating a word from the letters of what you wanted to remember. The first I recall was “Homes” which was the great lakes in the Midwest – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Businesses rely on these acronyms all the time, creating unique ones for department names, product offering, etc. Some became actual words such as Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), and Snafu (look it up if you need to).

One of the most common acronyms in business is SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – as a way to analyze the competitive position by looking both inside and at the external competitive environment.

During a very impactful IBM planning session, (where I was fortunate to be one of a few outsiders invited to), I was introduced to STEP – Social, Technical, Economic, Political – as a way of understanding and building context to the subject being analyzed. These are the realms in which new norms and change happen, where Janus Moments occur.

Larry Downs states in the Law of Disruption “social, political, and economic systems change incrementally, but technology changes exponentially.” This is true and recognizable in how technology causes disruption in the other realms – such as changes in law (texting and driving), work patterns (work from home), and business models (open software development).

And this disruption is true for events as well, where technology’s impact on content creation and distribution, attendee experience, and the definition of an event (i.e. “virtual events”) have all recently changed.

But Janus Moments can, and will, come from any realm and at any speed.

On September 11th, 2001, all norms related to air travel, public safely, and “suspicious behavior” changed in a moment. How many events had metal detector screening the day before? How many did the week after?

On September 17th, 2011 norms related to equality, protest, and politics changed almost as quickly as 1,000 joined the first official day of Occupy Wall Street.

On the other hand, it has taken since 1936 (the first public video telephone service) for video conferencing to become a norm due to economics and social factors.

Watch for the slight, as well as disruptive, movement in social, technical, economic, and politic realms to see Janus Moments as they happen, and to predict when they will occur.

 

Tools of the trade

A few “tools of the trade” for caretakers of marketing events and experiences:

SWOT | Helps to determine the competitive advantage (or disadvantage) that one faces as well as the challenges and possible opportunities to pursue.

  • Strength
  • Weakness
  • Opportunity
  • Threat

 

STEP | Used to build an assessment and context of the landscape in general, and competitive landscape in particular. This is the realm in which change and Janus Moments occur.

  • Social
  • Technical
  • Economic
  • Political

 

Marketing Mix (the P’s) | When I started business school there were four, then 6, then 7. These are the way to differentiate your product or solution.

  • Product
  • Packaging
  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Placement/Physical evidence
  • People (sales)
  • Process

 

TRDOM | Successful marketing means a lot of things to a lot of people – brand, leads, etc. But I have found that the phrase TRDOM to be both memorable and helpful in ensure effective marketing

  • Targeted | Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant | How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires. Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Differentiating | How are you different from other solutions, alternatives? What makes you stand out.
  • Orchestrated | Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured | How do you know you are reaching your objective?

 

 

 

 

 

Postcards from the Edge: What is a Janus Moment

In 1984 the United States saw the majority of its gross domestic product come from Service rather than manufacturing. It was not a surprise, in fact it was well predicted, but its impact has been no less profound.

 

In the period from May 2011 to February 2012, Smartphones have become the norm, surpassing other cell phones 46% to 41%. (Believe it or not, 12% still don’t have cell phones at all.)

 

And, on September 11, 2001 an unpredictable occurrence took place that also changed the world in several different ways.

These are examples of Janus Moments – the moment where a new norm is established. They may be planned or unplanned, predictable or not, good or bad; but they effect what is considered “normal” in society, technology, economics, and politics – on a personal and macro level.

The impact of these moments will be multi-faceted and meaningful if not to you personally, to those you market to, communicate with, and socialize with. And, they will be different for different segments of society, your audience, etc. Smartphone users tend to be younger; the shift in GDP impacted those with high school education and below differently than those with higher educations.

It is possible to see Janus Moments coming and to prepare and react accordingly. In fact, some would argue that it is vital to look for these and see them coming, but where to look?

Technology is the easiest as the introduction of new technology is often widely publicized and promoted. But with all realms, look to those on the edge – the fringe, the “early adaptors”, or the “cutting edge”.

