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.



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 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.

Book Notes: The Passion Conversation

Book Notes: The Passion Conversation

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 book to “Social Media is Bullshit”.

Speaking of my first book …

If you like what I’m doing with these notes, I have a specific thing I’d like to 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 used through Amazon.

Cool? Let’s get on with it.

And 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 early Summer.


John Moore, one of the authors of this book, handed it to me at the NADA Conference back in 2014. I keep a smallish collection of books on Word of Mouth and Viral Marketing with me. They’re consistently the only marketing books I don’t recycle immediately after reading. (And like a lot of marketing books, much of what these books say date back to the 1930s and ‘40s. Proving yet again that there’s nothing new under the Sun.)

Why keep these books? Because they’re the only ones that work.

Note: John Moore was the moderator for the WOMMA Debate back in 2012, which is also referred to as “The Incident” in my new book.

P. 4-5: “Know yourself and clearly define what you really want from a relationship with your employees and customers.” […] “Passion should be a mirror. The reflection should match; inside passion should mirror outside passion. You have to know what drives you and your employees to get up in the morning before you can connect with other like-minded people.”

This book is from 2013. So it is definitely “of its time” in the sense that it talks about “love” and “passion” a fuckton, which is good in the sense that those things should be talked about, but bad in the sense that if any of you read business books or follow the business media, you know that the “love” and “passion” thing was beaten to death like this:

P.6: “You can’t choose your advocates; they choose you.” This is one of those “It sounds obvious” but this is something I see often. Sometimes you expect your audience to be one thing and it’s totally different. I think that’s awesome, but people have a hard time processing that because they get too caught up on Customer Personas and “What the data told them the audience should look like” that they then ignore their advocates. Don’t do that.

P.7 This echoes what Ray Kroc and Reis and Trout were saying in their books: “Make no mistake: We love data as much as the next company, but to really fall in love with your customers and find their passions, you have to take time to be with your customers.” Again, sounds obvious, but in the field, it’s not obvious at all.

P.13 Some of you know this about me, but I am a big believer in full transparency. Part of this has to do with my OCD / Depression and how I interact with my fellow humans and the outside world, but the other part is that I think it removes almost all of the stress most of us encounter (because a lot of stress can be traced back to miscommunication.) So I really liked the “Your customers will get more comfortable in sharing their secrets and trusting you” line which followed the importance of what you share with your customers. “Sharing shows you care, which leads to trust.”

Again, obvious to the reader maybe, but it’s not obvious in the field.

P.19 “Every marketing problem is a people problem”. CMOs, they advocate, would be better off being called “Chief People Officers”. I like this, but I also push back on it because we live in a credential-obsessed society, so you couldn’t get away with being called Chief People Officer unless you were already wildly successful, in which case you could insist on being called whatever the fuck you want and people would go along with it. “Call me Chief Pimp Master Flex!” (Not me, but I could imagine someone saying that. Also did you know there was a guy whose name was actually “Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster?” I’ve always wanted work that into a book somehow.)

P.24 Ernest Dichter is sort of like the Dale Carnegie (Self-help), Napoleon Hill (Money), or Edward Bernays (PR) figure of the word of mouth industry. You know, the dude who said everything everyone is saying now almost a century ago. He’s the guy who advocated brands talk to people the way people talk to people. A lot of marketers and MBA types push back on this, and often they’re right because it’s done poorly, but I thought it was worth pointing out that the advice you hear given to brands is the same thing that was being said at least as far back as 1966 in the pages of an article by Dichter in the Harvard Business Review.

P.26 “It’s about understanding how a product (or an organization) fits into a person’s life- and understanding how it makes them feel.” Yup. Again, you’ve heard this a lot these days, and it sounds hokey because charlatans (you know who I’m talking about) have used this advice ad nauseam, but it remains true. Where people fuck up is that they don’t set aside time to know their audience. (Which Ray Kroc pointed out in our last notes section was what made him a successful salesman. He knew his audience inside and out.)

P.27 This is something I found gets overlooked among startups: “Every customer touch point is a possible talking point.” The book mentions a lot that marketing is actually a people business, and since people are the ones in charge of talking about the product, you have to make sure every point where they interact with you is the best it can be. (Ray Kroc used to wipe down the floors of McDonalds franchises he visited if they weren’t up to his standards of cleanliness.)

P.29 I won’t repeat the stats from the book here, but basically like with every WOM (word-of-mouth) marketing book, this one repeats a lot that WOM is the most effective form of marketing because that’s how we interact with each other as humans (although whether it’s online or offline does make some difference.)

p.30 “The best word of mouth is how a company does business every single day.” Yup. I try to focus on one big thing every day and not much else when I work on something for this exact reason. I’m running a marathon, not a sprint, and if you want to be ready for the marathon, you have to practice every day.

