You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: How to Catch the Big Fish in a Changing Current

On a daily (or at least weekly) basis I hear businesses – particularly small businesses – say things like, “Heh, we don’t need the Internet” or “Twitter won’t pay the bills” or “Yeah, we know we should be on Facebook but we’re not really sure what it…” It makes me chuckle, naturally.  But it also makes it clear to me that there is a need in the marketplace for education.  Marketers have a real opportunity to educate small businesses about the basics of using emerging media to enhance their business.  Why should they use it is more important for them to initially understand than the how.  It’s not enough anymore to simply have a Web site or even to have a toe in the water of emerging media. Businesses that understand the changing marketplace and align their brands accordingly will have a leg up on the competition.  But before all that: let’s start at the beginning.

Remember Jaws? You know, the Spielberg classic in which a small resort town is terrorized by man-eating sharks. There are some lessons from that film that I equate to what businesses face in today’s market when trying to understand emerging media.

In Jaws, shark hunters are hired to track and kill a shark (believed to be responsible for at least two deaths) before the summer tourist season gets into full swing; to avoid scarring away tourists and the money they bring to the town.  The Chief of Police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) sets out to find the shark. Brody, along with shark hunters, gather their gear and load up the boat and head out into the vast ocean. Brody begins to place bait in the water when he suddenly is taken by extreme surprise as the shark rears his head just above the water’s surface.  In one of the most memorable cinematic lines in history he utters words that still resonate with us and can be used to describe various situations across an array of disciplines: “You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat.” 

This is exactly how I see businesses that struggle to understand new media.  When I think about businesses that underplay (or ignore altogether) emerging media as a tool in their marketing arsenal, I envision them as Brody.  A veteran at their craft.  A master at selling widgets (or financial services, construction equipment, food (restaurants), bicycles, art, wine…). They have been in business for generations and “that’s the way we’ve always done it” is almost a mantra.  Another line I often hear that’s a personal favorite is: “you don’t understand my business”.  The very nature of that statement makes me wonder if they understand their business.  They are – in essence – Police Chief Brody.  An expert in their field, respected by many, and revered as an innovator, they take on the challenge of finding and killing the shark with the same tools, the same boat, and the same crew as they always have.  However, once they’re in the ocean they are stunned to learn how different things look.  This shark is unlike any they’ve ever seen.   Now it gets fun.

So, now the business begins to understand that they are ill-equipped to catch such a large fish.  But they want that fish more than any fish they’ve ever caught in their career. It’s not about saving the tourism industry or to make upper management happy: this is personal.  This catch will be their legacy.  They must catch it. But they need a bigger boat.  Where do they get a bigger boat? Do they need any other new tools? What tools are there these days? This is what we call the “Ah-Ha!” moment. 

There are myriad emerging media that can be used to help businesses land the big fish (or a whole bunch of small fish, whatever their pleasure).  This blog is not about the how but more about the why -  (More on the how in the next post) - Why they should at least entertain being educated about the tools that are available.  They will still use some of their stand-by tools.  The stand-bys are what got them here in the first place!  But the current is changing and with it comes a new species of fish that aren’t harder to catch, but rather they are different to catch. 

I personally love Brody.  Always have.  He is rugged and the years in this field are beginning to show in his face.  His knowledge is vast and the rookies both respect and loathe him.  He has a long, successful history.  And he does, ultimately, kill the fish.  But was it in the most efficient way?  He is exhausted by the end of the journey and appears to have no energy left to hunt anymore fish – possibly ever.  Do you want your business to catch the big fish (or a boat load of little ones or a mixture of both)? Do you want to use every possible tool available? Do you want to expel so much energy towards this one catch that you contemplate never hunting again?  All you need is a bigger boat.  


Feeling Anti-Social? How To Break The Ice at the Online Cocktail Party

Human beings are social creatures by nature.  Yes, even the techy, Star Trek types.  But for some reason everyone’s story is the same: people like being at the party, but sometimes it takes us a while to warm up and really feel part of the group.  Once we get over the awkward feeling that everyone is starring at us as we entered (trust me, they’re not so get over yourself and relax), we generally find that once we get a drink and settle in that the “crowd” is rather accepting of us.  Furthermore, they might even want to build a relationship with us or (gasp!) do business with us.