The law of dangerous precedents says:

“Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.”1

It also follow that there is no way to see the coming of new norms without looking to the edge – to those doing things that set “dangerous precedent”. If you are uncomfortable, nervous, or uncertain, listen to that feeling.

But it doesn’t need to be so emotional. There are several types of change:

  • Quantum | these are the biggies that come from seemingly nowhere to change seemingly everything. Think printing press, personal computers, September 11th.
  • Additive | adding together two separate elements such as the computer and the cell phone. Technically possible for years, and tried a few times, but only recently the norm.
  • Adaptive | applying something meant for one purpose to another. Teflon is my favorite example when in 1954, French engineer Marc Grégoire created the first pan coated with Teflon non-stick resin under the brand name of Tefal after his wife urged him to try the material he had been using on fishing tackle on her cooking pans.
  • Incremental | from 1,100 participants at the first Occupy Wall Street protest on September 17th, 2011 to hundreds of thousands globally.

As the voice and reach of those on the edge continues to broaden, their ideas and expectations will move mainstream much faster. As marketers, be prepared, listen, and imagine the new norms to come. Then, determine how they can, should, and will be used looking forward.

 

The End of Cash | The End of “The Hardest Part”

In the song “The Hardest Part” Blondie sings

Twenty five tons of hardened steel rolls on no ordinary wheel
Inside the armored car ride two big armed guards
In a bullet-proof vest, shatterproof glass, overdrive, we’re gonna pass
Twenty five tons of hardened steel rolls on no ordinary wheel
The hardest part of the armoured guard
Big man of steel behind the steering wheel

But like so many great movies of the past whose storylines would now make no sense due to cell phones, this song may well become an oddity that our children fail to understand.

To paraphrase Willie Sutton “Banks aren’t where the money is.”

The digitizing of everything has reached currency and will continue to impact not just the financial realm, but soon the icons of currency distribution networks – banks, armored cars, ATM, etc. Bank Tellers, currency printing, and “big men of steel behind the steering wheel” will all be a thing of the past.

Never happen – while Sweden, the first European country to introduce bank notes in 1661, is now pushing to get rid of them. Sweden has already reduced notes and coins to just 3% of their economy (vs. 9% for the EU and 7% in the US).

As a result of banks not being where the money is, bank robberies are down 85% in the past 3 years. What good is grabbing someone’s purse or wallet, if there is nothing in it that can be used?

Are you ready for the cashless society?

New Norm | Equality

“At least since the French Revolution, equality has served as one of the leading ideals of the body politic; in this respect, it is at present probably the most controversial of the great social ideals.”1

The notion of equality is much simpler than the reality.

Explore Wikipedia, the Stanford article quoted above, or many other sources on the subject and it becomes clear that equality is much easier to support in concept than to understand or achieve in reality.

Do we mean equality of opportunity, of outcome, of surrounding, of conditions, of access? Should we all be 6 feet tall; have the opportunity to be 6‘ tall; or not be looked upon differently if we are not exactly 6’ tall? The answer is – unfortunately – not always equitable.

Recently, while boarding a flight overseas, the perception of inequality was brought to light. The second group to board was called, and as has become the norm, this group consisted of high mileage flyers. As soon as they started heading for the plane, someone not in this group began loudly complaining “why should these people get to board before I do?”

This question had not been raised (publically at least) when the first group boarded – consisting of families with small children and those “needing more time to board”. But it was now being loudly asked.

Activities that appear to differentiate are less and less tolerated. It is the populist aspect of the notion of equality that makes the topic so popular. (A self-obvious sentence if ever there was one.)

There may be a Janus Moment occurring, not for the seemingly universal support of equality, but for the willingness to voice such support, and to voice dissatisfaction when it is felt to not be occurring.

Coke reacted (to either the desire for increased equality or at the rising voices) by turning a skybox for invited coke guests into a dormitory for coke customers.

Certainly the notion of equality won here, but don’t look too deep at the reality – a smaller percent of the total population will have access to the dormitory than Coke VIPs had originally. It is the “who” that matters, not the how many.