P.45 This book did a fun job of breaking down the basics of WOM using a sort of Periodic Table. It’s cute, and clever, and I liked it way more than I thought I would. I mention this because I recommend this book if you want a basic overview of WOMM.

P.47-48 If you’ve heard me do presentations I talk about this a lot, but one reason people share with other people is “functional” (their term).”One person sharing useful information with others. This allows people to make more educated decisions and better interpret the world.” “New and complex things prompt us to talk to others about how, when, and where to use products that might be useful.” And of course, people who care (or as I like to say “give a shit” about a thing will tell others about that thing because they think it’s improving the other person’s life.

P.50 Social Signaling is something you can write an entire book on, but they did a nice job recapping it here and explaining that people share with other people because the thing they’re sharing says something about them. (Look at me, I’m smart / funny / cool / sexy.) “Getting dressed every day is often an exercise in social signaling.” This is why I wear a graphic tee every day, like the one below …


P.54 This is one of the more controversial topics in WOMM in that people are more likely to talk about a brand (for better or worse) if it creates a strong reaction in them. So if you find something funny, you’re going to share it. Or if you’re anxious about something, you’ll also share it (see: All your liberal friends right now sharing the crazy shit Dorito Jesus is doing in the White House on Facebook.)

Where it gets controversial is when we talk about media sites (Remember Upworthy?) are deliberately provoking people to get that reaction in the interest of getting shares and traffic. So the whole fake news thing is a good example. So is, Breitbart, and other members of the Internet Outrage Machine (TM Ryan Holiday). All of that stuff is done in order to put you in an aroused state, generate an emotional feeling of some kind, and make you act on it.

P.57 “Contagious” gets a shout out (that book we’ll get to eventually.) People like to shit all over marketing, advertising, and PR, but as both this book and Jonah Berger (Contagious’s author) point out, the more times people see something (keeping it top of mind) the more people are likely to talk about it. Again, sounds obvious! But it’s not in the field. Which is terrifying to me because if you go back to the early 90s and then draw a line all the way to 2017, you can point to all of the Unicorns (multibillion dollar tech companies) and show how all the advertising, marketing, and PR they did / received was what made the difference for them. And yet! The tech industry is the one obsessed with how stupid marketing / advertising / PR is.

It makes no fucking sense. So, I know I am a broken record on this, but sometimes you read shit in a book and go, “No fucking duh, man” but then you go out into the world and you’re like, “Didn’t you motherfuckers read that book?” And the answer is no! No they didn’t!

P.58 “Made to Stick” gets a shoutout here (we’ll get to that one eventually too.) Stories stick, facts and figures don’t. Any of you reading this that hated Math class in high school will understand this. Rob Morris, co-founder of Love146 says “When you root your messages in truth and tell powerful, emotional stories, you can visually trigger people to quickly remember that story. They will even find their own visual triggers and share those.” Also: “Short, powerful stories stick.”

P.60 There’s a section here about interrupting the systems people use to navigate their day in some way that will cause them to stop and take notice. I like what they used in the book but thought it’d be easier to describe interrupting schemas like this: If you’ve ever seen a Mel Brooks movie and laughed (and if you haven’t, you’re a fucking monster), his movies are great examples of what they’re talking about here with disrupting people’s thought processes. Because as Brooks has described his comedy in interviews is following the patterns and paths people typically expect, and then taking a hard left turn when the opportunity presents itself. Blazing Saddles is the best example of this. The entire end of the movie (I won’t spoil it, you need to see Blazing Saddles if you haven’t) is a great example. So is this scene:

If you’ve ever seen a Mel Brooks movie and laughed (and if you haven’t, you’re a fucking monster), his movies are great examples of what they’re talking about here with disrupting people’s thought processes. Because as Brooks has described his comedy in interviews is following the patterns and paths people typically expect, and then taking a hard left turn when the opportunity presents itself. Blazing Saddles is the best example of this. The entire end of the movie (I won’t spoil it, you need to see Blazing Saddles if you haven’t) is a great example. So is this scene:

You notice this scene doesn’t break the movie. The Sheriff is still very much in character, but you wouldn’t expect at all to see an orchestra playing out in the middle of the desert (or that the sherGuccias a gucci branded bag, which makes it funny. These things should not exist. They’re hard left turns, and so we take notice of them and remember them.)

