Why Most Stuff Online Sounds Exactly The Same

Why Most Stuff Online Sounds Exactly The Same

Do you ever find yourself reading something online that sounds a lot like other stuff you just read? Like the tone, sentence structure and tempo are completely indistinguishable from each other? I notice this A LOT. Sometimes I think I’m on “The Truman Show” and people are just regurgitating stuff because we all know Jim Carey can’t read. Of course, he can’t! All of his fellow students in that movie were actors pretending to be interested in him, and all his teachers ever did was tell him he’d die if he left town. You wouldn’t want to read either!

Then I remember that, although this universe very well could be a simulation, I’m not on “The Truman Show.” This is depressing because that means that the sameness is not my imagination. A lot of things published on the internet all look and sound the same. And it’s not just restricted to Geek Culture websites that I read every day. Although I swear to God if I see another video of some writer for a Geek Culture site wearing colorful sneakers, cargo shorts, a graphic tee, and a beard, I’m going to have to rethink how I dress. Seriously white guys in our thirties, get it together. If we all look the same while trying to be different, we ain’t different.

The media, mainstream and otherwise, also suffers from the same homogeneity problem, so don’t think I’m flinging feces exclusively at my fellow geeks and marketers, it’s a problem system wide across the internet. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is think back to the 2016 presidential election and how wrong the media was on Trump. The reporters are creating the news for us just didn’t pick up on key trends and attitudes. Why? Because they’re all pretty much the same — coming from the same parts of the country (NYC, LA, SF, D.C.) with similar socioeconomic backgrounds and degrees from the same Ivy League institutions. I joke about this a lot, but it’s true, for most people who live in New York City (and this includes a whole lot of journalists and media outlets), the world ends at the Lincoln Tunnel.

And so the content produced by those people looks and sounds the same. Another example: Marketing blogs and think pieces written by marketers. I dare you to read any marketing blog, or even the latest guest column in Adweek, and not look at who wrote it. Believe me, man or woman, you’re going to think it’s the same one or two people writing all those columns.

This is hilarious to me because marketing is about standing out from the crowd, and here we have an entire industry of people who sound like they’re all the same. How does that even work?

OK. OK. One more example. A lot of you might not care about marketers and journalists/bloggers. I know, because every time I pitch a book about those people I get the “Who gives a shit?” response from my agent, and he’s right! So here’s an example you will care about: YouTube Voice. Check out a lot of the stuff uploaded to YouTube by YouTube creators and close your eyes. The voices themselves may differ, but how they speak won’t. I’m not the only one to observe this. Linguistics professor Naomi Baron analyzed the properties of YouTube voice in a great piece in The Atlantic little ways back. “YouTube Voice” is essentially the overemphasis of words that hold people’s attention. And now that I’ve told you this, you won’t be able to unhear it. I’m not sorry.

It’s time to declare war on sameness

I’ve believed that smart marketing and using internet platforms effectively can bring you to a certain point of success, but you don’t need me to tell you there’s a glass ceiling you’ll eventually bump into after that. The odds are good most of you have smacked into that ceiling by now. Cracking the damn thing is going to take a lot more than one blog post, but I can give you a bit of advice here to get you started. And that advice is that you can’t sound, look or present like everyone else. The second you do that, what’s the point? You’re just another startup with some dumb corporate looking “me too” blog, you’re just another brand copying someone else’s gimmick, or you’re just running around shouting “me too” in some other way.

So “Don’t do what Donny Don’t Does.” Or if we’re pulling from the ‘90s well of confusing slogans, “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.”

The thing that sets people and brands apart are personality, and yes, brands should have personality. Don’t listen to the echo chamber of marketers who are all intent on building upon only what works instead of taking risks and encouraging uniqueness. (See: The ongoing discussion from marketers telling other marketers that the way Wendy handles their Twitter account is bad and you shouldn’t copy it.)

And don’t listen to the risk averse MBA and alleged startup gurus who don’t know how to quantify personality and marketing, and therefore want no part of it. History has proven again and again and again that multi-billion dollar companies, both in and out of tech, become multi-billion dollar companies because of great marketing and great PR. Uber, Amazon, Apple, Airbnb, Snapchat, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Nintendo, all say otherwise, and the list goes on. This “We don’t spend any money on advertising” / “marketing is stupid because we can’t quantify it” thing needs to die. I’m convinced this belief is why so many tech companies and startups tend to wipe out or just get bought by someone else as the end to their run, but again, that’s a different blog post. Maybe even a book. Or maybe a book I ghostwrote that’s coming out soon. Hint hint.

Now let’s say you’re not a company, but a person. What example can I give you? Take a look at Brain Pickings. The website is a masterpiece. But conceptually, few marketers would endorse the idea of a site that analyzes and curates from classical literature and philosophy. “No one has a concentration span for that,” they’d say. Don’t believe me? Just remember that the “conventional wisdom” from marketers is that nobody reads long articles. Or that nobody reads. Wrong.

On Brain Pickings, articles on the website often go way over the standard 500-800 words — The site has a strong following and has received several accolades, including being added to the Library of Congress permanent web archive. It’s decidedly not like anything else on the internet. It’s an honest reflection of the work and evolution of its author Maria Popova. In an interview on the podcast OnBeing, Popova said, the site “is really a record of my becoming who I am. And I started so early in my 20s.”

Only Popova can become who she is, which is why the website has such a fresh voice and feel, and really we are all better off when content is a true reflection of who we are and what we’re becoming. It doesn’t matter if you’re a person or a company. Bland business (and bland marketing) spells death. The content should be emotional and real (which often means NOT SAFE) because anything else is soul-crushing. It doesn’t help the reader, and it’s not elevating the content creators. So what’s the point?

There isn’t one! If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re wasting your time, and that’s the most valuable resource that you have. So stop doing that and follow Maria’s lead.


How Do I Make My App Go Viral?

How Do I Make My App Go Viral?

I’ve always liked Quora. It’s not sexy. Nobody talks about it much these days, but it’s a useful place to do some research. Or at the very least, start your research. I don’t think (like Wikipedia) that a visit to Quora should be the only research you do. But if you’re looking for a place to start? Quora isn’t a bad place to go. You can even find me on there answering a question every weekday morning.

I have this dumb morning routine that I do. Ear drops, mouthwash, stretch, say some affirmations in the mirror while trying not to feel like a douchebag for doing so,  use Headspace, read a comic (Currently it’s Marvel’s “Power Man and Iron Fist”), and answer a question on Quora.

All of those things are done with specific reasons behind them. I used to go to the gym regularly in the morning instead of this routine, but the gym here in Monroe is overrun by high school douchebags. The kind of steroid using high school football types that will get into their Mom’s truck and follow you to a gas station just so that they can yell “fag” at you from their window. (True story.)

Anyway, I try to write an answer every weekday morning on Quora in part to get my brain going, and also in part to help me work out some of the things I want to say in “The Internet is Magic.”

While I’m working on the book notes for “Start with Why” and this week’s podcast, I thought I’d post one of those answers here since it might be useful to you. Plus it’s a nice update to the post I did yesterday.

How Do I Make My App Go Viral?

This is one of those answers that probably would take a book to answer in such a way that you’d be satisfied with. That being said, I’ll give you the cliff notes version while encouraging you to read up on word-of-mouth marketing.

To get you started, these are my notes on “The Passion Conversation,” which is typically the starter book that I recommend on word-of-mouth.

OK, that said, here’s the least you need to know …

Most people quickly abandon an app either after they download it, or not long after. (Sometimes they delete it, sometimes it just lives cold and unloved on the phone’s home screen.)

So before you even go further ask yourself: Do I / Should I be working on an app, or is this better to do on another platform? This matters a lot because people are reluctant to share something that has barriers to entry. Even if your app is free, they still have to either find the thing or follow a link, download it, wait for it to load, then play with it. The fewer hoops people have to jump through, the more likely they are to A) Like something and B) Share it with others.

Let’s say they’ve jumped through the hoops. The next thing is: Is the app any good? You might think it’s good, but if it’s just “good,” nobody is going to share it. NOBODY. It has to be awesome. By awesome I mean, it has to give people an answer to the question, “Why the fuck do I care about this?” So you have to have a good story either baked into the app or around the app and you have to make sure the app is easy to understand, easy to use and easier to share. (All easier said than done. How do you answer these questions? THAT is the easy part: Talk to your customers and listen to their feedback. You won’t believe how few people actually ask questions of their customers in this day and age of our global obsession with data and metrics.)

So let’s assume your app is GREAT and you’ve given people a reason to care about it. Good news, people should now be passing it on. (That’s how you know it’s GREAT. If you see it organically being passed around, then you have a “viral” app. You might not have the numbers in your head that we associate with “viral,” but you’re halfway to where you want to be.

Now here’s the bad news. Most things you think of when you say “viral” really aren’t “viral.” Usually, there’s a lot of money or horse-trading going on behind the scenes to give something momentum and the appearance of “viral,” which leads to a little bit of a PR frenzy among media outlets which in turn push the product to the point of appearing like a viral phenomenon. There’s also the algorithms to contend with, so let’s talk about that, and then I’ll double back to this point.

Good news: Platforms are dumb and have algorithms that can easily be abused/manipulated. I say abused/manipulated because this view changes depending on how big of an asshole you are. The key takeaway though is that a lot of activity around your app, assuming that activity is legit or not an obvious attempt at manipulating the system, will activate a lot of the different platforms we have out there today, and when that happens, your product is pushed out more and more to other people.

(Caveat: What works today might not work tomorrow. Eventually, these systems will get smarter, but at the moment if you have significant traction among real people and inbound links/shares stemming from press coverage, it still seems to “lift” the product” in the way I’m describing.)

Here’s The Deal …

Here’s the deal: If you don’t have money to spend, the odds are good you’re not going to go viral in the way that you want. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you utilize all the connections you have, partner up with people and companies who can boost the presence of your app, and arrange for a lot of press, you raise your probability of success. Especially if all that stuff hits as soon as the app goes live (which is tricky sometimes because of Apple and Android doing things on their own schedule.)

PR and those strategic alliances are the keys to success. Nobody wants to admit it because it’s not “cool” among the tech crowd because it’s a thing they can’t quantify, but that’s how you “go viral,” assuming you’ve done everything else I’ve talked about here.

Going viral is just a lazy way to describe good PR because the constant coverage and mentions of the product are what’s driving that viral growth, more often than not.

Sometimes, something comes out of left field, and it goes viral in a truly organic sense, but nine times out of ten it’s either:

  1. Someone is spending a lot of money behind the scenes to make this thing look viral
  2. Someone has a lot of relationships they’re leveraging to get mentions, PR coverage, and people spreading their product for them.
  3. There’s an offline network driving the thing that you and I don’t know about. (Remember: Online influence is usually bullshit, but offline influence? That’s a whole other story depending on domain and context.

Do what I described here, and with some luck, you’ll have something actually go viral, just make sure you set your expectations accordingly given the resources you have to work with.

Tl;Dr kids: Tell a good story, make sure your product doesn’t suck, and do shit that doesn’t scale. Then tell the MBAs and Ivy League douchebags to take a hike. It’s time for the people who actually know what they’re doing to take over.


You can get answers from me almost every morning on Quora here.

A Reply To A VC-Funded San Francisco Based Startup

A Reply To A VC-Funded San Francisco Based Startup

I’ve been on the road this week. So while I work on getting the new podcast and book notes online, I thought I would post this in the interim.

Occasionally I get pitched to promote things for startups and tech companies, and even though it could be extra money for me, I don’t (usually) do it because I feel like I’m taking advantage of them.

So last night, when I got an email that had the subject line, “SF startup about to launch. Want to pay you $1,500 to try our app and tweet about us”, I decided to respond. This is the email (mostly) verbatim. I just took out any identifying details of the startup because I’m not posting this to poke fun at them. I’m posting it to illustrate a larger problem regarding how startups and tech companies want to promote themselves and the same mistakes (almost) all of them continue to make for the reasons I touch on here. I also made some tweaks to my reply, but nothing major.

Tl;Dr Despite the fact that 3 out of 4 startups fail, the tech world continues to be fixated with Ivy League douchebags, growth hacks, MBAs, and engineers who are all obsessed with doing things that they can measure so they can feel better about their small dicks and fragile egos. Going into 2017 and beyond, if these companies (and others who like to copy the tech world) want to succeed, they’re going to need to make some serious changes.

Their Letter

Hi BJ,

My name is ________ and I’m the director of strategy at _______________ , a VC-funded startup

We’re about to launch our product (… Use your imagination here.)

I’m reaching out because I’d love to hire you to try out the app and post a tweet about us during launch week, including a link to our app store pages.

If you’re interested, I would be thrilled to get on the phone this week and nail down the details.

We’re only about a week from launch so would love to connect as soon as you’re available. Please let me know if/when you have the time to talk.

All the best,

My Response

Hey ___________

This is a longer response than necessary, but I appreciate the offer and that you took the time to reach out. So, this is entirely unsolicited advice on my part. Do with it what you will, but I hope you find some of it useful …

I’m happy to take your money. $1,500 is nothing to sneeze at. I have to admit, though, I’m burnt out on dealing with tech people. I’m tired of interacting with Ivy League douchebags and individuals who think that marketing and advertising are something they don’t need to bother with. (Or don’t want to bother with because they’re not able to measure it in a way that appeases their fragile little egos.)

I don’t fault them for this belief. It comes, to a great extent, because they’ve been lied to by an assorted group of schmucks who have decided to retell the stories of how a lot of the Unicorns (past and present) got to where they are by conveniently leaving out the actual reasons they succeeded.

Spoiler alert: With a few exceptions, the rest of them got to where they are through marketing, networking, and PR. You know, things that don’t scale and therefore no one puts any effort into? Yeah. That’s how tech companies fucking win, but nobody sees that because they’re too busy letting pricks with MBAs and engineers fill their minds with concerns about scale and social media numbers instead of actual metrics that matter like, you know, customers and revenue.
If I were you? I wouldn’t do a big fuck all launch. I’d start small in a test market, see what people think, and if they like it, figure out a way to empower those people to do the marketing for you. And then launch in another market, and then another, and another, repeating the process. A big splash might get you some notice in TechCrunch, and I totally get that, but the coverage and subsequent bump aren’t going to matter much regarding getting your investors their money back.

If you’re a week away from launch and you’re just now doing Influencer outreach, you’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. Sure, you might score a quick win here or there to impress your investors and other assholes who think an MBA is all they need to make decisions for the rest of us, but this sort of outreach should be done way sooner. You want to build a relationship with people, not do this spray and pray thing. People buy you, they don’t buy the product. It’s hard to buy into you or anyone new to them with an ask in such a short amount of time, you know?