This is exactly how social media works.  That’s why we call it “social”.  Don’t worry about being late to the party.   You’re welcome to join us anytime.  Here are a few tips to get started.

Dress Code

Business casual is perfectly acceptable however the emphasis should be on business and not casual.  When posting an update to Facebook or Twitter, use your “office” voice and leave the tailgate voice for the tailgate with your friends. The most important thing to remember is that you are building or maintaining relationships with clients and colleagues.  Use the same etiquette and vernacular that you would if you were speaking with them at a business-after-hours or other networking event. 

What Time Does It Start?
One of the biggest challenges with social media is when to post something.  That is a big question with an answer that, well, depends.  It depends on what type of business you have and when your customers are online.  Number one rule of customer-centricity is to know your customer.  If you know them, then you know their behavior.  Speak to them when and where they choose – not when it’s most convenient for you. 

Who Will Be There?
Customers. Colleagues.  Potential employers/future job prospects.  But also the competition.  Let me say that again.  Your competition is already at the party and they just bought your client a drink. Also, they just asked your employee for their business card. Even if you’re not sure what to wear, what time it starts, or what really happens at this party, relax.  You will figure all that out in time.  But if you’re not there, it’s fatal.

So, get in the car and get to that party! Engage yourself and your customers.  Engage your friends.  Be patient.  You will not sell something at this party – at least not right away.  But you will eventually.  And your brand equity will skyrocket.  Pretty soon they’ll be asking YOU to host the party at your place.  Better yet, they’ll just start showing up at your place and you won’t even have to invite them.  Why? Because you’re the life of the party. 



Everyone wants to be liked.  We all do.  We want to know that others find us desirable in some way whether it’s for a date, a friendship, or a job interview.  What is “it” about certain people that make them likeable?  The same thing it is for brands. Now, let’s get real. 

Consumers today are savvy.  What this really means is that they are cynical.  They know you’re selling to them.  The truth is that they don’t want to be “sold’ however, if we facilitate the right environment, they will buy. Why? Because they like us.  Ogilvy’s SVP of Global Strategy & Marketing, Rohit Bhargava, called a “believability crisis” during his presentation at Mashable Connect 2011.
Bhargava gives us a few things to remember when communicating our value or our brand’s value.  Wait, that’s too much jargon already.  Seriously, I’ll get real now. 

Bhargava coined the term “Likeonomics”  and it’s based on being simple, human, brutally honest and emotional. GET REAL PEOPLE!  Here’s how: 

1) Simple
To be more believable, the first step is simple and based on personal relationships, said Bhargava. “Be genuine, be honest, be open.” He believes that this concept has powered the social media revolution and the brands that have embraced it.

2) Be Human
If you’re trying to build relationships, it’s a good idea to be human. Simply said, but not easily done.

3) Brutally Honest
This is tough for some people.  In her book A Place of Yes, Bethenny Frankel addresses this, too.  She says, You’ve set yourself up to live with integrity, and this rule is the key to practicing that integrity.If you do it, say it, think it, then own it, and you’ll never have to scramble to cover your tracks or remember your lies or make up any excuses. Owning it means taking that final step toward fully acknowledging who you really are”. 

4) Emotional
Be invested in your passion and others will be too. 

Try these on for size over the next few weeks and see if people like you.  For being you.  Guaranteed ROI.  People will do business with you – not because you make the best widget or sell it at the best price or because you’re in the best location – but because they like you. 


Is That Old PC a Lemon? Maybe You Need an Apple.

As the digital age evolves, conversations among friends and colleagues revolve around the technology which guides our daily lives.  Does your company use social media? Do you Tweet? Are you addicted to your phone? And, inevitably, the discussions include the decades-long question: Are you a Mac or a PC?

Technology is increasingly personal.  Mobile phones are personal.  Messages are personal.  This could explain why everything seem to begin with ‘i’.  It is no surprise, then, that marketing campaigns are becoming more personal by making connections with the audience. Smart marketers tell their brand’s story by making the consumer the central character within that story.  Apple’s Get A Mac campaign executed this idea flawlessly.  They made the audience the central character as they told their product’s story. 