So yeah, I mean we can talk about “schemas” but I think it’s too technical. I rather show you clips from Mel Brooks movies and encourage you to find opportunities to take a hard left turn while staying in your brand’s character.

P. 62 I think this is the most important lesson from this book: We share content differently online than we do offline. This too, can (and probably should) be an entire book. Because there’s a lot of psychological shit here about how we all wear masks and we’re different depending on who we’re with and who we’re talking to (online and off, but especially online). The key here is to understand that in person, we share things with others that we really give a shit about. And online we share things with others that say something about us. “I thought this was funny / cool / interesting and by extent, I am therefore cool / funny / interesting.”

-One other thing, and this goes back to advertising: People offline tend to talk about what’s in front of them and what they experience. Everyone in NYC has a story about the subway for example. Here’s one: One time, while I was riding the A on the way to a date in Harlem, this guy shoved another guy causing the second dude to spill his drink on a bunch of people. They were pissed. He quickly exited the train at the next stop.) So food, weather, sports, products that are omnipresent, politics, that’s all top of the mind so we’re more likely to talk about it with each other in person.

P. 80 This is something I strongly agree with: “We believe that social signaling, at its best is done quietly”.

P.88 This is another of those “This should be obvious but it’s not” things: “What is the customer telling us?” If you’re not having that conversation, or orient your business / organization around answering this question, and then delivering what the customer wants, you’re going to be fucked.

P.100 I mentioned some notes above that I’m running a marathon, not a sprint. And part of that process is focusing on one small piece each day and making it the best that it can be. So here I found some nice affirmation of this.

P.102 Pulled from the book Firms of Endearment (GREAT NAME): “Companies that lead with their values outperform the market 10 to 1.” I believe it.

P.109 I really liked this from one of the Fitness Rebellion members: “The hardest day of my life is also the fuel for my fire. I’m thankful for everything I have ever been through, because in the long run it was training for my role as a leader. I know rock bottom in every way. I also know what sunlight at the top of the mountain feels like. It feels amazing.”

Given my own background (drug addict mom, absentee Dad for most of my life, growing up with two mentally disabled brothers, getting married just as the Great Recession started and that falling apart because of economic distress, almost dying just after I turned 30, my hilarious inability to connect with regular people or with women while on dates) I know bottom pretty well.

P. 114 A lot of WOMM books talk about “Sneezers” or people who make up a small group of your audience but will do a lot of the early talking and promoting for you. So here it’s stressed that you find those people and give them a lot of love and attention. It’s smart advice. You also see this same advice take other forms like the “1000 True Fans” thing or that startup CEOs should know the first 100 customers by name.

P.138 I’m not a fan of UGC (User Generated Content) campaigns. I think most of them tend to fall flat on their face and turn out to be total duds. So while it’s true you should empower your customers to “tell their version of your story”, I would strongly push back on the idea that this translates to pushing for more UGC. Don’t make that mistake. Let your audience tell your story where, how, and when they feel like it. Don’t try to make it all official or run some stupid contest around it.

P.140 (Via Steve Knox, former CEO of P&G’s “advocacy marketing business” and “Senior Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group”: “Quantitative data is wonderful and powerful, but brilliant insight generally comes from mining the rich, unstructured discoveries that come from qualitative conversation.” A-fucking-men.

P.161 I thought this was really important, and it’s something else I believe: You can’t force WOMM. A lot of people think you can, and it’s true you can manipulate the media and the online platforms if you have a ton of money, but most of us don’t. So for the 99% of us who can’t do that sort of thing, you have to understand that you can’t force people to talk about your stuff. This is why a lot of marketing / tech / other people hate WOM because always that chance that you have something awesome and no one gives a shit about it, but it’s a chance you have to take. As Gretzky said (and Kevin Smith often repeats) “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”


P.165 This is something else that drives me up a wall with the tech people. I am constantly saying they need to talk to their customers, human to human. Not automated message looking personalized to human. You gotta call up your customers, get to know them as people, and see how they’re doing. What you can do better. The response I ALWAYS get is “That doesn’t scale”.

Fuck you forever.

Seriously. I don’t care if it doesn’t scale. Neither do these authors. Their solution is to find the customers you want to get to know and start with them. That’s a good solution, but I really do believe if you’re the CEO of a company, you gotta carve time out of your day and do things that don’t scale. One of which is getting to know your customers and thanking them for giving you their hard earned money, and letting them know you’re going to work hard to make them happy with their investment in YOU. (Remember: As Simon Sinek says, the author of “Start with Why” “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

P.180 “What gets measured gets manufactured”. Now, I defend the marketing / advertising / PR industries more than I should. They have a ton of problems too. But I think, even in 2017, and despite the fact that I wrote this in a book back in 2011 that hit stores in 2012, you can’t trust online metrics. You can’t. We’re even today, as Snapchat is heading to an IPO, having that discussion about their numbers and how Snap Inc. is trying to convince people to look at other metrics. (Nice try guys.) Facebook got slapped pretty hard for a “glitch” (yeah, right) concerning their video metrics. That’s not ancient history. That JUST HAPPENED.