Sure my Tweet might send a signal to Google to index your site, and then it may also trigger Apple’s algorithm within iTunes if people download the thing, but your bigger concern should be getting rave reviews and a lot of sustained downloads and traffic from larger sources (see: the media) over a sustained period of time.

And then there’s this:  Internet-based Influencers don’t often have the ability to drive traffic and conversions the way a lot of people think they do. I’ve worked with a ton of ad agencies that will all tell you this same thing. My click-through ratio on Twitter is NOT great, but I get better results than other alleged Internet-based influencers for a simple reason: I boost my post as an advertisement whenever I do one of these things.

I’ll let you in on another secret. I wouldn’t lead with being a San Francisco-based startup that’s VC funded. That time is over. Now San Francisco tech companies are seen as greedy assholes who are making their city unaffordable and talking about saving the world in the same tone and sincerity that Trump uses when he says he wants to make America great again.

That might be totally unfair, but that’s the perception, and companies like Uber are not doing you any favors right now to change that.

These days people know that getting funded doesn’t mean shit since 9 out of 10 startups fail. You want to lead with the product and why it’s awesome, and _________ sounds awesome.

(Although you should know there was a (company with a similar name) that got big, briefly, by abusing/spamming Facebook’s algorithm and later got crushed when Facebook put a stop to that loophole they were exploiting. So … That’s awkward.)

The product should be so awesome; others WANT to share it with their friends and family. Lead with that. Lead with something that makes a deep emotional connection with someone. Silicon Valley does that, but not in a positive way outside of the valley.

This email sounds douchey, and it’s not meant to. I want you to succeed, I do. So if you’re a week away and looking to make this huge splash, I want to do my part as a complete and total stranger to encourage you to take a step back. Evaluate what you’re doing (and why), and then ask yourself if there’s a better path toward a bigger, more successful (and far more sustainable) future.

The answer is yes.

But hey, I’m also not going to say no to $1,500 either. Have you seen the size of the rats in Chicago? Trying to fight them off of the garbage can you’ve been eyeing to eat out of is a challenging task.

Book Notes: The Face-to-Face Book

Book Notes: The Face-to-Face Book

Before We Get Started

  • Pardon the typos, spelling errors, and lack of AP formatting. These are just notes and presented as is. Rants and tangents included.
  • If you like what I’m doing here, you can support it by buying a USED copy of Social Media is Bullshit (this should not cost you more than $12, including shipping, in most cases.) Please donate that copy to your local library or share it with a friend after you’re done reading it. Or keep it. I don’t know. I’m not the boss of you.

Book Notes

Like “The Passion Conversation”,  one of the co-authors, Brad Fay, handed me a copy of this book when I was at the Word of Mouth Marketing Summit back in 2012. Home to “the incident” …

I should probably acknowledge that briefly, huh? So, check out the bonus section at the end of this post for more on “The Incident.”

I have two thoughts worth sharing on this book:

1) I wish I was aware of it while I was writing “Social Media is Bullshit”. Their book came out a little earlier than mine in the same year, and they cover a lot of the same ground. My book is way funnier and probably more accessible for a general audience though. “The Face to Face Book” is clearly written for the corporate crowd.

2. I wish I had read this before I read “The Passion Conversation”, because “The Passion Conversation” is almost basically the same book as this one, but shorter. In fact “The Passion Conversation” pulls from “The Face To Face Book” a lot. That’s not a criticism, but having read “The Passion Conversation” first just made this book harder for me to get through.

So, for that reason, this book summary is probably going to be shorter than some of the other ones because I don’t want to repeat anything I’ve already said when I did the book notes for “The Passion Conversation”, which you can check out here.

P.4 “Good marketing starts conversations, and chiefly because of those conversations people make decisions that ultimately determine with brands are successful and which fail.”

I want to point out what I think has become a reoccurring theme in these notes: You notice this statement says nothing about metrics. It’s dead simple and focused on the end, which is getting someone to buy something. The only metric that matters if people are actually buying shit. Nothing else. That MBAs don’t understand this, and it makes them crazy. So they “hate” marketing because they can’t quantify it. And then (as revealed later in this book) people SAY marketing doesn’t work on them, but that’s not at all what the data suggests. So we have this weird, dumb bubble where people are saying marketing is dumb and doesn’t work and then you’ve got these data-obsessed idiots running things and telling people marketing doesn’t work because you can’t quantify it and … It’s just mad. Like neither of these statements are true, but everyone believes them and repeats them.

There’s no other way to say it. I’m tired of typing this  in every summary, so check this out instead:

P.8 So, as someone who sometimes attends Al-Anon because I grew up with an alcoholic / drug addicted mother, I’ve always been fascinated by the mechanics of what makes groups like that work. (Or not work. There’s a lot of people who are not big fans of AA and programs like it for a whole bunch of reasons, but I think it works if you let it.)

One answer is that we’re incredibly social animals, and having people around to reinforce something, a belief, the desire to not drink, to lose weight, to go to the gym and keep going back, helps to achieve this. Pulled from the book, “Join The Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform The World”, Keller and Fay points out how that author’s research (Tina Rosenberg) showed the “social cure” can work “when people consciously and voluntarily choose to participate. […] The resulting changes in our lifestyle occur because we have made a conscious decision to make the change, and in our minds, the supportive community merely helps to achieve what is a highly personal goal.”

P.S. Referring back to The Console Wars, Sega deliberately targeted teenagers with ads that poked fun at their parents with the idea being that Sega would be seen as cool, a belief that would be reinforced by fellow teenagers while simultaneously attracting the attention of younger kids who liked playing Nintendo. The idea being, hey, if their older siblings are playing Sega because it’s cool, why wouldn’t they (the younger kids) want to as well? Those ads worked really well and helped practically erase Nintendo’s monopoly on the video game market. So beyond AA, the “social cure” idea stretches well beyond the self-help world and into the marketing and word of mouth world.

P. 23 I thought it was hilarious that even Facebook’s own executives (in this case, Paul Adams) was telling people back in 2011: “You need to reorient your business around people, not technology. Don’t have a ‘Facebook Strategy’, or a ‘Twitter Strategy’, or a ‘Foursquare Strategy’. Map to human behavior and not to technology.” Think about that.

That’s Facebook as they geared up to go public saying that, all the while the social media marketing idiots kept saying otherwise, and a lot of us believed them.

P.28 Also relating back to Sega, and Ray Kroc’s vision for McDonalds, “… Contrary to many assumptions we all make about how people view marketing, social experiences aren’t interrupted by brands or products but rather improved by them. As such, marketers can take advantage of the inherently social qualities of life without fear that consumers will balk, provided they tread carefully.”

So, playing Sega with your siblings in the ‘90s, playing the Wii with the family in the late ‘00s. Going to Burger King (or eating Burger King together every Saturday, which is what my family did when I was growing up because we were broke), going to Starbucks. We interact with brands in a personal way, solo or in groups, all the time, and nobody gets shitty about it. I mean unless you live in Brooklyn or San Francisco and you’re trying to convince people how unique you are, but you never want to be that person. Don’t be too cool for McDonalds. It’s not a good look. You don’t have to eat there, but don’t throw shade at people who eat there, is what I’m saying.

P.30 We’re five book summaries in, and so by now you know I hate the “It doesn’t scale, so we’re not going to do it” MBA types that permeate the tech world. But the “advertising is dead / doesn’t work” BS is everywhere too. Not just in tech. That’s why it’s worth pointing out, yet again: “The simple fact is, the more a brand advertises, the more visible it is, and that visibility, in turn, makes it more likely it will be talked about – and ultimately purchased.”

This harkens back to Ray Kroc, sharing my protests, against the people who didn’t want him spending money on advertising for McDonalds and his attitude being that he’d make that money back. Same deal with Sega. Sega spent a fuckton of money on marketing and advertising. They didn’t have the resources Nintendo did, but they used what they had to make sure they were as present as possible among their target audience.

P.33 This book came out in 2012, but the myths they were trying to address about Word of Mouth persist to this day, so the following two points are worth repeating. First, people think word of mouth is limited only to the latest thing. Nope. Not true. People share things through word of mouth because “word-of-mouth success is about communicating solutions; providing answers that consumers want to pass along to others, find easy to talk about, and feel good about sharing.” The stuff the tech crowd likes. Being “innovative”? Or how about Hollywood with things being “entertaining?” Nope. It’s not that those points are totally ineffective, but they are not as likely to be the reason people share things as you’d think. Same deal when it comes to gimmicks and stunts. Not ineffective, but not as effective as you’d think. “the leading motivations for engaging in word of mouth are product-related-specifically, to learn about products and share those insights with others.”

P.35 Back in 2012, a month before my book came out, Francisco Dao wrote this great post for PandoDaily. I don’t want to link to it directly because Pando sucks. So instead I’m going to link to Lifehacker’s coverage of that post, and you can find the original from there.  Anyway, the post was great because Francisco was talking about how he asked himself, “Why the fuck would I do that?” Before committing to anything. That same philosophy extends to word of mouth and how to market whatever it is that you’re working on. In other words, if you can’t answer why the fuck anyone should care about what you’re working on, you shouldn’t be working on it.

Keller and Fay put it in nicer terms, but that’s because their book was made for the corporate crowd: “To our way of thinking this is where word-of-mouth strategy needs to begin: What is a brand’s story and why should someone want to talk about it? Only then does it make sense to focus on who will tell the story and ‘the how’ (the channels through which the word will spread.”

P.40 I was originally going to skip this, but then I saw this thread on Quora where someone was asking why negative word of mouth / PR works so well. It’s 2017! And people were arguing it does. For fucks sake … I don’t think it does. Neither does Keller and Fay (and the numerous other authors like Dr. Jonah Berger and the NYT’s David Brooks that they pull from.) Positive word of mouth is more “viral” (their words) than negative word of mouth. You might hear negative things slightly more but that 1) Doesn’t mean they’re effective as you think because 2) Those negative things are sometimes fueled by factors marketing experts like to conveniently forget exist in order to further their own narratives.

P.56 This is something we still see repeated today, but this book also does what I did and stop to point out that the digital marketing efforts by the 2008 Obama campaign was completely overblown by the media. Instead Obama staffers interviewed for this book echoed what I’ve been told by 2008 staffers who said that the offline stuff, tapping into people’s personal networks and empowering those people to influence others and get them out to vote is what made the difference. (Also, this was copied from the Bush campaign’s playbook that was followed in 2004.)

I’m not sure how long it’ll be before I get to the Duncan Watts books, but he talks about this concept that influence and power is completely subjective and depends on the context and situation that we’re talking about. So your priest could be supremely influential while you’re in church, for example, but if he runs over your dog, it’s a totally different story. So the Bush (and Obama) campaign worked to find people who were influential within a specific context (Community involvement, for example) and targeted them specifically.

If this sounds familiar, later we’ll get to the book “Viral Loop”, and that book covers how Tupperware basically did the same thing to grow out of obscurity and into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

It’s the same shit, just sixty years (or so) later. Also: I sometimes wonder when people use elections as an example for anything if they would still be using that election had the other party won. For example, let’s say McCain ran like he cared, he didn’t, and chose Lieberman as his VP pick to do the “United Party” thing he originally had wanted to do before picking a psycho hose beast instead. Would we still be talking about the online marketing narrative? Probably not!


P.61 Keller and Fay try to expand on this concept of influence being subjective and dependent on context by providing their own test, based on the research they and others have done. Someone is influential if the answer is yes to the following: “Does the individual have the means, the motive, and the opportunity to influence other people?”

By means, they mean does that person interact with a lot of people? (Think, Community Organizer as one example.) By motive they mean the desire to want to know things that they can share with others. I think most of us fall into this bucket, but where there’s a difference is whether or not the things we know we want to proactively share with others. Some of us do. Some of us are assholes. And lastly, opportunity. To Keller and Fay that means do others come to these allegedly helpful people and ask them for advice. If so, they got the opportunity.

Hey, just a quick clarifying point: We’re talking people with real influence. Not these dumb asshole Internet celebrities and agencies like Vayner Media (and others) who hype up those goobers in order to extract money from dumb and otherwise well-meaning brands and companies.

Rachel Bloom aside, and she’s a fucking national treasure and I’ll fist fight anyone who says otherwise, go ahead and name for me an Internet celebrity that is success beyond the Internet platform that they exist on. (Remember kids: New York Times Best Sellers don’t count because you can fake that shit, as you’ll see below. Neither do live “tours” of Internet Celebrities because those things are dependent on getting a bunch of them in one place and you can also fudge those ticket numbers easily. I’m talking can that individual star live and succeed on another platform over an extended period of time? Even with Rachel Bloom, the ratings for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are not great. The fact that this wonderful show has been renewed (twice now) is nothing less than an act of God.

(I doubt she’ll read this, but Laura, you’re completely wrong. THIS is the best song from that show.)

P. 82 People will tell you marketing and advertising don’t work, but the research says that as someone gets closer to making their purchase, marketing and advertising matter more than they’d ever admit. (Which, unfortunately fuels that whole “Marketing is stupid” bullshit from the MBAs.)

P.85 I’ve seen these growth hacking assholes (remember them?) claim this idea as their own, but it’s something Crispin Porter came up with and that I love: When someone gets an assignment at CP+B, they have to write a mock press release for their pitch to promote that product. That’s fucking genius and you should steal that shit immediately. Because it goes back to Francisco Dao’s point, “Why the fuck would I do that?” Well, if you craft a press release that the media will ignore, then you don’t have something worth pitching. It’s as simple as that.

P.87 Ernest Dichter, as he does in “The Passion Conversation” gets name-checked here. In fact, it’s rare you find a Word of Mouth Marketing book / viral marketing book that doesn’t mention him. That’s because, like Dale Carnegie and Napoleon Hill, he was first, and his advice and findings from almost a century ago at this point still hold up today. One of them here being that “advertising must change from its traditional role of “a salesman who tries to get rid of merchandise,” to a new role of “a friend who recommends a tried and true product.” Damn straight, but sadly, a lesson that most of us STILL have failed to learn.

P.96 I said something really similar in “Social Media is Bullshit”, but I think this is worth repeating: “The right ad, at the right time with the right message can spark word of mouth, regardless of category.” You tell’em guys! (But my book was funnier.)

P.99 “This we believe should be the new measure of success for all advertising and marketing: Does it provoke and support productive conversations? If so, it’s likely to help propel brand growth; if not, it is probably not worth paying for.”

No follow-up comment on my part needed. That’s just excellent advice all of us should be following.