Will this type of equality “stick” or will it be a fad? Some changes in equality have proven foundational – while not completely the norm, domestic partner benefits can now be found at 57% of Fortune 500 companies.

What is certain is that the major contributing factor to the rise in equality is that everyone’s voice is now equally heard. Social media has replaced the complaint letter as the vehicle for those who are unhappy or displeased with how they are being treated – by their airline, government, company, or spouse.

With this rise in diversity of voice, we are deciding more and more how we feel from our friends, colleagues, and digital communities. We are empowered when we see and hear their stories. Add the “digitizing of the complaint letter” to a community of sympathetic listeners and detractors now have as resilient a voice as promoters, as direct a channel for distribution, and can come together with shared issues more quickly.

Experience and event caretakers have been using the promoter side of this powerful social media revolution and monitoring the detractor side to put out fires. It’s likely more will need to change.

The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

Questions to ask about your event:

  • Are reserved seats at your event still “acceptable”? Faster lines, VIP areas and access?
  • Is tiered pricing still considered equitable?
  • What might someone feel is inequitable and how can/should you address it?
  • Who is out but might be in?
  • How might displeasure be displayed? Do you have a way to facilitate such concerns?

What are you hearing about equality?

New Norm | Protest [“Occupy”]

It has become socially acceptable to be antisocial. Protest is now the norm; we celebrate disruption – and a just cause.

The Arab Spring started December 18th, 2010 and resulted in political and cultural change in 17+ Arab countries. While certainly not socially “accepted’ by those in power, they none the less became the norm for regime and government change in that region.

Nine months later The Occupy Wall Street movement became an open platform with economic, political, and social drivers helping to fuel the movement’s goal of social equality.

Don’t take my word for it, ask Time Magazine whose Time Magazine person of the year 2011 is the protestor. The cover image has been altered — it’s not an Arab woman as you might think – but a woman from LA.

This emboldening of the masses, and the power they (truly) can bring, has spread to other issues, sometimes not even as clear as those of Occupy Wall Street.

In August 2011 street violence erupted in London after a local man was shot dead by the police. In February 2012 at Mobile World Congress/Barcelona: students protesting education cuts overtook the plaza entrance disrupting an event that hosted 67,000 people from 205 countries.

Why disrupt an event like Mobile World Congress? Because, to quote Willie Sutton, “that’s where the money is.”

Events are the result of a large investment by one or more groups, they have a “built-in audience”, they are easy to interrupt, and depending on the subject of the protest, can be the direct target of the message.

Protests are certainly not new, nor do they always need to come in the form of a large crowd. Michael Moore in the late 90’s and early 2000’s camped out in Las Vegas outside ballrooms doing research for his film about the healthcare industry. He wanted to find out how much money was being spent on cocktail parties and room drops.

The healthcare industry responded by eliminating company logos from all event signage so as to NOT attract attention, and disallowing camera recording at off-site events. Candid modules being shot were cancelled, all footage confiscated by corporate security post event, and erased from editors’ hard drives.

Another sign this is a new norm – software designed to manage and organize in “anti-social” ways. SUKEY is a web app designed to keep people safe, mobile and informed during demonstrations. It features crowd-sourced updates from twitter and other online and offline sources to provide users with a timely overview of what is going on at a demonstration. Includes a map view, compass view and the ability to send reports and updates through the app itself. “Fleeing riot police on foot? Now there’s an app for that.

In London, organizers used BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to get the word out because it supports private messages to your entire address book free. Mike Butcher, digital advisor to the mayor of London, called BBM the thug’s Gutenberg press.”1

Economic, political and social factors were drivers in London, Barcelona, NYC, and the Middle East, but what about the stakeholders and audience at your marketing program or event. Is the high-level guest speaker booked for your event beloved by everyone universally? Would anyone have any reason to target (or interrupt) your program?

The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretakers for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

Whether it’s as simple as hecklers you anticipate or an underground movement – be prepared. For corporate marketing programs and events, there are five internal and external groups to ensure you are aligned with in advance.