So “what gets measured gets manufactured”. That’s why with marketing I focus on the basics: Is the company making money? Yes? Sweet. Let’s keep going. Did we see a sales increase from this campaign? Sweet. Let’s keep going.

You know what the only metric to me that matters when we’re talking online metrics? Verified email signups. Legit emails. People signing up and giving you the opportunity to build a relationship with them. THAT matters. That’s valuable. Twitter impressions? C’mon. In the grand scheme of things, who really cares?

Remember there’s only one metric that matters in business, and that’s making money.

Book Notes: Grinding It Out

Book Notes: Grinding It Out

Hey, this is the second in a (long) series of book summaries I’m doing as part of the research for “The Internet is Magic.” That’s the working title for Social Media is Bullshit 2.

If you like what I’m doing, I have a specific thing I’d like to ask you to do: 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 used through Amazon.

Cool? Let’s get on with it.

And 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 early Summer.

About “The Founder” Movie

I picked up this book after seeing “The Founder” in theaters. The movie is decent enough (although I can see how people who knew Ray Kroc would be upset if even half of how he’s portrayed in the film is legit.) Michael Keaton does an enjoyable Chicago accent, so from that perspective alone it’s worth watching, but the movie reminded me a lot of “The Social Network”. And like I did after seeing “The Social Network” I wanted to read the book the film was based on, as well as the company response. So in Facebook’s case, that’s “The Accidental Billionaires”, which is what the movie pulls from, and “The Facebook Effect”, which was Facebook’s official response, written by David Kirkpatrick.

P.S. Facebook was just ordered by a jury to pay $500M for stealing some shit, so … In the event any of you were wondering which version of events  between those two books is probably the right one, it ain’t “The Facebook Effect”. (Although I did enjoy that book, for what it’s worth.)

Anyway, these are my notes from “Grinding It Out” which was written by Ray Kroc in 1977 by the same publisher that put out “Social Media is Bullshit.” Remember the year, because that is going to come up a lot …

Book Notes

P.5 “I have always believed that each man makes his own happiness and is responsible for his own problems.” (Later on Page 42, Kroc reveals this his father died from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1930. Stating that on his desk when they found him was a check and then a garnishment notice for the entire amount for that check. Have to assume his philosophy comes from this.)

P.19 “No self-respecting pitcher throws the same way to every batter, and no self-respecting salesman makes the same pitch to every client.” Thank Christ someone said this. There are way too many fucking sales people who just crank out the same shit regardless of the client they’re interacting with. It’s so dumb.

P.27 When possible, this is something we should all be getting back to: “I’d stop at the bank on my way home and cash my check, putting most of it in savings and keeping enough for the week’s groceries and incidental expenses.”

P.28: “I found that my customers appreciated a straightforward approach. They would buy if I made my pitch and asked for their order without a lot of beating around the bush. Too many salesman, I found, would make a good presentation and convince the client, but they can’t recognize that critical moment where they should have stopped talking.” I like to call this the “Shut the fuck up moment”. Mostly because in every sales meeting I’ve ever been in, this is the thought I have when the person making the pitch needs to shut the fuck up, and rarely does.

“If I ever noticed my prospect starting to fidget, glancing at his watch or looking out the window or shuffling his paper on his desk, I would stop talking right then and ask for the order.”

You goddamn tell’em Ray!

P.29: “My philosophy was one of helping my customer, and if I couldn’t sell him by helping him improve his own sales, I felt I wasn’t doing my job.” <— We’re only thirty pages in and I already feel like anyone who works in sales should be reading this book.

P.35: This is something I couldn’t confirm. Whether or not Kroc was the first to use KISS (Keep it simple, stupid), but he mentions he used this as the first motto (internally) for McDonalds.

P.50: “Look sharp and act sharp. The first thing you have to sell is yourself."

P. 59: “There’s almost nothing you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it.” (Sounds pretty standard, right? Like that’s something all successful people say. But what I liked, and the reason I noted this, was the addendum that he adds: “You’re not going to get it free, and you have to take risks. I don’t mean to be a daredevil, that’s crazy. But you have to take risks, and in some cases you must go for broke. If you believe in something, you’e got to be in it to the ends of your toes. Taking reasonable risks is part of the challenge. It’s the fun.”