P.104 This is a drum I often find myself pounding. (Man, I had to try so hard to not make a masturbation joke just now.) But you’re going to have better luck and more success getting the most that you can from your current fans and your customers than you are chasing around new customers who have no idea who the fuck you are. Let your current customers do the marketing for you.

Yes, I know. “It doesn’t scale”. Jesus I hate those people. I really do. Like the worst thing we ever did in this country and in society at large is let the measurement geeks and the shareholders that empower them take over everything with their short term thinking and demand that we do things that scale in order to increase profits and save money.

You want to know why so many people are going to lose their job because of automation? It’s going to be because of these fucking people, looking at the bottom line and efficiency and not the human element and art that’s involved. Ray Kroc warned against this. He said it himself, he could easily have automated McDonalds and replaced the people behind the counter, but he didn’t do it because having someone behind the counter for you to interact with was part of the experience and reason for going to McDonalds in the first place.

There’s a big fight coming. I really do believe it, between people who want to automate everything and people like me who think all because you CAN automate something doesn’t mean you should. Fuck the robots and these short-term thinking, self-interested assholes.

Anyway, Keller and Fay suggest something great here: Advertisers should focus on real life, honest to god influencers (not those bullshit Internet assholes) and current customers by providing them the best possible experience possible, so much so that they’ll do the marketing for you.

Sounds easier said than done, and it is, but that’s great advice.

The Incident (Bonus Section)

I get asked about “The Incident” often enough because it was allegedly the basis for a WSJ story, so here’s what happened. I’m including the story here because it heavily overlaps with “The Face to Face Book.”

Life’s too short to deal with weasels

At the end of “Social Media is Bullshit,” I talked a big game about never writing about this stuff again. My plan was to go into stand-up comedy and write funny books with titles like, “Astonishing Tales of Mediocrity,” “Turbulence in the Airplane Bathroom” and everyone’s favorite “People Are Assholes.” The way I saw it back in 2011? I said everything I needed to say about social media and the depressing state of our digital frontier. But then, just over a year after I turned in the manuscript to St. Martin’s Press, something really stupid happened.

Let me take you back to the summer of 2012. Facebook just went public. The Avengers was out in theaters. And I’m at my parent’s house in Monroe, New York. Amanda and I are in the process of getting divorced. It’s for the best. I’m a work-obsessed person with OCD and a lot of ambition. She’s a family focused person who saw what she had in life and thought, correctly, that what she had was enough to have a happy life. A lot of the problems we had in that relationship stemmed from the fact that I’m driven by one simple goal: To be famous for being funny. Spending the rest of my life in Glens Falls was not exactly conducive to achieving that goal. It’s sort of like using a flamethrower to build an igloo. Sure you’re enthusiastic about giving it a shot, but you know you’ll never get the job done. This sounds incredibly shallow. Or at the very least, I sound like your typical Millennial, depending on how old you are when you read this; but I challenge you to look at that goal from my perspective: This world sucks. If I can make a lot of people laugh and get paid while doing it? Shit, who wouldn’t want to do that?

But back in 2012, I was having some doubts about my abilities to entertain and inform. We were just a few months away from launch, and I had no idea how “Social Media is Bullshit” would do once it hit stores. None of us did. It was a controversial book from a first-time author with no money and no platform to speak of. It would be a miracle if the thing sold more than 250 copies, which at the time (according to Publishers Weekly) was the most copies a nonfiction book usually sold in its first year. (Most books don’t sell more than three thousand copies in their lifetime.) I did, however, know I’m wildly successful at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. So, I created a Plan B. If the book flopped, and I suspected it would, then I wasn’t going to get trapped at my parent’s house for the rest of my life and be just another generational stereotype.

My backup plan looked like this: I made arrangements to return to the State University of New York at Potsdam. I finished my undergrad there and had started work on a graduate degree back in 2007 while waiting around for Amanda to finished her bachelor’s. Now, regardless of whatever happened with “Social Media is Bullshit,” I would go back to Potsdam, finish my degree in Organizational Leadership, and then get a “real job.” Ideally, one that I would use to get my ass out to Los Angeles and keep some money coming in while I start climbing the slippery rungs of the entertainment industry ladder. Because if you can’t achieve your goal one way, you should always try to approach it from another. The “real job” would at least get me where I need to be, or so the theory went anyway.

(If you follow Rosie’s advice from the second episode of the podcast, you’ll know this was a terrible plan. A lesson I didn’t learn because I tried following this plan twice. Once at Potsdam in 2012 and later at Buffalo in 2015.)

As I’m processing life without my wife, two cats, and AHL hockey just steps from my door, It’s at this point I’m already getting people approaching me about “Social Media is Bullshit.” The first? The United Nations. I’m not kidding. They were like the first email I got out of the gate. Maybe that should have been a sign to cancel my plans to go back to school. Others also approached me as the summer went on. There were requests to do consulting, speaking engagements and interviews. All for a book that wasn’t even out yet. And to be clear, for those of you who read the first book, I’ve always had my own business, going back to 2002. But it was wildly inconsistent. Some years were excellent; others have me fighting off raccoons while looking inside of garbage cans for sustenance. And in the summer of 2012, I was getting ready to shut it all down, just like I said I was going to.

Like some of you, I came of age during the Dot-com Crash and had now just lived through the Great Recession. As exciting as running my company could be, money was the thing Amanda and I fought over the most. These occasional consulting gigs, as well paying as they were, just did not have the consistency of “a real job.” So, I was passing on these new consulting offers that summer. I meant what I said in “Social Media is Bullshit.” Working in the marketing field is not something I wanted to do any longer, and even today I struggle with getting excited about anything marketing related unless it somehow helps me meet the goal I shared with you here.

I mention this because as the summer rolled on, I did not; however, pass on the interviews and speaking gigs that came my way. In my mind, the speaking engagements took me one step closer to doing stand-up comedy full time. Presentations, unless the organization putting it together is puritanical, really is the same sort of deal as doing standup. Except there isn’t a two drink minimum for people to see you present … That I know of. And it was there, in saying yes to these speaking engagements, where the trouble started.

Boy Meets Dolphin

One of the people who contacted me that summer was a seedy social media marketer that we’re going to call Flipper. Not because I’m worried about Flipper suing me, but because there’s no such thing as bad publicity. If you doubt this, I encourage you to look up who the 45th president of the United States is. So, if I tell you Flipper’s name, the name of his lousy book filled with pleasantries and deceitful garbage, and the name of his stupid company, I’m just giving the guy more attention than he deserves. (You can see who Flipper is by watching the video above, but for SEO reasons, I’m not placing it here.)

What I did not know at the time was that Flipper was a paying member of this organization WOMMA, which Ed Keller, the co-author of The Face-to-Face Book, was a former president of. WOMMA is great. I was a judge on and off for them for a few years after “The Incident” with their annual awards, and the people there have always been awesome to me. So none of this reflects on them.

Flipper though … This guy was just a douche.

 What I found out later was that WOMMA had wanted me to do a presentation for them at their annual event. It’s a big deal in the marketing industry. One with people who could pump a lot of money into a fledgling or mid-sized agency that doesn’t have the cachet of something like a BBDO, or a Sterling Cooper, Draper Price. (One of those agency names is a joke name. The other is not.)  For Flipper, events like this are a bonanza. He ran (runs?) a mid-sized agency and wanted to make sure he got featured at the event so he can get in front of all those companies and sell some books, consulting services and get future speaking engagements. I once was able to give a talk for the president of Subaru America and his executive staff by the fact that one of his staff members saw me speak at one of those big conferences. So the benefits of doing these things, and being center stage, can’t be stressed enough for my story here. (Fun fact: Not long after I gave my talk, Subaru fired their CMO, who had been a big believer in social media. They then went on to have their best year ever. So … You’re welcome?)

Flipper found out that they had wanted me to speak and so he calls me out of the blue while I was at my parent’s house. On the phone, he challenged me to debate at WOMMA 2012. This was super weird and uncomfortable for a lot of reasons.

First, I had no idea who he was. Who the organization was that he claimed to be calling me on behalf off, and frankly, I was really depressed. Here I am sitting there and thinking, “Man, I was in a relationship for six years, and now I’m back at home surrounded by two mentally disabled brothers, a drug addict mother, my unhelpful other siblings, my poor Dad trying to keep that all together, and this guy is on the phone with me like ‘OHMYGODVEGAS!YOUGOTTADOITYOUGOTTAGOTTAGOTTA” I already didn’t like him.

Then there’s the other thing: I’m not a confrontational guy. It’s not in my nature to want to throw down with random people. My tendency is to just not deal with people that become obstacles, and that’s not healthy. I’m working on this. I have OCD, you know? I want what I want and how I want it but I’m not going to use that as an excuse to step on people. So doing a debate is something I’m uncomfortable with for that reason. I don’t play well with others.

 So although I’ve done the debate format, including at the United Nations, I rarely say yes and actively avoid those situations like the plague. If given a choice between binge watching all the awful DC Entertainment films or doing one of these debates, I’d be the first in line to watch Batman v. Superman and pledge not to complain about a single thing in it. A seemingly impossible task.

Flipper said he would talk about how great social media is, and I would talk about how useless social media is. This also struck me as really odd because

1) My book wasn’t out yet and

2) My book was never about how social media was dumb and you shouldn’t use any of it. The only people who came away with that impression either didn’t read the damn thing or were like this old guy who met me at a book signing in Albany, New York. There I was, minding my own business at a book signing, and this guy strolls into Barnes & Noble like he owns the place. He looks around at all the different shelves filled with things he probably won’t buy, and then his eyes fix on my table. He approached the table, picked up my book and turned and looked at his son. His son had come in behind him and looked to be about my age. The guy then shouts to his kid while holding my book over his head like a trophy, “See? I told you!.” Luckily for me, he bought a copy, which I did indeed sign. On the inside, the front page of his copy now says, “He fucking told you! Hugs and kisses, B.J. Mendelson”).

Flipper continued to push. There was no room for nuance with him. Nobody wants careful thought and research; they wanted big dumb statements. It was this conversation where I realized how much I regretted not having some kind of subtitle on my book’s cover. “Social Media is Bullshit” is an excellent title for a book, but it also falls into the “big dumb statements” bucket. Realizing this, I agreed to debate Flipper. The way I saw it? I made a big, stupid statement, and now needed to expand on it. This debate seemed like a perfect place to do it.

(Tangent related to the book notes above: Remember how people tell you negativity and negative press spreads as well, or better, than positivity? I think my book is an example of how that’s wrong. With a better, more positive title, and one without a swear word, it would have sold way more copies.)

‘I Cannot Tell a Lie’ … Except for That One. Because I Never Actually Said That – George Washington. Maybe.

Before he got off the phone, there were two things Flipper stated that I want you to take note of. The first is that Flipper, and yes, I mean it like the dolphin, had told me he thought social media was bullshit. This is deeply troubling and problematic. First, because the guy is telling people he’s this huge success through “the power of social media”.

Second, because if you go back through the archive of ANY of the big marketing personalities that are out there today, you’ll see they are always playing this game of twisting the truth, contradicting themselves and just flat out lying. (Vaynerchuk is my favorite example, but I don’t want to pick on just him, most of them do the same thing.) And then when they get caught in their lies, they’ll just downplay it and talk about “how fast things change.”

Seriously. Take some time out of your day, find your favorite internet marketing personality, and go through their stuff. You remember how I pointed out Chris Brogan was “nuts for Google Plus” in “Social Media is Bullshit”? Well, guess what book you now can’t find too easily that he put out? You guessed it, the book he did on Google Plus. And I don’t want to pick on him either. I don’t want to pick on any of them anymore. Because if I do, this new book could quickly degenerate into two-hundred pages of me just saying, “I told you so” while listing everything that’s happened to prove me right since the first book came out. I don’t want to do that. There’s no value in that. That’s a colossal waste of your time, and it’s a colossal waste of my time.

Putting a book together is hard. I can’t speak for other authors, but I average three years to do a book. 2009, 2010, and 2011 to do “Social Media is Bullshit,” and 2014, 2015, and 2016 to do the ghostwritten book that we’ll identify here as “Don’t Be Evil.” So the last thing you want to do is spend three years sharpening the knife and using it to get even with people, no matter how many of them may deserve it. What we need is brightness, hope, laughter and fun. That’s also part of the reason I’m calling this guy Flipper. Beyond not wanting to get him any attention, I’m also telling you this story to illustrate a point, not to bury him. I don’t like the dude, but I’m not out to get him either.

The second thing was that he said to me, “Do you want to know how to be a New York Times Best Selling Author” and like any author, I said yes. Of course, I’d like to know that. There’s a real lack of people with solid marketing backgrounds giving advice to aspiring authors. Of course I’d like to know how.

Flipper told me that most of the big marketing authors bulk purchase copies of their book. They, the authors, may swear and flat out lie to reporters that this is not the case, but they do. They use companies to make the bulk purchases, along with other shady tactics, and they’d do everything they can to cheat the Times system. I don’t want to give The New York Times another excuse not to cover my books. (Their excuse for not including “Social Media is Bullshit” was that the book had a swear word in the title. I’m not kidding.), So I’m not going to elaborate on how to cheat their system specifically, but even today, it can still easily be done. (And in their defense, The Wall Street Journal and Amazon may tell you their lists are more reliable and less prone to douchebaggery, but it’s not true. It’s just a little harder to mess with both than it is with the Times. But when you’ve got $25k, or more, to throw around, you’d be shocked at how easy it is to get what you want. Or maybe not, see also the 45th president of the United States.)

Flipper gave me the name of the company he used to bulk purchase his book and told me it’d cost $25,000. As he got off the phone, I looked out into the dining room in my family’s house. Barely furnished. A table that was approaching a hundred years old, if it wasn’t older, stained carpets, and assorted items inherited from my grandparents. In the other room was a family that includes the previously mentioned two mentally disabled children, a drug addict, a sister who just acts like she’s disabled, and my poor Dad stuck managing this nonsense. To say nothing of a house that was never meant to be lived in (it was the model home for a new development that came so cheap, the builder later killed himself after taking a bath on the project), and was quickly falling apart. I had just handed to Amanda, voluntarily for whatever that’s worth, all of the money that we had. So I didn’t have $25,000 just floating around to blow on bulk purchasing books to game the system for a newspaper that’s always made its bones by catering to the elite. I don’t even think I had five dollars to my name at that point.

A month goes by …

WOMMA contacts me. They are surprised, and I would learn later, pissed, that Flipper had reached out to me without their knowledge and permission, only to contact them saying the debate was all set. They ask me if I want to do the debate still, and I say yes. I had no idea Flipper wasn’t supposed to contact me, or that he had gone out of his way to set this all up just to worm his way onto the stage at this event. Had I known, I would have told him to fuck off. Life’s too short to deal with weasels. 