  • Travel | how do you move all stakeholders in case of protest
  • Legal | what are your rights and options should something occur
  • Public Relations | what you say is as important as what you do
  • Human Resources | one of the stakeholders is your own co-workers, are there policies, training, or procedures in place?
  • Crisis Management | More than security, this team can focus on all aspects (including security) of the situation.

What are you doing?

 

Of Gods and Janitors

 

The familiar quote from Isaac Asimov says, “the only constant is change.”

But it goes on to say “…continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”

This state of constant change was recognized by the Romans years before and entrusted to the god Janus. Janus (depicted with two faces, one looking towards the past and the other the future) is the god of beginnings and transitions, and for whom the month January (the beginning of a new year) is named.

Doors, bridges, archways, and gates – as places where one transitions from one place to another – are the domain of Janus. And these places were cared for by “Janitors”, directly relating to the god Janus. Janitors being much more than simply cleaners, they were caretakers of the god’s domains.

Recognizing a “Janus Moment” (as I call it) when a new norm arises, is essential to ensuring successful marketing in general, and events specifically.

These Janus Moments can be personal, cultural, organizational, etc. They can occur in social, technical, economic, or political realms. They can be predicted or come on suddenly; thus the need to remain focused and attentive.

The unique nature of events comes from the shared experiences in a moment in time by the participants. With the pressure at events to deliver the experience in real-time, and without the opportunity to “re-do” it, the alignment of norms to your participants’ expectations becomes essential to both ensuring the experience is not “out of sync”, and reaching the objectives of the program. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

The science is in the “alignment of norms to your participants’ expectations”. A new norm for one is a new cutting edge experience for another or worse, “passé” for a third. If you are responsible for the experience at a shared moment in time, you are its janitor, it’s caretaker.

The Janus Dialogs are designed to be a forum for discussions on new norms – those just beginning, establishing, or suddenly appearing. Dialog is encouraged as are submission of entries and articles for inclusion from anyone. Since each caretaker will need to make their own determination of the alignment to the participants’ expectations, we will not look for conclusive direction, but insightful exposure and exchange.

Welcome.

About Janus Dialogs

Founded and moderated by Scott Schenker as a way of getting the voices out of his head, Janus Dialogs is a forum for discussions on new norms – those just being established, or suddenly appearing. Dialog is encouraged, as are submission of articles and comments. We look not for conclusive direction, but rather for insightful exposure and exchange.

 

 

 

Events often serve as the environment where a brand can be experiences. These experiences – ranging from tradeshows to conferences to workshops to gorilla marketing – find themselves as “the place” where cutting edge technologies, approaches, and tactics are implemented, trialed, proven.

As the General Manager, World Wide Events and Production Studio at Microsoft Central Marketing Group, Scott Schenker is responsible for the overall strategy, executive presentations, and management of the company’s tier one programs as well as the in-house media production facilities.

Scott has over 30 years-experience in marketing including strategy, creativity, and project management. He has executed hundreds of programs in numerous industries and across all channels. From Line Producer to Sr. Vice President, Asia Pacific, He has worked extensively in EMEA, APJ, and the Americas, and held a variety of positions in senior management, creative, strategy, and execution on the client and agency sides.

Prior to joining Microsoft in early 2013, Scott three years at SAP transforming their lead proprietary event – SAPPHIRE – to reflect emerging audience and technology trends, increase alignment to the business, and further the brand. The resulting SAPPHIRE NOW was recognized within the company for its contributions to the business, and in the events industry with various awards including two ExAwards and was named BizBash’s Most Innovative Event in 2012.

Before SAP, Scott oversaw client services, stakeholder marketing, program strategy, and experience design for several global clients at George P. Johnson, an experience marketing company. This included online and physical event components, social media planning and management, organic research and experience measurement, content and media editorial planning, affinity programs for broad ecosystems, digital and data management, and more traditional elements such as print, graphics, and special events.

Prior to George P. Johnson, Scott was at Jack Morton Worldwide for 11 years, most recently as SVP for the Hong Kong and Singapore regions.