Here’s why I liked this:
1. We live in a risk-averse society.
2. MBAs, and shortsighted shareholders, have ruined everything in terms of internal corporate and organizational decision making, so risk taking is not usually a welcome thing these days.
3. Ries and Trout talked a lot about the big swing for the fences when it comes to marketing, and it’s something I think Kroc is echoing here (from beyond the grave. OOoooooh. Spooky!)

4. In Breaking Bad, Mike tells Walt, “No more half-measures”. We live in a half-measure world with people taking half-measures on everything. (Looking at you, people who didn’t vote but decided to protest anyway. Or people who think protesting is just changing your social media avatar and using a hashtag.)

P.61: “I learned then how to keep problems from crushing me. I refused to worry about more than one thing at a time., and I would not let useless fretting about a problem, no matter how important, keep me from sleeping.” He explains that he worked out his own brand of self-hypnosis, imaging his problems on a chalk board and erasing them, and then he would relax.” (If you haven’t checked out Headspace or, you should.)

P.68 “A good executive does not like mistakes. He will allow his subordinates an honest mistake once in a while, but he will never forgive or condone dishonesty.” I have a deep, infinite well of hate in my heart for people who are dishonest.

P.72 If you saw the movie and you asked yourself, “Why didn’t he just copy / steal the McDonald’s concept”, Michael Keaton explains it away by talking about the name, but the actual answer is slightly longer and can be found from P.72-P.75. (tl;dr: They had equipment that couldn’t be readily copied, Kroc claims his focus was on selling more multimixers. He did really like the name, but also claims that as an honest guy, he just wasn’t looking to fuck the McDonalds brothers over. The movie disagrees with that interpretation.)

P.85 he talks about the strength of the handshake deal and how he likes to use it. This got flipped around in the movie where he handshakes the McDonalds brothers and then proceeds to fuck them over anyway. So again, I can see how people who knew Kroc could be pissed at the movie’s interpretation of this.

P.101 (I really liked this one, and it’s something you hear echoed quite a bit, even today.) “People have marveled at the fact that I didn’t start McDonald’s until I was fifty-two-years-old, and then I became a success overnight. But I was just like a lot of show business personalities who work away quietly at their craft for years, and then, suddenly, they get the right break and make it big. I was an overnight success all right, but thirty years is a long, long night.”

P.101: “So at the risk of seeming simplistic, I emphasize the importance of details. You must perfect every fundamental detail of your business if you expect it to perform well.”

I don’t want to gloss over this point. I think way too often people make things more complicated than they need to be. Either because they didn’t take the time to think it out, didn’t know any better, or they were being careless. But you should always be looking to reduce the number of steps you take to get something done. The goal being to get that thing done in as efficient way as possible while producing results you’re happy with. Easier said than done, but it’s not as hard as you might think.

P.104: Whitney Cummings was recently on the Tim Ferriss podcast and was talking about this area of interest for her involving successful people and their tendency to have good, healthy marriages. Kroc talks here about the husband and wife duos who ran McDonalds franchises successfully, and so I wonder if there’s something to that idea Whitney has. I do joke around a lot about finding Wife #2, but I’ve been thinking for a while now that whoever that person is will hopefully want to work with me on things for the reasons spelled out here. I think it’d be awesome for both of us to be successful and support each other in a professional capacity. I don’t know. Don’t read too much into this. My dating record post-divorce in 2012 has been awful.

P.113 I touched on this in the last book summary, but Kroc here explains that there’s two ways to look at marketing. The shitty MBA way of measuring everything in dollars and (sometimes) bullshit metrics, and his way / the Ries and Trout way of just swinging for the fucking fences. “I never hesitate to spend money in this area because I can see it coming back to me in interest.”

So, I know I bag on MBAs a lot, but check out what Kroc says. I’m not alone!

“Of course, it comes back in different forms, and that may be the reason a begrudger can’t appreciate it. He has a narrow vision which only allows him to see income only in terms of cash at the register. Income for me can appear in other ways; one of the nicest of them is a satisfied smile on the face of the customer. That’s worth a lot because it means that he’s coming back, and he’ll probably bring a friend. A child who loves our TV commercials and brings her grandparents to a McDonalds brings us two more customers. This is a direct benefit generated by advertising dollars.”

Fun fact, I totally went to McDonalds with my grandparents in the Bronx for exactly this reason.