(And as it turns out, Keller and Fay talk about the WOMMA code of ethics in The Face-to-Face Book. As you might be SHOCKED to discover, Flipper was not following those rules. )

Soon, my book comes out, and I quickly learn that going back to school was a bad idea. For one thing, I’m living on campus, surrounded by 19 year-olds because I couldn’t afford to live off campus. Potsdam, New York, is not known for many things, but price gouging the area’s 12,000 or so college students is certainly one of them given the poor condition and short supply of student housing in the region. For another, I spend every moment that I’m not in class using my student loan money to do book signings and media appearances. Go on CNN, go on CNBC, run all over the country basically, to promote my book. I’m even doing interviews in my dorm room. You can even see me being interviewed by TechCrunch in my dorm room on the SUNY Potsdam campus.

 During the time that I’m in my dorm room, trying desperately to watch superheroine-in-peril porn and always getting distracted by A) My roommate and B) you know, having a fucking book come out that people are reading and that you have to promote, I agree to do a “Twitter Debate.” It’s going to be Flipper versus B.J. on Twitter to promote the upcoming debate.

Flipper and I go at it on Twitter, and I realized real quick that this guy really has nothing to say. He keeps going back to the “fact” that his book is a New York Times best-seller. And how he tells people the book got that way was because of, and I shit you not, “the power of social media.” Now, I don’t know about you, but if you’ve picked up one thing from me,  I have zero filters and give no fucks about what anyone thinks. Hence why I can joke about the kind of porn I’m into and not even think twice about it. And because of all that, I can’t stand liars. I totally get a white lie. “No, Amanda, I’m sure eating an entire package of Oreo cookies will have no long-term ramifications on the kind of smells you will emit for the rest of the evening.” (She’s never going to read this, so I have no problem making that joke.)

White lies, or to be very specific, things that are said not to hurt someone else’s feelings are fine. My mom is a drug addict; she is NOT a functional adult, but I have to pretend she’s a functional adult all the time. That’s the kind of lie that I’m OK with. I go along with that for my Dad. But where I have real problems are with lies designed to hurt and manipulate people, and that’s what Flipper was doing. He was telling the audience on Twitter, his clients and whomever else he could that “the power of social media” made him a New York Times Best Selling Author, and not the $25k he dropped to bulk purchase his book in such a way that manipulated the system the Times uses. (A pretty clear violation of the WOMMA Code of Ethics that are provided in “The Face to Face Book”.)

That means his new clients are going to think this guy is some genius, and they’re going to waste a lot of money on him until they find out otherwise. I can’t abide by things like that. You shouldn’t either. That’s the kind of lie that helped create the first dot-com bubble. No joke. Marketing companies and other entities like them were gouging startups and tech companies flushed with cash and bleeding them dry, which helped cause a lot of them to fail.

If this lie sounds familiar to you in 2017, it should. Because It’s also the kind of lie, we continue to see to this day in the tech and marketing world. We also see it in politics and other walks of life. “Social media did X for us” when in reality, “social media” may have played no role in X at all, as The Face to Face Book points out with the 2008 Obama campaign.It’s just an easier story to say otherwise.

Given that I have OCD and no filter, I called Flipper out on his lies on Twitter, and he freaked out. As soon as the online debate ended, I then got a call from WOMMA saying he was very upset, and that the bulk purchasing of his books, while true, was not something Flipper wanted other people to know about. Flipper called me up asking me to please not tell anyone about the bulk purchasing, and I said fine, with one catch: He can’t tell people that social media made his book a New York Times best-seller at the actual debate, because if he did, I would tell people that he was lying.

He agreed, and I thought that was the end of it. I thought wrong.

The Thrilla in Manila

    I arrive in Vegas. It’s my first time here since the failed breast cancer tour. You know, the one that triggered my research for “Social Media is Bullshit” and talked about in the closing chapter of that book? A lot of you that I’ve met over the years are big believers in things happening for a reason. I don’t share that belief, but given what’s about to happen, I can see how people would think that. Once I’m at the hotel where the debate is taking place, I meet Wonder Woman, who worked for WOMMA at the time, and do my best not to get on my knee and propose to her immediately. (With her help, I’m able to piece this whole back story together in the following months.)

    Backstage before the debate, I’m talking with the moderator, John Moore, who co-wrote “The Passion Conversation”. We spoke of the bulk purchasing extensively. I promised not to bring it up. Flipper was adamant to everyone in the organization that I don’t bring it up as well. 

So as I walk out onstage, I’m thinking, “OK. We’re going to have some fun and put this other nonsense behind us.” I even asked the sound guys if they could play Hulk Hogan’s WWE theme song as I get on the stage so I can make a total ass of myself and do all his poses. That’s the level of seriousness I had going into this debate. All that’s going through my head is how many jokes I can tell. And soon, I have the crowd laughing. But Flipper isn’t having any fun.

He’s sweating, making up crazy stuff. I’m poking him a little bit in, what I had said to him before the debate would be in a playful way, and then … It happens. I kept my promise. I didn’t bring up bulk purchasing his book to cheat the Times. He did. Completely unprompted. There’s an audible gasp in the room. The moderator looks at me, and I look at him like, “Well fuck. Now, what do we do?” Actually, here’s the picture from that exact moment where Flipper spilled the beans and we couldn’t believe it. I think the picture really says it all.


At that point, all hell breaks loose. Because as we move to wrap up the debate and go into the Q&A session that was scheduled to follow, all anyone wanted to know was the answer to one single question: “If you had not bulk purchased your book, would social media alone had made you a New York Times Bestselling Author?”

Flipper stormed off stage. He vanished the rest of the night. The next day, at 4 a.m., he has a full on Twitter meltdown saying I’m mean and not nice and that WOMMA was out to get him. (For real. This happened. The only reason I know it was happening at 4am was because I was in a cab on my way to the airport and seeing it happen live. He then went and called Jason Falls, my first guest on the podcast, trashing me and asking that Jason cancel the event he and I were doing together. 

So Flipper became completely unhinged at this point. Hilariously, he also wrecked my Wikipedia page through his agency because this incident was discussed on there. The page used to be way longer, but after he tried getting it deleted, it survived but got neutered pretty hard. He showed me!

Some months later, I write a blog post about this experience, dubbing it “The Incident”. Fairly often, when I’m at a marketing function, people bring it up as well. Like the story has taken on some epic legendary status in the marketing community. 

 In my initial write-up about “The Incident”, I used his real name and the company he used to cheat the list.  In response, Flipper puts up a FAQ page on his website, complete with more lies. Both links go viral (organically, just like I talked about in my book) among the marketing community and both soon find their way to Jeff at The Wall Street Journal who writes about the company Flipper had used to cheat the list.  That bulk purchasing company then goes dark, and as far as I can tell, so does Flipper’s career.

Or so I thought. Remember: We live in the world of President Trump. You can suck at a lot of things and still, as Kevin Smith is often quoted as saying, “fail upwards”.

Three years later: Flipper got himself a book deal and a book with a major publisher.

Your parents were wrong, cheaters do prosper.



15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Rosie Tran

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Rosie Tran


Alright. So here is the second podcast. The first four were meant to be tests. I’ve now recorded six, so I feel pretty good about continuing this as a series. I’m not so crazy about doing the editing, which is why there’s virtually none. So I think if I were to set a goal with this thing, it would be to find a sponsor to cut a check each month so I can pay for Podcast Motor. D.J. Waldow, who you’ll hear from in two weeks, recommended their service.

Basically they would do everything I’m doing now, except I can just focus on recording these things and let them handle the rest. At that point, once the sound of the show is “professional” I’ll go about setting up an actual landing page for it and do all the stuff I’d encourage all of you to do if you were going to launch a campaign.

We’re not quite there yet, but that’s the plan. You should always have a plan and a goal, right?

I’m also getting more comfortable. Having done six of them, I feel less rigid about the three questions and the shows are getting more conversational. So in terms of my social anxiety and dealing with that (which I talked about in the show notes for last week’s episode with Jason Falls), the podcast seems to be helping.

(Just so we’re clear: The podcast is being done for personal reasons. It’s helping me deal with my anxiety and depression. So I don’t look at this thing as a money making endeavor. So any sort of sponsorship that might appear is 1. Probably a long ways off  if it happens at all and 2. Not being done to turn a profit.)

Show Notes

Rosie Tran on Why People Fail

Rosie: The reason that so many people fail or so many people have lives that are not exactly where they want to be is because we have this thing called the ego, and it blocks us from taking our own advice. So, we’re really good as a human species at giving others advice, but we’re not good at taking it for ourselves because our ego blocks us from hearing what we need to hear. You know what I’m tryin’ to say.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: You know. You can’t handle the truth. (laughs) So, I would say that the best advice is to pretend like you’re giving advice to someone else, and then forcing yourself to take your own advice. (laughs)

Full Transcript

(Note: All transcripts are lightly edited for readability purposes.)

Rosie: Hey, B.J., how are you?

B.J.: I’m well. Hey, so you got like a, like a blowing sound in the background? What’s going on there? Is that like, you got the air conditioner going, or …

Rosie: (laughs) No, I live in the lovely city of Los Angeles, where there’s constantly a leaf blower going on outside. (laughs)

B.J.: Yeah, so I was just trying to figure out like, what … What is going on there and like … is he stalking you, or is he like …

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: Isn’t LA the land of like candy and serial killers?

Rosie: (laughs) No, it’s just that … I don’t know, whatever building you … They’re so … LA rent is really expensive just like New York, so a lotta people are in apartments and condos and stuff like that, but it’s not like New York where they’re in high-rises. Most of the buildings in Los Angeles are low-rise, and actually there’s a huge controversy ’cause Santa Monica and other cities are tryin’ to put more high-rises in, and the locals are like, “No, we don’t want more traffic. We don’t want more people. Low-rises! Low-rises!” But it’s kinda making rent unaffordable too.

But, in addition to all these low-rises, there’s a lot of landscaping and other things, so there’s just constantly leaf blowers and gardenings. Every building I’ve lived in. And there’s noise ordinances so they can’t go on, you know, at 7am, but somehow they do at 6 and 7am. (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: So, it’s definitely … hashtag first world problems, but yes, there’s some noise in the background. So, hopefully, the listeners aren’t offended. (laughs)

B.J.: It’s all good. Like we were talking about the first four of these are just complete, like, big experiments. So, there’s no, there’s no production, there’s no … There’s nothing. It’s just … we’re doing the show and then, like, we’re seeing how it goes. Why don’t you introduce yourself to our crowd of like 3 people.

Rosie: (laughs) Actually, B.J., the average podcast has a hundred to 200
listeners, so there might be more people than you think.

B.J.: Oh, there ya go.

Rosie: (laughs) Well, I am a friend of B.J.’s for many years, and I’m a comedian, stand-up comedian, actress, writer, podcaster, et cet … I’m one of those et cetera people in LA that doesn’t really have one job, they have 9000 jobs. (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs) Hey, ya gotta pay the bills, right? I mean, that’s, that’s what it comes down to.

Rosie: I’m an et cetera. That’s what I am. I’m an ETC. (laughs)

B.J.: Before, before I get into like … Cause there’s only like three questions, which I think is like, the beauty of this, is that it’s three questions, and I’m done, but, so … You know the line like, you’re suposed to tell people that you’re always busy, ya know, in LA

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: So, what do you …

Rosie: Well I am always busy, but it’s cause I’m trying to piece together an income. (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs) That’s, that’s true, but, what is, what is the line. It’s like, I have, I have projects in varying states of production. Have you ever used that on someone?

Rosie: I haven’t used that one on someone.

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: But that’s, that’s very true. Some people, I think, just say that, and they’re really just smoking pot and sitting on their couch …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: … waiting for something to happen. (laughs) I’m actually constantly having projects in various stages of production.

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: One thing I like about being an independent artist is you’re definitely an entrepreneur, but, sometimes, ya know, when you think of entrepreneur, you think of these Silicon Valley magnates who are like ready to make billions at any second. I think as an independent artist, you’re happy to get thousands. (laughs) Or the hundreds. (laughs)

B.J.: Hey, hundreds is good.

Rosie: Yeah, hundreds is good. (laughs)

B.J.: Hundreds is very good.

B.J.: Alright, so lemme ask you, so, the whole gist of this is, basically, like, what’s the best advice you’ve ever given. What’s like the one, the one piece of advice that, that you would wanna impart on someone. So, like, that’s the whole … That’s the whole deal with that. So, lemme ask you, what … What’s the best piece of advice that someone’s ever given you?

Rosie: In comedy, or just in life? (laughs)

B.J.: Hey, it’s, it … See, it … I think if it’s for comedy, it equally applies to life, right? (chuckles)

Rosie: Um, well … (laughs) This advice is very specific to comedy, but …

B.J.: OK.

Rosie: I would say the best advice I was ever given was not by a specific person. It was me reading an article about advice. (laughs) And, I’m horrible because I wanna give this person credit, but I, I don’t know … It was just an article I read online, so I ca … I don’t have the credit to give him. I know it was a him.

But, it was, a psychologist social anthropologist-type article, and he was talking about advice and giving advice and giving unsolicited advice, and I would say the best thing that I got from that article was that we all have unlimited knowledge. So B.J., you’re like the smartest person. I’m like the smartest person. But when we … The reason that so many people fail or so many people have lives that are not exactly where they want to be is because we have this thing called the ego, and it blocks us from taking our own advice. So, we’re really good as a human species at giving others advice, but we’re not good at taking it for ourselves because our ego blocks us from hearing what we need to hear. You know what I’m tryin’ to say.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: You know. You can’t handle the truth. (laughs) So, I would say that the best advice is to pretend like you’re giving advice to someone else, and then forcing yourself to take your own advice. (laughs)

B.J.: I like it. I like it a lot. So, have you used that on yourself? Like, is there an instance that you can think of where … That you’ve applied it to something you were working on or something you’ve encountered?

Rosie: Um, oh yeah. I’ve used that a lot on myself. For some reason there’s this … There’s psychological phenomena … Oh, here’s a leaf blower. I’m gonna actually …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: (laughs) It’s so loud. I … I totally use this on myself and it’s … For some reason, there’s a psychological phenomenon of when we give ourselves advice. It’s like so hard. Like we can’t do it. But it’s so easy to give others advice, right? Like, I think in my mind the person that’s like overweight and they know everything to do about dieting and exercise, yet, they’re still overweight, right?

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: So, I would say one of the best times that I took this advice for myself was ya know … I’m happily married and I love my husband so much, but, about five years ago, I was in a very, ya know, toxic relationship. The guy was just a total a-hole. Not a good person. And, I can’t … I was one of those girls, making justifications … “Oh, ya know, he’s fine,” this and that, XYZ, blah blah blah, “It’s OK,” ya know.