The campaign ran for a few years. The stuffy, old-guy “PC” is played by John Hodgman and the hipster “Mac” is played by Justin Long.  Let’s take a closer look at three of the stories they told - all of which centered on the customer. 

This spot begins with the two characters we have come to know and love as “PC” and “Mac” standing in the same place they are always standing – the white oblivion.  “PC” is sneezing and “Mac” asks him what’s wrong. 

“PC”: “I’ve got that virus that’s going around. You better stay back, this one’s a doozy!”
 “Mac”: “That’s okay, I’ll be fine”
“PC”: “No, no. Last year there were 114,000 known viruses for PC’s”
“Mac”: “PCs. But not Macs.”

Then “PC” says he’s crashing and falls over, landing on the floor.  Apple puts the consumer as the central character of this spot by playing to consumers’ emotions about viruses and the safety of their computers.  The consumers, especially PC owners, can identify with the virus story and that’s why the spot is personal.  Also, by personifying the virus and the computer, the character (meaning the audience) feels that him or herself, not just their computer, could catch the virus.  The audience is taken from Point A to Point B in thirty short seconds because they come into the commercial as a PC owner and leave the commercial with the knowledge that Macs apparently do not get viruses.  This spot’s hilarity makes it enjoyable to watch. The spot’s product information makes it powerful. 

This spot begins how every Get A Mac spot begins: with the introduction.  Every commercial in this campaign begins with “Mac” saying, “Hello. I’m a Mac” followed immediately by “PC” saying, “And I’m a PC.”  However, this spot is different in that “Mac” immediately responds with something unexpected.  Here’s the dialogue:

“Mac”: “Hello. I’m a Mac.”
“PC”: “And I’m a PC.”
“Mac”: “And I’m a PC, too.”

“PC” is totally thrown off-guard by this comment.  “Mac” continues by stating that Mac now has the capacity to run Windows operating system.  He then cleverly states that because of this, Mac may be the only computer you’ll ever need.  This spot places the consumer as the central character by addressing consumers’ concerns about Mac’s operating system. Consumers who may be considering purchasing a Mac may be apprehensive because they are familiar with Windows and their work is all done in Windows and Windows is the standard and….

The audience is once again taken from Point A to Point B, with Point B being the knowledge that Mac now runs Windows.  Whether or not the audience runs out and buys a Mac based on this is irrelevant.  What is relevant is that the audience feels an emotional and a logical connection with Mac in a totally new way.  The audience believes that Mac understands their needs and desires.  Their own personal complexity and dynamic nature is central to this brand.

This spot opens just like the others.  But something is noticeably different this time.  “Mac”, who is usually dressed in a signature T-shirt and blue jeans, is wearing a business suit.  “PC” immediately comments on this. Here is the dialogue:

“PC”:  “What’s with the big-boy clothes?”
“Mac”: “Oh, I just came from a meeting.”
“PC”: “Why, why, why were you at a meeting.”
“Mac”: “Oh, I do work stuff, too.”

“PC” then begins to hyperventilate and has to lie down.  He says that he knew this day would come.  Then he lies down on the floor and says, “Just let me lie here and depreciate.”  This spot takes the audience from Point A to Point B by showing them that Macs aren’t all fun-and-games and that you can get a lot of work done when using a Mac.  It brilliantly places the audience as the central character in the story by speaking to their desire for a “cool” computer and their need to work.

Get A Mac was a brilliantly executed campaign because it told its story by making the audience the central character.  When brands do this, they engage the consumer in a relationship, thereby building brand loyalty.  Consumers want products that are personal to them. They want products that make sense for their lives whether the product is for work or for pleasure.  In the ‘i’ generation of technological advancement, brands who are customer-centric instead of product-centric will have a competitive advantage because they will build lasting relationships with their target audience.  Regardless of what side of the personal computer debate you’re on, you would be remiss to deny that Apple's customer-centricity works.  All brands, big and small, can take a lesson from this campaign.