P.115: “My way of fighting the competition is the positive approach. Stress your own strengths, emphasize your own quality, service, cleanliness, and value, and the competition will wear itself out trying to keep up.” (This is great advice for anyone who gets asked a question like, “Why should we hire you over X.”)

P. 116 “I rather be broke tomorrow”. Kroc goes off here about how if he can’t beat his competition on his own, by his own merits, then he’d rather go broke than get the government involved, which is what a franchise owner had wanted to do here.

P. 128, sort of like Amazon (and more than a few tech companies) that didn’t make money for years, yet received glowing media coverage by dumb journalists that wanted to hype the tech world for the sake of furthering a corrosive narrative, McDonalds was barely making money a year after the corporation was founded and they had franchises popping up all over the place. Kroc didn’t bother to correct the press. Perception is reality.

P.138 Further support of advertising: McDonalds struggled in California. A TV campaign turned things around. Yes, I believe that can still happen today as well. (We seriously need to stop discounting TV because some dumb members of the media want to further the “Internet is Magic” narrative.) And as Kroc talked about earlier, the idea of TV commercials met with a lot of resistance, but it won the day despite the short-sighted corporate types not liking it.

P. 155 Warren Buffet has trumpeted the belief that you invest when things are bad, not when they’re good. Great Recession? Buy stocks. The quote is: “When investing, pessimism if your friend, euphoria the enemy.”

Kroc echoes this mentality here talking about how they should be aggressively buying real estate while things were looking bad for the US economy, reasoning that it would cost them more when the economy recovers.

P.166 This is something I talked about in Social Media is Bullshit, and Kroc echoes it here as well: The story of McDonalds is very much within the context of its time. You can’t duplicate McDonalds in today’s world, it’s a product of its own era, much in the same way the social media boom was fueled largely by the Great Recession.

P. 171 Years before “Blue Ocean Strategy” came out, and people praised the Nintendo Wii for being innovative by going for “Everyone” instead of just hardcore gamers like Microsoft and SONY, McDonalds did the same thing. They targeted small town America where there wasn’t much going on and not a lot of choices for places to eat. Kroc also says here something that’s especially applicable in today’s world, given the most recent election: The heart of America is still there in the boonies.”

P.171 “I believe if that you think small, you’ll stay small.” A-fucking-men.

P.176 This to me is one of the most important points in the book. You have to remember, Kroc wrote this thing in 1977, and even back then he’s talking about the struggle we have today with people letting machines and data make all the decisions. “Hell, if I listened to the computers and did what they proposed with McDonalds, I’d have a store with a row of vending machines in it. You’d push some buttons and out would come your Big Mac, shake, and fries, all prepared automatically.” Sounds a lot like what Carl Jr’s is proposing to do in 2017, huh?

The automate or not to automate argument is something I’m fascinated with. I’m a big believer that all because we CAN automate something, doesn’t mean we should. Kroc would agree, adding after his description of the automated McDonalds: “We could do that […] but we never will. McDonalds is a people business, and the smile on the counter girls face when she takes your order is a vital is a vital part of our image.”

P. 180 Perception is reality can be a double-edged sword. Here Kroc talks about the portrayal of McDonalds by “snobbish” writers in New York City describing them as taking advantage of people who didn’t know any better and that it was just a money grubbing enterprise that ruined the character of the places McDonald’s appeared in.

That perception DID win the day. Especially with the rise of Starbucks and Chipotle and other competitors that (usually) get heaped with praise while McDonalds is looked down upon. I totally agree on the snobbish NYC writers thing. Obviously, not ALL writers, but man there are more than a few in the city I’ve met who just can’t pull their head out of their ass and realize that NYC is not this be all, end all thing. For a lot of people who live in New York City, the world ends at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Even the New York Times admitted this days after Clinton lost:

“If I have a mea culpa for journalists and journalism, it’s that we’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than the people we talk to — especially if you happen to be a New York-based news organization — and remind ourselves that New York is not the real world.”

Their words. Not mine kids! (Although I totally called that in Social Media is Bullshit, but whatever. The Times didn’t want to cover the book because it had a swear word in the title.

P. 189 I don’t know how many of you know who famed Chicago newspaper man, Mike Royko, is. But he too railed against people from NYC and talked a great deal about Chicago’s own problems. Including at one point suggesting that the city change its motto to “Where’s Mine?” I don’t know if Kroc met Royko, or read his stuff (I would be shocked if he didn’t given they’re both Chicago guys and Chicago is a very small place in terms of who people know. Plus Kroc cites the Chicago Tribune in the book where Royko spent the remainder of his career with.) But Kroc directly acknowledges the “Where’s Mine” mentality on this page. Stating that people that think that way can’t process how people who don’t think that way function. (Another failure on the part of sales people who are just thinking about the transaction and not the customer.)