And, I kind of started listening to myself, and I’m like, “I sound like an abused housewife.” Like this is me making justifications. So, I took that, the advice I would give to any other woman, any girlfriend, or any guy friend that came to me telling me about this type of relationship … I would tell them to run for the hills. But, for some reason I myself was putting up my blinders and accepting this. So, I was like, I’m outta here. This if, if this was any other person coming to me with this situation, I would tell them to leave. So, I took my own advice, and I left.

B.J.: Nice. And, it worked out. I mean you, you got married and now it’s, it’s almost happily ever after, right?

Rosie: Yes! My husband’s awesome, and he’s not perfect. I’m not perfect, ya know. We’re human, unfortunately. But he’s a pretty awesome guy, so … I think that, You know relationships are hard. I know you’re divorced, and we’ve talked about it. But, it’s like you gotta take your own advice sometimes and just cut the cord. And, I think a lot of people don’t wanna break up or divorce because they’re like, “Oh, I don’t wanna be a failed marriage,” or, “I don’t wanna be a divorced person,” or “I don’t wanna have a,” ya know, whatever. But it’s like, sometimes you just gotta put your ego aside and say, “I’m out.” (laughs)

B.J.: And then … It sounds like Ryan Holiday article.

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: I wonder if it’s one of his.

Rosie: I don’t know.

B.J.: I wonder if it’s one of his. But, OK. So, the, the last thing that I always ask people is what’s the one piece of advice that you would wanna give to anyone that’s listening? And, could be on … it could be on anything. Like it could be, ya know, not just comedy, but life in general. Anything you want.

Rosie: So, what’s the one piece of advice I would want to give to someone else, or give to myself, or, who? (laughs)

B.J.: Let’s say, let’s say it’s like a total stranger that’s listening to us, and you’re like, “Hey, what’s, what’s something that I can share with them that might be, that might be cool to share with them?”

Rosie: I don’t know if would have one piece of advice I have … I may …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: … have a bunch of things. But, I, I would say, ya know, you know yourself. You know yourself. People … There’s a lot of unsolicited advice that’s given, and …

B.J.: Sure.

Rosie: … A lot of times people are just projecting their own BS on other people, ya know. I constantly got marriage advice when I first, um, got married, by people that were divorced and people that were in unhappy relationships and I was like, “OK, I’m not gonna take marriage advice from you. You’re, you’re …”

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: “You have a failed marriage.” (laughs) So, I would just say trust yourself because there’s a lot of negative, crazy people out there. Ya know I got a lot of comments negative from men and women, ya know. Women, a lot of bitter women in LA, ya know, jaded women …

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: … Saying, “Oh, good luck with that!” Ya know, men are all cheaters and men are all liars and the same from, ya know, bitter, jaded guys, “Oh, women, they just want money,” and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and whatever their negative connotations were about relationships.

Rosie: And then the same thing with career. Same thing with career, ya know. When I said I wanted to be a stand-up, so many negative haters. “Oh, good luck with that,” and blah-blah-blah blah, and, um … So, there’s just a lot of negative people out there, and I would say the best advice is just, it’s sooo hard when you just have to ignore them all and I’m sure, ya know … “You doing your bull … Social media is bullshit,” and you probably had to deal with a lot of ignorance and dumb people, so … (laughs)

B.J.: Yeah, no, I had … I was on CNN and … No, it was on, it was on CNBC, and this guy took a picture of himself. I guess he was watching and like he’s just like flipping me off. And he’s …

Rosie: (laughs) OK (laughs)

B.J.: And that, that was his response to the interview, and I always love that. I always think about that and so, yeah. I mean like, you’re, you’re always gonna encounter people that tell you, don’t do stuff that they clearly can’t, or just don’t have the drive to do.

Rosie: And they’re never gonna take responsibility. They’re never going to say, “Oh, well maybe B.J.’s successful,” or “He’s successful because of,” something they’ve done. It’s always gonna be, you know, well, you know, “He got lucky,” or “She’s,” whatever or, “B-it’s because she’s an Asian girl and,” or whatever. Who knows? There’s just like so many … I think the internet magnifies it. It …

B.J.: Yeah.

Rosie: Cause there’s this sense of people feeling anonymous, so they feel like they can just say random stuff that they would never say in real life. But, there’s a lot of like super-crazy (laughing) weird people out there and (laughing) I, I, it, the internet makes me sad sometimes. It makes me happy when there’s puppy pics, but… (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: A lot of … And kitty pics. But, a lot of times it makes me sad cause I’m like, “Wow, people,” A lot … 90% of these comment-hater trollers … I’m like, “Wow, these guys need therapy.” (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: It’s bad. (laughs)

B.J.: It’s true. No, it’s, it’s totally true. Hey, um, but ya know, sometimes they think, “Well, if I’m a big enough troll, I can get elected president.” Ya know.

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: So … (laughs)

Rosie: (laughs) Yeah, that’s sad.

B.J.: So there is that.

Rosie: That’s very sad.

B.J.: Hey, lemme ask you, um … So … Just, I wanted to like go back so … Just specifically about comedy advice, did you get something that you thought was particularly useful? Like, I’m asking completely, selfish self-interest here. Like, what …

Rosie: I did get, I did, I get, I got a lot of miscellaneous advice. Um, this is …, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that really stood out. But what I would have done if I would’ve … If I could take my career back … I’ve been doing stand-up now for almost 10 years. If I could go back and in, hindsight is 20/20, and do something different, I wouldn’t have moved to LA. I moved to LA when I was like 18 or 19. I would’ve gone to a small market, like San Francisco. San Francisco is a huge city, but it’s a small stand-up market.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: I would’ve gone to San Francisco or Chicago or Miami or like another market that was like a small market. Austin. And I would’ve become the queen of that city. And then I would’ve come to LA or New York. Because what happens is, when you’re trying to develop as a comedian in LA or New York, you’re like, it’s a win-win slash win-lose, because, it’s like, your career could catapult at any time. But also, you’re like around these like amazing, huge headliners and stars and celebrities. You know, I’ve done shows with Robin Williams. I’ve done shows with, you know, Joan Rivers. I’ve done shows with other people. And so, you’re there’s so many opportunities, but also, it’s kinda like … You’re also fighting with every other celebrity. Like I did a show … I, I won’t talk bad about this guy on the air.

B.J.: (chuckles) Sure.

Rosie: But, I … There was like a celebrity comedian on a show and he did not wanna go after me. He didn’t wanna follow me. It’s not because I’m so funny, but because we had some similar material. Not, ya know, exactly, but he … It’s like he just didn’t wanna follow me and I was like shocked by that because he was a big star. But, it’s all ego, you know?

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: So, I would’ve become the big fish in a small ocean first. Because what I’ve seen is people that make it really really really really big in LA or New York. They were a big fish in a small pond and then they kinda like, got all their eggs in a basket in the small pond and then came to the big pond. If that makes any sense at all. (laughs)

B.J.: No that, that’s actually it’s great advice, on a buncha different levels. Like it’s also great life advice too. Ya know, i-if y-you [00:13:30] …

Rosie: Yeah.

B.J.: You get really good in a, in a … where there’s not too many eyes on you, and then once you’ve got a professional …

Rosie: Correct. Yes.

B.J.: So that’s genius. I love that. (chuckles)

Rosie: That, that is what … The only thing … If I could go back … There’s so many things about my career that I’m so happy about, but if I could go back, that’s what I would do. Because the people that I’ve seen in LA that just really blew up out of left field … They didn’t blow up. They were developing for 10 years in like …

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: … Austin or San Francisco or Chicago or Seattle. And then they kinda got their eggs in a basket. They got an agent, a manager,and they came to LA. They came to work. They didn’t have to deal with any of the comedy politics that, you know, um, mediocre shows and all these like crappy, like bitter, like up-and-coming comics, right? (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: They just like cut the crap.

B.J.: Right.

Rosie: So, that’s … That … And people that did it like that, I think they looked at comedy very much in a business perspective. Some of them I think had no clue, they just like, it was a happy coincidence. But, as far as like straight to like, straight to the big time, straight to like making six figures, seven figures doing stand-up, that is the pattern that I’ve seen over and over and over again, is, they were the big fish in Toronto. They were the big fish in wherever. And then they kinda rode the wave or got hype or buzz or marketing or whatever you would call it, as a social media guy, right? (laughs)

B.J.: Right. Hey, no, we’re two episodes in and I think that’s, that’s the best advice that we’ve gotten so far.

Rosie: (laughs)

B.J.: (laughs)

Rosie: (laughing)

B.J.: Hey, where can people check you out?

Rosie: I have shows sporadically but I-really really what I wanna promote is the podcast, Out of The Box podcast, and following me on Twitter, because, um, sometimes I have booked shows way in advance and touring shows. But, sometimes I have shows last minute, like, I, last night I had a, um, show that kinda just came out, and someone was like, “Hey can you do this show?” So, if you really wanna catch me, follow me on Twitter @FunnyRosie and follow the podcast and that would be the best way to find out about me.

B.J.: Cool. Thank you so much for joining us.

Rosie: Thanks, B.J. Have a great day.

B.J.: You too.

Book Notes: The Console Wars

Book Notes: The Console Wars

We’re back again with another collection of book notes. I’ll be cranking these out as I continue doing the research for “The Internet is Magic”, which is the follow-up to “Social Media is Bullshit”. There are roughly 200 books (111 on the Kindle and about 86, and counting, in print) that I’m working on.

Speaking of “Social Media is Bullshit”  …

If you like what I’m doing here with these book notes and podcast, I have a specific ask: I encourage you to buy a USED copy of Social Media is Bullshit and do one of the following:

1. Read it and keep it.
2. Read it and donate to your local library.
3. Read it and share with a friend.

None of the above should cost you more than $10 if you get it through Amazon USED.


Standard disclaimer: These are my notes. There are probably typos and spelling errors as these are not meant to be a finished product. I didn’t even bother to put this all in AP style. My goal right now is to read as many of these 200 books as I can, do the summaries, and keep rolling so I can get to the book proposal stage by May. So, time is short. Pardon the lack of formatting.

Also: I use MBAs to describe not just people with the degree, but people who are generally shortsighted and obsessed with data. I’m sure there’s a better term for this, but I have yet to settle on one.

The Console Wars Or How Sega of Japan Ruined Everything

This is the first (of the 111) Kindle books that I’ve worked through. Copy and pasting my notes out of Kindle.Amazon.com was convenient, but I much prefer writing in the margins of print books and dog ear pages that I found useful. The other downside to importing notes from the Kindle? I can’t give you the exact page I pulled this content from, instead I just have the location number. I know it’s sort of the same, but also super fucking annoying.

Also: If you’re looking for a modern analog between Sega vs. Nintendo from the ’90s, look no further than T-Mobile vs. AT&T (and Verizon). MANY of T-Mobile’s tactics today completely mirror the upstart Sega’s tactics used against Nintendo back then.

On to the notes …

–“Between Barbie, He-Man, and everything in between, people would say that Kalinske had the “magic touch.” He liked when people said it, even though he knew it wasn’t true. There was no such thing as a magic touch, and it wouldn’t have mattered if there were, because the only thing it takes to sell toys, vitamins, or magazines is the power of story. That was the secret. That was the whole trick: to recognize that the world is nothing but chaos, and the only thing holding it (and us) together are stories. And Kalinske realized this in a way that only people who have been there and done that possibly can: that when you tell memorable, universal, intricate, and heartbreaking stories, anything is possible.”(Location 604)

This is something I’m always advocating, but it’s hard for people to wrap their head around, particularly if they’re of the MBA / obsessed variety. You know why most startups fail? They always complain, “We ran out of money. We didn’t have the right team. The market conditions were bad.” Meanwhile, (most) startups and tech companies I encounter have an absolute disdain for marketing and marketing people, and THAT is why I think most of them fail. The other shit? It’s all excuses. None of them know how to tell good stories and make themselves stand out, they don’t get (or want to get) branding and the importance of PR, and so they lean on the same set of stupid tricks (see: “Growth Hacking” and other bullshit surrounding Lean Startup methodology), and then complain when they don’t get anywhere.

McDonalds, through Ray Kroc, had the story concept nailed. So did Sega. The thing that killed both companies, or in McDonald’s case, grossly harmed them, was what happens to most successful companies after a while: They let the MBAs and Shareholders start making the decisions, or they let corporate people make bad decisions for petty reasons (Sega of Japan basically destroyed Sega as we know it because they felt inferior to Sega of America’s success).

But those problems come later. If you can’t get your story right, you’ll never get to that point anyway. Or in the case of a lot of startups, you’ll just never get out of the gate.

–“Kalinske nodded, returning to the moment. But before the girl could fix him a drink, she suddenly became transfixed by the Game Gear and, as with the well-dressed man, the world suddenly shrunk around her. Well, would you look at that, Kalinske mused, while having a revelation that would shape Sega, the videogame industry, and the face of entertainment as a whole. Videogames weren’t just for kids; they were for anyone who wanted to feel like a kid. Anyone who missed the freedom and innocence that comes with endless wonder. Videogames were for everyone; they just didn’t realize it yet.(Location 611)

Related to the above: Walmart, Starbucks, Sega, McDonalds, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook, Apple, what do they all have in common? They wanted everyone. So this whole “You gotta focus on a niche audience” thing is stupid to me. Customers personas can be helpful, so can data, but too often both of those things are used to stuff outreach campaigns into very small buckets, and those buckets don’t fit everyone who may be a potential customer of yours. Why? Again: We let the MBAs take over, and all that’s done is make us all risk averse and data obsessed in our decision making.

And it’s not just the MBAs. Startups in particular are fanatical about targeting a narrowly defined customer because they can quantify that and feel better about themselves in the process. All the while, ignoring everything else that’s out there.

The lesson here for you is to just swing for the fucking fences. If you’re going to go broke anyway, you might as well go broke taking your best shot at it.

–“Finally there was a respite to the chaos when the verbal daggers were momentarily replaced with collective giggles. “Sgt. Kabukiman,” Sega’s director of licensing, Diane Drosnes, repeated over laughter, “Yup, that’s right, he’s back.” Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. was a 1990 comedy about a clumsy New York cop-turned-superhero with powers like heat-seaking chopsticks and fatal sushi. Only a few Sega employees had actually seen the movie, but those who had all agreed it had to be among the worst ever made. Yet despite its seemingly obvious horridness, Sega’s game developers in Tokyo thought it was a wonderful film and the Americans needed to obtain the license to make a game based on it. Every month, Drosnes and her colleagues would send faxes explaining why this was a bad idea. But without fail, the suggestion kept coming back from Japan. This perpetual cultural difference was a source of great levity, but after everyone had a quick laugh the bickering resumed in full force.” (Location 690)

I had to look this up. The movie is real. There is no fucking way this movie would get made today. Thank you, the ’90s.