P.199 He goes off about Higher Education. I COMPLETELY agree with him, in that most people should not go to college right out of high school and should learn a trade first, and then if they still want to go to school, they can after that. Kroc also rails on overeducated people with nothing to do and no jobs to find. Sound familiar? I’m one of them. If you’re part of my generation, you might be to. Not that I regret going to college, but knowing what I know now and how my career turned out, it was completely unnecessary. Kroc adds again that the key element to his own success and that of McDonald’s is not education, but determination. (P.201)

See also:

P. 204 There’s a bunch of great points he makes at the end of this book:

-You have to know your customer inside and out to serve them better. It’s true. You never go into a sales call or some kind of pitch without knowing absolutely everything there is to know about the people you’re talking to.

-Remember again, 1977, he talks about society’s trend to remove risks from life (see: MBAs, safe spaces and trigger warnings when weaponized, shouting down people we disagree with instead of letting them speak, punching neo-nazis in the face … As satisfying as that is, etc. Actually, fuck that guy. He should be punched in the face forever.) Kroc points out it’s impossible to give someone happiness, and that the Declaration of Independence only promises the pursuit of happiness. Meaning you have to learn to love what you do and how you do it.

P.205: “Achievement must be made against the possibility of failure, against the risk of defeat. It is no risk to walk a tightrope laid flat on the floor. Where there is no risk there can be no pride in achievement, and, consequently, no happiness. The only way we can advance is by going forward, individually and collectively, in the spirit of the pioneer. We must take the risks involved in our free enterprise system. This is the only way in the world to economic freedom. There is no other way.”

Book Notes: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Book Notes: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

As some of you know, I’m currently doing research for the sequel to Social Media is Bullshit.  The last time I did this, I was using (Remember them?) This time, I thought I’d do something different.

There’s currently over 200 books in front of me. Seriously, my Dad’s going to kill me because I’ve left stacks of books all over the fucking house like a messy hobo with a library card.

So, as I complete these books, instead of leaving my notes to rot in Evernote, I thought I’d post them here. The following are my notes from Al Ries and Jack Trout’s “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”.

I only plan to keep the books I like, and this one is definitely a keeper. So go check it out. No. That’s not an affiliate link. If you want to say thank you for me posting these, I DO 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 your friend.

P.S. Pardon and random typos and spelling errors. These notes are not meant to be finished products. Just something I put together to read and review as I work on my book.

Book Notes

-The book came out in 1993, and it’s as useful today as it was then. (Some random dated things aside like a lot of the Trump references. Obviously, Trump is an awful businessman and human being, but you can’t really target him for criticism in the marketing space because he did get elected President. Much of that is due to the strength of his brand. That’s really the only dated thing that sticks out, and really people can debate whether or not Trout and Ries are still right in calling Trump out for sucking at business. See: p.67 on Trump)

-The dedication to the book is great: “Dedicated to the elimination of myths and misconceptions from the marketing process.”

– The Law of Leadership is that “it’s better to be first than it is to be better. It’s much easier to get into the mind first than to try to convince someone you have a better product than the one that did get there first.” (p. 3) Or put in a far funnier way from “Talladega Nights” (the greatest movie of our time): “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

-Why “If you’re not first, you’re last?” Because “one reason the first brand tends to maintain its leadership is the name often becomes generic” See: Band-aid, Xerox, Saran Wrap, and Q-Tips. Q-tips, by the way, are the devil according to an ear nose and throat doctor I once saw. (quote from p.6)

-“Regardless of reality, people perceive the first product into the mind as superior. Marketing is the battle of perception, not products.” (p. 8) “Everyone is interested in what’s new. Few people are interested in what’s better” (P. 13).

-Plot twist though: You don’t necessarily have to be first to market. You have to be first in mind. (p.15). So like IBM which is the example they use in the book, but really if you look at like an AirBnB or an Uber or a Facebook. Facebook was not the first social network by any stretch, but that’s what we think of when we think of social networks. Netscape / Mosaic was not the first browser with a graphical user interface, but that’s the one we think about when we think about the “first” modern browser.  (This is called The Law of The Mind, and you “can’t change a mind once it’s made up” p.16)

-I really felt this was the most important thing said in this book: “There are no facts. There are no best products. All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion.” (p. 19). This is as true today as it was in 1993.

-Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products (P.23)

-“People are seldom, if ever, wrong. At least in their own minds. (P.21)

-Here’s the struggle: People make buying decisions based on “second-hand perceptions”. “Instead of using their own perceptions, they base their buying decisions on someone else’s perception of reality. This is known as the everybody knows principle”. i.e. “Everyone knows Japan makes better cars than the US” even though the buyer has no personal experience to back that up. They’re just repeating what the people around them think. (p.24) This is something that comes up in all the word of mouth marketing books. Monkey see. Monkey do.

-P.61 “It’s better to be early than late. You can’t get into your prospects mind first unless you’re prepared to spend some time waiting for things to develop” in a new category / marketplace.

-A major thing I wanted to touch on because it’s something I believe: MBAs ruin everything. P.65 – “In many other areas of life (spending money, taking drugs, having sex) the long-term effects of your actions are often the opposite of the short-term effects. Why then is it so hard to comprehend that marketing effects take place over an extended period of time?”

-YES! Thank you. For Christ’s sake. MBA’s ruin everything with this attempt quantify everything and all it does is produced mediocrity. (Obviously, I don’t mean ALL MBAs. The smart ones understand and appreciate that marketing is a big picture play and give it the time and patience required for a plan to succeed or fail.) I am convinced though that a lot of the bullshit Internet metrics we obsess over was created in part to please the MBAs who run brands and other potential partners with the ad dollars these tech companies want.

-P.69 (But I see this in a lot of books and other places) Keep it simple stupid. “One day a company is tightly focused on a single product that is highly profitable. The next day the same company is spread thin over many products and is losing money. (The Law of Line Extension)

-P.71 “I rather be strong somewhere than weak everywhere” a manager said this to them. “When you try to be all things to all people you inevitably wind up in trouble.”

-Line extension is stupid, just ask A-1 (p.71). They spent $18M on a poultry line when A-1 had become generic for steak sauce (see The Law of Leadership) and was first in the minds of their customers. So why do people do this? Dumb executives looking for short term gains to please themselves and their shareholders.

-P.94 “What works in marketing is the same as what works in the military: The unexpected.” (This is in reference to The Law of Singularity, which is basically that one big bold move is what you need to do in marketing to succeed. On p.93. They reference “The line of least expectation” by B.H. Liddell Hart. Finding one bold stroke that is least expected by the enemy. “Finding one is difficult. Finding more than one is usually impossible.”

-p.96 “To find that singular idea or concept, marketing managers have to know what’s happening in the marketplace. They have to be down at the front in the mud of the battle. They have to know what’s working and what isn’t. They have to be involved.” One of the few things I’ve come across in the startup world that I really like is the CEO actively talking and interacting with the first one hundred customers or so. That’s incredibly smart and something that should be done more often for exactly the reason Trout and Ries talk about.

-In referencing GM, “When the financial people took over, the marketing program collapsed.” Along with it, so did their sales. We can see this today with the movie industry. Everything is a sequel, or a franchise, or has a shared universe because the MBAs / Large corporations are running the show and they know these films will draw people in because they’re known entities.  At the same time, although ticket sales were really strong in 2016, they’re weakening in the US market (there’s also an over-reliance on China and the international market) and there are serious signs of the industry struggling underneath.

-I love this line: Ego is the enemy of great marketing. Objectivity is what’s needed.” (p. 105)

-Something that drives me up a fucking wall is this meme about how tech companies don’t spend money on marketing and brag about that. (And this was also prevalent during the social media bubble from like 2008 to just recently where everyone thought they could skip marketing dollars in lieu of using social media to promote themselves. It’s bullshit. “Marketing is a game fought in the mind of the prospect. You need money to get into a mind. And you need money to stay in the mind once you get there. You’ll get further with a mediocre idea and a million dollars than with a great idea alone.” (p.125) See: ALL the Transformers movies and also Roman Reigns.

-This was something I’ve been talking about since Social Media is Bullshit came out, and these guys said it way back in 1993: “In marketing, the rich often get richer because they have the resources to drive their ideas into the mind.”(p.126) It’s also true for being able to spread lies and myths about marketing too.

-“How should it [small business / organization] approach the Law of Resources? The answer is simple: Spend enough.  In war, the military always errs on the high side. Do you know how many rations were left after Operation Desert Storm? A lot. So it is in marketing. You can’t save your way to success. The more successful marketers front load their investment. In other words, they take no profit for two or three years as they plow all earnings back into marketing.” (p.129)

-I really like that point about “you can’t save your way to success” because I’ve run into this time and time again of companies large and small not wanting to spend money on marketing because the MBA or the finance people don’t understand it / don’t see the value in it, or the brand is gun shy about spending that kind of money despite having near limitless resources in their budget.