–“On September 23, 1889, just weeks before his thirtieth birthday, an entrepreneur named Fusajiro Yamauchi opened a small, rickety-looking shop in the heart of Kyoto. To attract the attention of passing rickshaws and wealthy denizens, he inscribed the name of his new enterprise on the storefront window: Nintendo, which had been selected by combining the kanji characters nin, ten, and do. Taken together, they meant roughly “leave luck to heaven”—though, like most successful entrepreneurs, Yamauchi found success by making his own luck.” (Location 742)

I included this note here because I read a lot of Geek Culture websites. And every so often you see one of those “Nintendo is DYING” posts popup, and my response is always, “No stupid, Nintendo has been around since 1889. The odds are good that, in one form or another, they will outlive both you and your media outlet.

–“In an era where most businessmen were content to survive off the modest returns of regional mainstays such as sake, silk, and tea, he decided it was time to try something new. So instead of selling a conventional product, Fusajiro Yamauchi opted for a controversial one, a product that the Japanese government had legalized only five years earlier: playing cards.” (Location 746)

Huh. Look at that. In 1889, someone decided to try something new instead of doing what everyone else was doing. Sure seems like there’s something we can learn from there.  😉

–This task was given to Shigeru Miyamoto, a floppy-haired first-time game designer who idealistically believed that videogames should be treated with the same respect given to books, movies, and television shows.(Location 862)

I included this here because, back in 2010, Roger Ebert went and pissed everyone off by declaring that video games are not art. He’s dead now (sadly) and it seems like as a culture we’ve move past this silly debate, but … Here’s what I think is a good answer to that question:

–“His efforts to elevate the art form were immediately given a boost when he was informed that Nintendo was close to finalizing a licensing deal with King Features, enabling him to develop his game around the popular cartoon series Popeye the Sailor Man. Using those characters, he began crafting a game where Popeye must rescue his beloved Olive Oyl by hopping over obstacles tossed in his way by his obese archenemy, Bluto. (Location 863)

So, Donkey Kong was originally going to be a Popeye game. Can you imagine how different things would have been, not just for video games, but for Popeye, had that happened? Not to mention, my life growing up, since I was raised on a steady diet of Atari games. Including what eventually did get released as a Popeye game:

Man I used to play this thing all the time and always thought it was similar to Donkey Kong. Now I know why.

–“Through it all, Lincoln and Arakawa had forged an unshakable lifelong friendship. Which is why Lincoln was the first person Arakawa contacted when, in April 1982, MCA Universal sent a telex to NCL explaining that Nintendo had forty-eight hours to hand over all profits from Donkey Kong due to the game’s copyright infringement on their 1933 classic movie King Kong. (Location 888)

Thankfully, there seem to be fewer and fewer Patent Trolls out there today, but MCA Universal (now NBC Universal) provides here a classic example of a patent troll. How Nintendo beat them in court is fantastic …

“There was no doubt, of course, that they had made the movie, but Lincoln believed that they had failed to take the necessary measures to own what they thought they owned, and that the famous gorilla belonged to public domain. And in early 1983, when both parties revealed their cards, Judge Robert W. Sweet sided with Nintendo. He concluded that they had not infringed and, as Lincoln had predicted earlier, he awarded Nintendo over $1 million in legal fees and damages.” (Location 900)

Fun fact though: King Kong’s copyright status still remains hotly contested. Even with Skull Island about to hit theaters, there is yet another lawsuit in the works over issues of ownership in the Kong universe.

“Mystique, whose flair for pornographic titles was highlighted by their 1982 anticlassic Custer’s Revenge, which follows a naked cowboy on his quest to rape Native American women). (Location 912)

Yup. This happened.

–The Famicom stumbled out of the gate but was soon rescued by heavy advertising consumer recognition that Nintendo had achieved a new echelon of gaming. (Location 922)

Wait, you mean advertising is good? All those tech people are telling me it’s dumb! I have to be lean and growth hack by my way to success by spamming people. What is this advertising shit? I can’t quantify that!

(Yes Virginia, advertising works. Stop fighting it because your friends from Silicon Valley, mostly fat with venture funding and well-connected people, are telling you it’s dumb.)

–Though Main lacked any videogame experience, his outsider mentality allowed him to look at the business not as an offshoot of the toy, arcade, or electronics industry but as something novel and spectacular. (Location 1039)

Above, I’m poking fun at tech people. This note helps to illustrate why. They all think the same, but here was someone at Nintendo who was an outsider, and that mentality turned out to be incredibly valuable for the company to have. You won’t find that in a lot of industries these days. I spent a year (in 2014) trying to quit being an author / consultant and work for an advertising agency or two in New York City. But I didn’t have an MBA and didn’t go to the “right” schools and get the “right” degree (Marketing, ect.). So I wasted a whole lot of time.

Now the industry is in a crisis where Brands are moving more toward doing their own advertising without the agencies, thanks in large part to the groupthink the ad industry suffers from. Can’t imagine why!

(But also: This goes double for tech, where people are obsessed with people with Ivy league degrees or who went to places like Stanford or MIT. And yet, so many tech companies fail. Hmmmmmmmm.)

–To spread this new gospel, he choreographed what he would later describe as Nintendo’s “storming of Normandy,” a full-out advertising, promotion, and distribution blitz that accompanied the rollout of the NES into stores nationwide. (Location 1040)

Not to beat a dead horse, but again … this is how Nintendo became “NINTENDO” the thing almost all of us owned in our homes or knew someone who did. It didn’t just happen magically.

–“Month after month, Nintendo of America grew stronger. They sold 2.3 million consoles in 1987 and 6.1 million in 1988. As staggering as these numbers were, sales of the hardware were nothing compared to the software: the company unloaded 10 million games in 1987, and 33 million more in 1988. With numbers like these, it didn’t take Main long to realize that, at the end of the day, it was the software that drove the hardware; the console was just the movie theater, but it was the movies that kept people coming back for more. This personal revelation led to a Hollywood-like title-driven business strategy, and his coining of the phrase “the name of the game is the game.”(Location 1046)

I LOVE “The name of the game is the game.” First, it’s true for a lot of products in the entertainment industry. But second, and more importantly, it emphasizes a focus on the quality of the product above everything else, and that’s something I don’t think any of us can lose sight of. If your product sucks, nothing you is going to matter over the long term. You might get people through the door at first, looking at you touring YouTube celebrities, but you’re not going to keep that audience once they figure out you and your product kind of suck.

–“Main’s approach to sales and marketing coincided with Arakawa’s overarching philosophy of “quality over quantity.” As Nintendo exploded, there were plenty of opportunities to make a quick buck (hardware upgrades, unnecessary peripherals), exploit the company’s beloved characters (movies, theme parks), or dilute the brand by trying to attract an audience older than Nintendo’s six-to-fourteen-year-olds. But these kinds of things didn’t interest Arakawa. He wasn’t driven by making money, at least not in the short term. What propelled him, what kept him up at night, was a desire to continually provide Nintendo’s customers with a unique and flawless user experience. As proof of this never-ending obsession, he set up a toll-free telephone line where Nintendo “Game Counselors” were available all day to help players get through difficult levels, and he initiated the Nintendo Fun Club, which sent a free newsletter to any customer who had sent in a warranty card.  (Location 1051)

So again, “The name of the game is the game”. This strategy, by the way, is ultimately why Nintendo outlasts Sega (when Sega of Japan starts rushing shit products with no support into the marketplace like the Sega CD, 32X, and the Saturn.) Nintendo stayed the course and focused on great games like Mario Kart, Star Fox and Donkey Kong Country. I can tell you, growing up, I had both the Genesis and the SNES and the SNES was almost always the one that got used because the Genesis had few games that were great. There were some (Sonic, Streets of Rage, Mutant League Football), but nowhere near what Nintendo had available.

One of the more frustrating things I’ve encountered since 2012 in the Tech world is the complete and total lack of attention given to the customer. Any time it’s mentioned doing something like Nintendo did here, you get greeted with this “That doesn’t scale” shit from the MBAs and other shortsighted people who only think in terms of metrics they can quantify now, not later. As Ray Kroc pointed out, he didn’t have that worry while growing McDonalds. He knew he’d make the money he put into advertising and customer service from good word of mouth.

Oh, sorry, we can’t quantify that!

–To build the brand, White courted Fortune 500 companies, resulting in pivotal promotions, like Pepsi placing a Nintendo ad on over 2 billion cans of soda and Tide featuring Mario on the detergent maker’s giant in-store displays. His coup came with the release of Super Mario 3, when he negotiated for McDonald’s to not only make a Mario-themed Happy Meal but also produce a series of commercials centered around the game.(Location 1081)

In the book I ghostwrote, one thing I found was that a lot of the multi-billion dollar tech companies got to where they are because of PR, good connections, lots of venture funding (allowing them to fuck up and transition to another business model), and strategic alliances. So here we see Nintendo doing the same thing to grow, and Sega later would do the same by teaming with celebrity athletes to promote Sega Sports. (Later: Nickelodeon, McDonalds with Sonic as a happy meal toy, and software developer Tengen as well.)

The name of the game might be the game, but if nobody knows that game exists? It won’t matter.

–After earning Arakawa’s trust as a tastemaker, he would scour the arcade scene and write detailed assessments that would go to Japan. Sometimes his advice was implemented, sometimes it was ignored, but in the best-case scenarios he would find something hot, such as the 1982 hit Joust, alert Japan’s R&D to it, and watch it result in a similar Nintendo title—in this case a 1983 Joust-like game called Mario Bros.(Location 1109)

Steve Jobs (stop laughing, I know it’s a cliche to quote him) once claimed Pablo Picasso once said “Good artists copy; great artists steal”.  Here’s the funny thing: Picasso probably never said that. We’re not sure who said it. That just makes the quote hilarious to me.

More importantly though, the FIRST Mario game turned out to be a ripoff of another game. That’s wonderful because not only does it support that quote, it’s also something you see all the time in the tech world. Everything is a copy or inversion of something someone else is doing. Part of that is because of the groupthink and fear based decision making the MBA types make, but another is that it’s not a bad idea if you can do something better.

We wouldn’t have Mario beyond a red pixelated blotch named Jumpman (from Donkey Kong) without this.

–Maybe Nintendo really did know best, but if there was one thing Kalinske had learned about consumers throughout his career, it was this: the only thing they valued more than making the right decision was making their own decision. So if Nintendo represented control, Sega would represent freedom, and this cornerstone of choice would be the foundation of Kalinske’s plan to reboot, rebuild, and rebrand Sega. (Location 1197)

This was something discussed in the Ries and Trout book. Essentially, to define yourself in opposition to the lead competitor in the category. (Law #9, the Law of the Opposite.)


–“You have to hand it to Nintendo,” Schroeder said, finishing the article. “Like them or not, everything those guys touch turns to gold.” “You’re right,” Kalinske replied, turning on the coffee machine. “So I guess we’ll just have to make sure everything we touch turns to silver. And, you know, while we’re doing that, we’ll find a way to convince the world that silver is more valuable than gold.” (Location 1202)

–“Sega did a good job of positioning themselves as the offbeat alternative to Nintendo’s autocratic reign, but that alone didn’t make their booth spectacular. Any mutt trying to out-bark the top dog would have done the same. What Sega did that no other company would have dared to do was acknowledge that it was a dog-eat-dog world. At the heart of their booth was a television displaying highlights from Super Mario World. Directly below it was a television showing off Sonic The Hedgehog. In an industry where Nintendo coated the ground in eggshells and cautioned all to walk slowly, Sega was going head-to-head at full speed. The differences between the two games were self-evident: Sonic ran laps around Mario. The Super Nintendo was still three months away from being released, and already it looked extinct.” (Location 2395)

Here’s a quick refresher on the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing:

“The name of the game is the game,” Nilsen said, with the bouncy, uplifting rhythm of a prayer worn into the soul by repetition. If Nilsen had known that the originator of the phrase was none other than Nintendo’s Peter Main, he likely would have washed his mouth out with soap. But with the bliss of quotational ignorance, Nilsen repeated the mantra and then pointed to a copy of Atari’s game E.T., which was framed on his wall. “I keep this here as a reminder. Most consider it to be the worst game ever made.” Nilsen pressed his finger up against the glass. “Look at this thing: based on a blockbuster movie, blessed by none other than Steven Spielberg, and had more marketing money pumped into it than any other game.” “And still it failed?” “Miserably! You can still see the markdown stickers on the game,” Nilsen said, pointing to the tiny stickers showing its various price points. “It went from $49.95 to $34.95 then, ouch, $12.99, $3.99, and finally I became a proud owner of the worst videogame ever at $1.99.” (Location 1240)

I loved this documentary. In part, because I owned the Atari 2600 ET game, but also because it’s probably the best, most insightful look into the rise and fall of Atari, as a company, that I’ve come across. Highly recommended.

“I understand,” Kalinske said, standing to leave. “And I appreciate your ode to better, simpler times. But you know what the sad thing is? The man in your story, the one who tipped off Nintendo, I don’t really blame that guy. He was just trying to find an angle. If you ask me, the people really killing this country are the ones who realize the American dream is being crushed but don’t bother to do anything about it.” (Location 1348)
Kalinske was talking business here but I feel like that quote applies to a lot of things these days. (Looking at you, people who don’t vote and gutless politicians from both major political parties.)

–Toy stores were more than just a comfort zone or realm of inspiration to him. They were like a library of cultural mythology. His biggest takeaway from the toy industry had been the importance of story. A toy might be just a piece of plastic, but if you added a compelling narrative and a character mythology, you could transform that piece of plastic into the next big thing. He had proved it with Barbie and with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and he was starting to feel more and more confident that he could do it with Sonic as well. (Location 1399)

–Kalinske knew this was the moment that could make or break the company. He had to put it all on the line and urge Nakayama to reconsider. “I’ve been in the videogame business for about five minutes,” he began, “but I’ve been in the toy business for over twenty years. You know what the toy business really is? It’s not about size, shape, color, or price; it’s about character. You want to play with characters you like. You want to become a part of their world and let them become a part of yours,” Kalinske said, overwhelmed with passion. “I can only speak for myself, but there’s not a character out there that I’d rather spend some time with than our new Sonic The Hedgehog. And if I feel this way, I think there are a lot of others who will feel exactly the same.” (Location 1445)

–Kalinske understood and respected that. He knew from Mattel that these weren’t stocks, bonds, and commodities that they were selling; these were emotions, experiences, and ideas. (Location 1563)

I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but I tell people all the time that if they want to be good at marketing, they need to read “Story” by Robert McKee and, to a lesser extent, The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Yeah, I know “Star Wars” is basically Hero with a thousand faces, but still. No one ever believes when I tell them to read these books, but it’s all about the story. In the case of Sonic, Sega of America put together a 13 page story bible that completely filled in the character’s story, and later did the same for Tails.

Both characters outlasted the company as we remember it. So yeah, go ahead and NOT read those books I just mentioned and keep talking about quantifiable shit over everything else.

“It doesn’t matter what I think. It only matters what will sell.” (Location 1437)

The sign of any good decision maker, especially when it comes to marketing, is to think beyond themselves. You might think something sucks, but that something might be what your customers like, so you gotta do what they like and get past yourself. If you don’t remember this, you’re going to fail.

–“My nonsmirking friend here is correct,” Kalinske said. “A big opening weekend for a movie isn’t proof that it’s any good. It just means they had a nice poster.”(Location 2017)

It’s true, and something to remember because it ties back to what I’m saying: IF your product sucks, even if you have a great initial launch, sooner or later, the word is going to get out that it sucks, and you’re going to be toast when it does.

–“Whenever you’re at war, you must hit the other guy in the mouth as hard as you can with the first punch,” Rioux explained to Kalinske and Toyoda as they plotted Sega’s strategy for the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. “And if you can’t hit ’em hard, you might as well not even fight. That’s the attitude in real war, and that ought to be our attitude here as well.” (Location 2168)

I’ve said this before in a different way (“You want to hit them so hard that they won’t even think of getting up”) but I like the way the same philosophy is described here. It’s a cliche, and a little on the nose since this is a book about video games, but you play to win or you don’t play at all.

— “Kalinske went on to explain that Nintendo was a victim of the worst enemy of all: high expectations. This was a burden Sega didn’t have to carry. They were underdogs through and through, and this was their greatest advantage. “We have nothing to lose,” he said. “And that’s how we’re going to win.” (Location 2265)

This, to me, was the key to Sega’s success. They really didn’t have anything to lose, and in the end when they DID have something to lose, that’s what killed their company because Sega of Japan started making fear-based decisions given the impending launch of the Playstation and Nintendo 64.

Startups often like to describe themselves as underdogs, but that’s really hard to take seriously sometimes, particularly when we’re talking about ones from Silicon Valley with all their funding, connections, and talent pool. Sega was a real underdog here. Nintendo basically had a monopoly and Sega broke it by being the scrappy upstart startups today could only wish to be.

–“Lincoln finally announced, now ready to reveal the plans for Nintendo’s new CD unit. Olafsson stirred in his seat as the crowning moment inched closer. “And who better to partner with than the company that invented the audio compact disc: Philips Electronics.” Wait, what? A tremor of shock and confusion swept through the room as journalists raced to take note that Lincoln had said Philips and not Sony. After Lincoln said it again, confirming that his words were not a slip-up, all eyes turned to Olaf Olafsson, who tilted his head and furrowed his brow. Was he shocked, appalled, furious? In truth, he was none of those things. He was merely plotting his next move. “(Location 2360)

The story of Sony’s Playstation is fascinating. They wanted to work with Nintendo, and Nintedo fucked them in favor of the long forgotten CD-I. Then Sega and Sony were going to team up, but Sega of Japan got weird about working with SONY and killed the deal. (Later, they would do the same with Silicon Graphics, which would lead to the birth of what became the Nintendo 64.) So the Playstation, which today with Microsoft’s Xbox dominates the video game industry, was born in part out of spite (Sony of America poached a lot of Sega of America’s best employees in the run up to the PS1 launch), but also out of gross incompetence on the part of both Sega and Nintendo.


Kind of reminds me of that time Yahoo could have bought Google … And yes, that’s from the Zelda CD-I game that everyone forgets exists.

“Grand aspirations were certainly admirable, but without proper execution they were nothing more than delusions of grandeur. Transforming a 16-bit critter into the next Mickey Mouse, however, presented the same problem as marketing against the Super Nintendo: money. Without a war chest full of financial resources, Sega relied on the kindness of strangers. Or, more specifically, writers from the most popular gaming magazines of the era: GamePro, VideoGames & Computer Entertainment (VG&CE), and Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM), which had been created to fill the growing appetite for videogame previews, reviews, and rumors. Though they differed in subtle ways (GamePro slanted younger, VG&CE skewed older, and EGM swung for mainstream), the editors at each all had one thing in common: a distaste for Nintendo.

–“To make the math work, Kalinske relied on Nilsen. Ever since joining Sega in 1989, Nilsen had always made it a priority to build strong relationships with the press. He made it a personal policy to return every call, from anyone at any publication, and when doing so he would always have a memorable quote ready. He was all about going the extra mile, whether that entailed flying out to Los Angeles to have lunch with writers from VG&CE or trekking out to Lombard, Illinois, to meet new members of the EGM team. Nilsen took great pleasure in seducing the tastemakers, but what really made his tactics work was that they were not tactics at all. As he saw it, these people were devoting their lives to writing about what he did for a living; they made his life easier, and he wanted to return the favor. It was less about sneakily seeking competitive advantages and more about demonstrating good manners. And if his sentiment contrasted with that of Nintendo, then that was just the cherry on top.” (Location 2526)

Further proof that PR matters. Also: The gaming magazines had problems with Nintendo because Nintendo had their own magazine (one I LOVED when I was little) and “Nintendo Power” got all the good stuff, leaving the gaming mags in the dark for the most part.

–In 1976 Rosen negotiated with Nolan Bushnell for Sega to acquire Atari, but on the day that they were to draft the contract, Bushnell backed out because he learned that his company had successfully developed a new console that could play more than one game (through the innovation of cartridges). (Location 3373)

I’m fascinated by this. Not only did Sega almost buy Atari, but they almost had the Playstation AND almost had what became the Nintendo 64. That’s three major strikeouts, and very likely the reason they just release games these days.

–“Though Atari wouldn’t be launching the 16-bit console, Michael Katz would: Rosen hired Katz to become Sega of America’s second president and release this new console that Rosen had named Genesis, in the hopes that it truly would represent a new beginning for the company. (Location 3432)

I was always curious as to where the name “Genesis” came from, assuming it wasn’t a Bible reference. Now we all know.

–“I made a deal with Mr. Kozuki that I would stick around and continue to take Konami to the top as long as we never did anything worse than cartoon violence. He didn’t hesitate for one second and agreed to the deal. Even more important, he backed up his words with actions. Right around that time we had a game out of Japan called Dracula Satanic Castle, and he let me rename it Castlevania and make other slight modifications. I consider Mr. Kozuki a great friend and I have no doubt that there is eternal truth to his words, but as I look around this industry that we’re all creating, I can’t help but realize it’s only a matter of time.” (Location 3495)

Also included this here because I was curious where Castlevania got its name from. And yes, “Symphony of the Night” is the best game ever made. (Ok. At least … as far as Playstation 1 games go.)

–“Though he was able to change the name, there was not enough time to order new uniforms with the navy and red colors from those Brewers teams of yesteryear. Instead, the newly minted Milwaukee Brewers were forced to adopt the blue and gold of the Seattle Pilots, a color scheme that the team still wears to this day, and on April 7 this new-old team squared off against the California Angels. They lost 12–0. (Location 3847)

I’m a big fan of both baseball and American History. The history of Seattle as a city is basically the history of people being hilariously stubborn and dumb. So I kind of like that they lent their dumbness to the Brewers. (Also fuck Bud Selig. Putting him in the Hall of Fame is ridiculous.)

–Experiences like these led him to believe that the fundamental problem with marketing was its reliance on the past. It looked backward, not forward, and failed to take into account innovation, trends, or cultural shifts in taste. (Location 4049)

Ries and Trout said the same thing, but it’s worth repeating here. People get obsessed with what’s worked in the past. How else do you explain the Lean Startup / Growth Hacking craze in the tech world and the social media craze in the marketing and advertising industry? We took the long lessons from warped interpretations of history and kept trying to repeat them. The only people benefitting were the assholes peddling the bad advice.

The past is the past, and nobody knows what the future holds, so you have to work with what you have in the present.

–It was a marketing ploy, yes, but it worked in the same self-fulfilling way as a blockbuster film did. They’re not called “blockbusters” just because of their budgets; rather, it’s because of the event-like, don’t-be-left-out way that they are marketed, which makes people rush to the theater for the opening weekend, which then makes more people rush to the theater when they hear how big that opening weekend was. (Location 4779)

–“The art of the blockbuster is that it popularizes something before it ever even exists, and though Sonic 2 was still months away from completion, Sonic 2sday gave Kalinske and company an opportunity to unleash the biggest blockbuster the videogame world had ever seen.” (Location 4782)

YES! Of course, as I’ve pointed out here, if the film sucks, you’re fucked, but the point of having tentpole movies and hyping them, that logic makes a lot of sense and is worth studying for your own efforts. Hype is fine. To be clear. Just make sure the thing you’re hyping is good. Otherwise you get this:

–“It’s all about cool; that’s the holy grail. You’re born, you die, and in between you spend a bunch of years searching for it—looking cool, sounding cool, buying cool, and, no matter what, not being uncool. That right there, that’s the secret formula. It’s addictive, it’s enlightening, and it’s goddamn recession-proof. In a world full of too many people shouting too many things, it’s the only adjective that really matters: “cool.” (Location 5085)

True today as it was then. Maybe more so thanks to the Internet.

–“We’ve spent the past month traveling around the country and living with gamers,” Steel said. “We got to know them and understand what they want.” (Location 5218)

–“As laughter emanated from the Sega crowd, Goodby gave an unapologetic shrug. “Hey, I’ve never had a problem with getting my hands a little dirty,” he said. “But before we get into the campaign, I wanted to first show you how committed to Sega our agency really is. So in preparation for the pitch, I went around the office and assigned everyone a Genesis game to master.” Goodby took a step forward and pointed to his employees in the stadium seats. “Over there, we’ve got an expert on every single game that you guys make. Go ahead and ask them any question about any game. I’m totally dead serious.” When the Sega folks realized that Goodby was, in fact, totally dead serious, Nilsen was selected to come up with some brain busters. “In Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom, what is the name of the main character in the First Generation?” The agency employee assigned to Phantasy Star III stood up. “That’s a tough question,” he said, making Goodby sweat for a second. “But only because there are six playable characters: Rhys, Lyle, Mieu, Wren, Lena, and Maia. If I had to narrow it down to one, though, I’d go with Rhys, the Crown Prince of the Orakian Kingdom of Landen.” “I couldn’t have put it better myself,” Nilsen said amidst applause for the Phantasy Star III expert. (Location 5222)

This echoed what Ray Kroc was saying about knowing your customer inside and out. That’s the trick to selling people something. It’s not hard, but nobody fucking does it these days. “It doesn’t scale”.  That’s bullshit.

I’ve said this before, but it’s like what Robert De Niro says in “Ronan”: “I never walk into a place I don’t know how to walk out of.” The same is true for sales. If you want the deal, you have to do the research.

–“Ultimately, by virtue of these innovations, Street Fighter II was the first fighting game that was actually based on skill and not luck. That’s what made it really click. Well, that plus the fact that it was so goddamn cool to control fighters who possessed the same kind of depth, backstory, and superpowers as iconic comic book characters. (Location 5421)

To say Street Fighter II was a hit doesn’t even begin to describe the amount of success the game had. The fact that right now, for the Nintendo Switch, Capcom is working on the 30th anniversary edition (Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers) for the Nintendo Switch says it all. And again, it’s all about the story. The fact that most of you can name those characters easily says it all. (Although you’ll be forgiven if you forgot about all of the new characters that came into Street Fighter II with Super Street Fighter II. Except Cammy. Everyone loves Cammy. Everyone.)

–“In some cases, these plans were about identifying Nintendo’s weaknesses and planting a flag where their competitor had not yet broken ground, while in other cases it was simply a matter of taking something that Nintendo already did well and doing it better. (Location 5898)

Yup yup. By the way, we’re almost like 7,000 words in, so can I just say: The fact that Sega of America died because of corporate stupidity just kills me. Nothing lasts man. Nothing.

–“For Kalinske, peddling this version of the truth to the media was no problem, but selling it to his employees was another story. That was the disheartening part, to have to look them in the eye and optimistically explain how this was actually a good thing. Sure, it would have been a lot easier to share in his employees’ collective groan, but the problem with managing that way is that although the bad news is easier to swallow, it also inherently lingers longer. That’s why Kalinske always walked around the office with a smile, saving the frowns for his own time. (Location 6396)

This is a great lesson in leadership. Unfortunately, I would not be very good at hiding my feelings like this.

–“Fischer leaned in. “This is one of my favorite stories. Naka-san gets all the credit, because he designed the game and, you know, he’s this powerful personality, but because of that I think Oshima-san gets lost in the shuffle. So one time I went up to him and asked Sonic’s true creator where that spark of an idea had come from. He’s really shy, this unassuming kid, and I expected him to say something like ‘It was a team effort,’ or ‘It was just one of those things,’ but he smiles really small and he says: ‘I just put Felix the Cat on the body of Mickey Mouse.’ (Location 6550)

So just like how we got Mario because Nintendo needed a Joust like ripoff, thus Sonic was born by remixing Mickey and Felix.

–” And that’s when Nilsen finally realized the fundamental difference between Sega of America and Sega of Japan. They weren’t willing to take the risk, to race Sonic against Mario or welcome a generation to the Next Level. These people were highly talented and certainly not lazy, but deep down they weren’t as interested in winning as they were in not losing. Without risk, there is no reward, and so Nilsen lifted his chopsticks and pulled the plate toward him, proudly eating every last piece of the pufferfish all by himself. (Location 6684)

This, for those of you reading the book because you want to know why Sega died, is your answer. The risk-averse Sega of Japan eventually started calling the shots, and when they did, they killed the company by making irrational, fear-based decisions.

“The world is full of misconceptions, but perhaps none more fatally fantastical than those involving the lemming. As legend has it, these feisty creatures are prone to combating periods of overpopulation by blindly marching one by one off tall cliffs and unceremoniously plummeting to their deaths. It’s unclear where this global rumor began, but evidence suggests that its popularity spread from Disney’s 1958 Academy Award–winning documentary White Wilderness, which highlighted this unusual and unnatural behavior. Although it was later discovered that the filmmakers had flown in the featured lemmings from Canada and had actually tossed them off the cliffs by hand, it was too late to reverse this morbid misconception. (Location 7469)

For whatever reason, this reminded me of Malcom Gladwell. How he grossly oversimplifies or exaggerates, or uses faulty studies to make what New York City intellectuals think are profound statements, but are ultimately empty. I talked about Gladwell and his bullshit in my last book, so it’s not worth rehashing here beyond saying he’s a con artist and you shouldn’t read anything he writes. Fuck that guy forever.

–“It was October 19, 1994, and Nintendo of America’s three amigos were bracing themselves to boldly go where no videogame executives had gone before: cyberspace. Six days earlier, NOA had announced that in an effort to make Donkey Kong Country the biggest game ever, Nintendo would become the first videogame to utilize online technology for a new product launch. Nintendo’s three-month online campaign would be available exclusively on CompuServe, the leading worldwide Internet service with 2.3 million members. To attract attention and bridge the gap between corporation and consumer, the campaign would kick off with a live, one-hour chat hosted by Arakawa, Lincoln, and Main. (Location 8816)

–I know people get bent out of shape over Reddit and their mostly bullshit story of how they got to where they are (I covered Reddit extensively in the ghostwritten book, but here’s the short story: PR and relationship with Condenast’s Wired + Sockpuppets + Copyright Infringement + Questionable photos of Teen Girls  + Collapse of their rival Digg + Blogs using them as a source = More media hype = Alexis Ohanian constantly getting blown for being a genius for no reason.  Fuck that guy forever as well. But also, that’s seriously the story of Reddit. And another one of the things they get praised (and credited for) are the Ask Me Anything threads. While fun to read (I’m a reddit user since 2007, I can throw shade at them if I want), the AMAs are actually things AOL and Compuserve did long ago.

” Nearly ten years earlier, Arakawa, Lincoln, and Main were plotting how to get a product nobody had ever heard of into stores everywhere. Slowly at first, and then quickly as credibility grew, these men succeeded in spectacular fashion. Inch by inch, they willed their way into more than 20,000 stores, and Nintendo products were available in just about every retail space imaginable. (Location 8825)

A long, LONG, time ago, I read this thing on how Jerry Seinfeld stays so productive. You should read it. And then after you do, look at what Nintendo did here. “Inch by inch”. If you want to be successful, you have to know what you want, and then break down that thing into a thousand small steps, one of which you can take every day, to make it happen. That’s not groundbreaking advice. Everyone says that, but it’s the truth.

“Inch by inch anything’s a cinch.” Funny enough, Sega learned a lot from Nintendo, but Sega of Japan didn’t learn and remember this one thing, and that’s why the company died.

One last thing …

“First to market doesn’t mean much,” Lincoln started. “It’s what you do, not when you do it.”

There’s this belief among tech companies about First Mover Advantage. It CAN be true, but more often than not, being first doesn’t mean shit. It means being best, and THEN in the mind of your customers, being first. So you’re not the first to market, but you’re the first that’s AWESOME. Peter Thiel talks about this in “Zero to One”. It’s not a great book, but that was one of two things I came away from that book remembering and thinking it was smart. (The other being that you can’t just be better than your competitor, you have to be so much better that they can’t just copy you and steal any advantage you had away.)

Nintendo knew that lesson well. Sega was first to market with the 16 bit Genesis and the 32 bit Saturn, but the Super Nintendo and the SONY Playstation beat them both because both companies put the priority on having the best games. Like I don’t know how many of you remember, but I bought a Playstation not long after launch, and they had so many games that were awesome at the time that I didn’t even know what to buy. Twisted Metal. Warhawk. Ridge Racer. Ray Man. NBA Jame. Hell even Toshinden was cool. (So cool, I went and watched the anime. And then not long after that, you had Tekken and just wave after wave of games.

You couldn’t say that for the 32X, Sega CD, Saturn, or even later, the Dreamcast. All these things were first to market, and they all failed.

And if you want an Internet example, how about this: Netscape, despite people saying otherwise, was not the first graphical interface browser. Facebook was not the first social network (not by a long shot). Google was not the first search engine. Reddit is an (admitted) ripoff of Digg because Ohanian’s first idea was dumb. The list goes on.

I’ll close with this


High School Me was SUPER excited about this bad, bad film.

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Jason Falls

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson: Jason Falls

A lot of people ask me about podcasting. As part of the whole, “Ok Smart ass, now what do I do?” response I get after they read “Social Media is Bullshit.” The conventional wisdom (that I agree with, in this case) is that if you want to do a podcast, you should record three or four test episodes to see how it goes.

After those “test episodes” are done, you decide if you want to go ahead with doing the show or not.

Now here’s an added wrinkle: The odds are good you won’t see financial results from doing a podcast. They’re good for branding, networking, and PR, but they’re not terribly good at much else. Plus every asshole has one now, so … There’s that too.

You have to take that into consideration too. If you do a podcast, you have to have the right expectations and goals for it, otherwise you may find yourself 200 episodes in and deeply disappointed.

So, in the way I do everything (full transparency), let me tell you about 15 Minutes.

15 Minutes with B.J. Mendelson

Some of you know I suffer from depression and OCD. So there’s a whole lot of social anxiety I deal with every day, particularly outside of business settings. In business settings, I’m awesome. Put me on stage in front of a thousand people (been there, done that), I’ll have them all laughing. Get me to tell jokes to an audience where they all speak different languages, and I’ll have them all laughing at the same time. (Been there, done that too.)

Get me alone with a girl for like twenty minutes? Hilarity and awkwardness will ensue. Same deal with just hanging out with people in a social setting. I’m crawling up the wall and counting the minutes until I can leave.

I tell you this, because that makes me the worst person to do a podcast. They’re intimate experiences. But at the same time, if I were to do one, it would be good for me from a psychological perspective. Ideally the show would get me comfortable talking to people in non-business settings. With practice,  I’ll get better at doing so, and maybe that’ll kill some of the social anxiety that I deal with.

And so, a podcast was born. There’s no goal with this thing other than helping me get comfortable in talking to people outside of a business setting. You should know that upfront. I’m doing this for me, but that doesn’t mean there’s no benefit to you.

On the show, we’ll have a wide array of guests (even you. Seriously. Just email me at bj@bjmendelson.com if you want to do an episode) and each guest will share the best advice they’ve ever got; and then some advice they’d like to pass on to you. All in 15 minutes or less.

(Test) Episode 1: Small Business Marketer, and fellow author, Jason Falls

My first guest was Jason Falls, author of “No Bullshit Social Media” and the co-author of “The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing”. Above, you can hear Jason talk about his own battles with Imposter Syndrome and why faking it until you make it isn’t the terrible advice I always thought it was.

Below, you can hear the episode in its entirety. Fair warning: Since this a test episode, and I like to share everything I do, I did no editing on this episode. So this is the raw audio, and you can tell I was really nervous in my interview, repeating myself and saying “uh” a lot. Social anxiety for the win!

The second episode (recorded today) I’m a bit better, but just take this as a heads up before you listen to the full first episode. My goal is that by the end of my test episodes, I’ll be in good shape in terms of my interviewing ability. We’ll see.

Full Transcript

(Note that the transcripts are lightly edited to remove the “uhs” and other annoying things that make a transcript hard to read.)

B.J. Mendelson:                   Hey, how are you doing?

Jason Falls:                             Fine, how are you?

B.J. Mendelson:                   I am well. I realize I haven’t talked to you actually like verbally in about a few years.

Jason Falls:                             (laughs) It’s been a while, yeah.

B.J. Mendelson:                   All right, cool. So thank you for doing this.

Jason Falls:                             All right.

B.J. Mendelson:                   This is just like,  I’m just testing it to see how this goes, and then like I’lll post it anyway because I don’t fucking care. (laughs)

Jason Falls:                             (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   You know, the whole point behind this was I was just tired of, do you listen to the Tim Ferriss podcasts?

Jason Falls:                             I don’t listen to the podcasts, but I’m vaguely familiar with what he does.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Okay. So, I mean, the podcast it sounds so slickly produced, but there’s a solid six minutes of commercials-

Jason Falls:                             Nice.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Before any episode starts, and it’s just like just give me the content and end. Like, that’s all I want. It was just …

Jason Falls:                             (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   Right?

Jason Falls:                             Yeah.

B.J. Mendelson:                   So yeah. Let’s, let me get right into it then, and then I can let you go ’cause that, the whole idea is to do this in like 15 minutes or less.

Jason Falls:                             Okay.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Each week, like, (laughs) that’s sort of the “Get your shit and get out”  kind of thing.

So, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Jason Falls:                             Wow. I think the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is to stop and think about your intention of, of what you’re doing, and unfortunately I didn’t really get that advice until I was in my 40s  but, I had  a friend of mine who I was talking with about just stress and things like that in general, and he said, “I think one thing that would help you is if you stepped back with everything that you do personally  and professionally, and say ‘What is my intention? What am I going this for?'” And, you know, it really kind of goes back to the same types of advice that I’ve been giving people in business is, “What’s your goal? What are you trying to get out of it?”

So if you don’t know your goal, then you can’t possibly prescribe activities that will get you there because you don’t know where you’re going, and so it’s the same thing in life, whether it’s the relationship with your children or your spouse or, you know, why you’re participating in a volunteer activity or even what you’re doing in business. What’s your intention? What are you trying to get out of it? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to help somebody else accomplish? And if you know that and think about that, then you have a lot more clarity and a lot less distractions to get where you’re going, and so I think it kinda reduces stress, keeps you on a straight and narrow path, and for the last couple of years since I’ve gotten that advice you know, business and personally life for me has been oddly a little smoother.

B.J. Mendelson:                   And who actually said that to you? Where did that advice come from?

Jason Falls:                             It was actually a friend of mine who happens to also be a therapist. His name’s Tom Clark, and you know, he does a combination of therapy and then teaches mindfulness meditation which is something else that I’ve been doing for three or four years now, and so he just said, “I think understanding your intention is going to help you get past a lot of this peripheral stress that you’re dealing with,” and sure enough he was right.

B.J. Mendelson:                   I love it. So, let me ask you how have you utilized this advice? Like, if you can give us one example of a way you specifically used it?

Jason Falls:                             Sure. Well, I think, um, you know, specific examples, like for instance, from a business standpoint, I have always sort of juggled multiple roles. I’ve worked at agencies and brands, and I’ve had companies that I’ve engaged as clients and whatnot, and that’s how I primarily made my money, but then there’s this, you know, secondary  Jason Falls brand on the side that’s about speaking and writing, and things of that nature, and so, it supports the other piece of it. Then they kind of support one another, but it’s also separate in some ways.

And so I actually sat down this past fall and said, “You know, if there is such a thing as a Jason Falls brand, what’s my intention? What am I trying to do with it?” And I realized that I didn’t really have a clear direction on what I wanted to do with my speaking and writing activities outside of the official work role in whatever capacity that I was working with my company or someone else’s company, and I thought about it and realized that I have a passion that lies in helping small businesses, but I hadn’t really been focusing on doing anything to help small businesses over the course of the last 10 years.

I’ve been working with medium to large enterprise companies and clients of agencies and so on and so forth, and so, as I turned into 2017, I said, “You know what? The blog at JasonFalls.com, the email newsletter everything I do that’s outside of the work-related things that I do, um, is gonna be focused on helping small businesses either get online or optimize what they’re doing online because the statistics are still pretty true. About half of all small businesses don’t even have websites.”

B.J. Mendelson:                   Right.

Jason Falls:                             So there’s a lot of progress to be had, and so I’ve kind of dedicated my personal business ventures and speaking and things like that to be focused on small business because I defined my intention.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Let me ask you the big question and the last one: If you’re able to share with someone advice of your own-

Jason Falls:                             Mm-hmm (affirmative)

B.J. Mendelson:                   What would that one thing that you’d want to share with people?

Jason Falls:                             I mean, obviously I think the easy answer is to say that you should define your intention but I think that another, I want to go with a different route on that, too, because something else that I don’t know that I can ever recall anybody telling me this as a piece of advice. I think I kind of carved this out for myself, but for a long time I sort of had this battle with the imposter syndrome where you don’t think you belong, you don’t think you’re good enough, you don’t think you’re smart enough. It’s kind of a self-doubt thing, and, and sometimes it can paralyze you.

Generally I overcome it pretty well, but it’s kind of always thinking that you’re gonna be found out, that somebody’s gonna realize that you’re not as smart as you report yourself to be, and so the things that I’ve kind of developed over the years is this understanding that especially in new jobs or new situations and new relationships be they personal or professional, you really have to be okay with and be comfortable with faking it until you make it, and what I’ve learned over the years because I’ve been in several different roles in several different jobs and you actually don’t fake it as long as you think you do.

You know, once you get into the role, and you learn who you need to talk to to solve certain problems, and you understand the client or you understand the role, and your, day-to-day tasks you very quickly, you know … It’s where intuit things about what you’re doing and become the person who’s making it rather than faking it, and so, I made an actually career transition about 10 years ago. I was a college athletics PR guy, for about 12-15 years, and then I transitioned into mainstream marketing and PR in advertising. I had no earthly idea if I belonged, if I was smart enough, if I knew anything that would be relevant.

I didn’t know if my skill set would transfer, and so I just kind of buckled down and said, “I’m gonna fake it ’til I make it, and I’m just gonna focus on making it,” and you know, literally within like a month of being at my first ever job at an advertising agency in the quote-on-quote real world outside of this little niche focus  of college athletics.

I felt really comfortable and knew that I was doing a good job and having an impact on my clients, and so, I was faking it until I made it, and I’ve done that in client relationships and, and other roles ever since, and I’ve realized that you should really trust your instincts and trust your knowledge and know, that you’re not an imposter, that, that you’re not gonna be found out, and if you are, it’s gonna be found out that you know what you’re doing.

B.J. Mendelson:                   I love it, and believe me, that’s something I really have struggled with. You know who else actually had that issue? That, I heard a couple years ago is Chris Rock.

Jason Falls:                             Yeah.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Yeah, and-

Jason Falls:                             Yeah, that, that wouldn’t surprise me at all. (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   So that was the first time I’ve heard that. I’m really glad that you touched on it. So, tell us where we can find you online.

Jason Falls:                             I am very easily found.  JasonFalls.com is the website. I’m Jason Falls on most major social networks, so I’m very easy you connect with there, and then my day job business is the Conversation Research Institute, which is at ConversationResearchInstitute.com or there are links there from JasonFalls.com.

B.J. Mendelson:                   Wonderful. Hey, look at that. We did it in 15 minutes or less. Honest.

Jason Falls:                             (laughs) How ’bout it! (laughs)

B.J. Mendelson:                   I love it. Thank you so much.

Jason Falls:                             Thank you B.J.

B.J. Mendelson:                   I’ll catch you soon.