Thursday, December 30, 2004

Go Daddy Go

Corporate Blogging gets Personal

As many of you know, blogging is becoming more and more prevalent in the world, and more and more spread through the world of business, especially tech businesses. It’s value as a promotional and communication tool is growing.

I just recently discovered a new blog that I recommend that everyone study. It’s called Hot Points, and it can be found at It’s done by Bob Parsons, the founder and CEO of What separates this from other corporate weblogs is that it’s actually written by the big daddy himself. This isn’t a staffer, like many of the election blogs were. This is the man, telling about his perceptions of business, tech, and the world. There’s some really interesting posts about the Marines in Iraq and about the tsunami.

So what?

Well, this is a great way to establish so much for the customer. Confidence: We know that the boss is interested in a corporate culture of customer service. Connection: We read about how he feels about what’s happening in the world around him. Not just as a business person, but as a human. Go Daddy suddenly changes from a faceless corporation to a team of people we can work with.

It also establishes a lot for the company. Promotion: As we read the blog, what are we doing? We’re going back to the site again and again. Can’t beat that, right? Traffic, branding. Loyalty: Since we keep coming back to them to read the blog, they’re building loyalty with us. We’re likely to go back when we buy. Communication: They can tell us things that are changing within the company, and tell us about trends in tech that will impact them and us. Suddenly their moves in the market will seem less arbitrary, more reasoned.

Seems like this case study shows the power that a company blog, done by the company head can bring powerful results.

Any questions?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Rush, Coolidge, and Persistence

My wife loves me.

See, this year for Christmas she got me the DVD of "Rush in Rio". It's a concert DVD of the band, Rush, that I grew up with. The first song I ever learned to play on the electric bass was "Bastille Day". I can still remember my friend showing me those riffs on a winter afternoon in my Sophmore year of high school. Boy that dates me.

But I digress.

As I got to thinking about the band and their history, it occurred to me just how hard they've worked over the years, and the position they've earned. They’ve been together as a recording band, now, for over twenty years, with almost as many albums done. But then, it hasn’t always been easy for them, either. It took them half that time to get their first ever radio hit. Their enthusiastic fanbase came from their constant touring.

So, I’m looking at this history of theirs, and I’m realizing that they did it “their way”, so to speak. They were never the darlings of the music press, or the airwaves. They didn’t do fluffy little pop tunes that teen-y boppers would love. They never had an appearance on “The Today Show”, nor have they ever won a Grammy. They’ve never done any of those things that musical stars are supposed to do to get rich and famous. There was also one thing they never did, either, and that was the key to their success.

They never stopped.

Twenty-plus years later, they’re still going strong

OK, now flash back with me years ago, when I was in college, playing in the jazz/pep band. The director was an interesting character, and he taught me something very important. He said, “90% of life is: Showing Up”. And it’s true. Being there when you’re supposed to be every time will get you farther in the long run that talent and skills.

This famous quote is attributed to Calvin Coolidge makes the point: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

Because knowledge, skills, and education are intangibles. They’re meaningless until you do something with them. And you need to keep on doing things with them over and over and over again. Because that’s how those things all get better. More knowledge, more skills, more education. Couple those with action and you get experience.

Let’s face it. No one is BORN knowing anything. Sure, we may find we have a knack for certain things, but we all start out with nothing. So the argument that someone else has the jump on you, has more talent, skills, etc... is moot. They started from nothing, too.

And while I’m talking about competition, let me point out something else I learned while being a musician. Most of your competition will go away. They’ll get tired of the fight, they’ll run out of money, they’ll run out of time, they’ll run out of excuses. The best way to defeat your competition is to outlast them. You don’t have to run faster than they do, you just have to keep going. Tortoise v Hare, remember? Who won? Why?

And Rush, now, without the massive radio play or the hype that surrounds stars like Madonna or Michael Jackson, consistently sell out arenas when they tour. 20, 40, even 60,000 seat venues. They have a loyal, active fan base that buys their CD’s in droves.

Simply because they never went away.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Santa and the Power of Branding

There’s an interesting article over at (actually, a lot of them, but this one in particular this time of year) about the history of Santa. It arrives there because people have heard in, urban legend style, that it was the early advertising of Coca-Cola that gave us the image we currently have of the big guy, red hat, red suit, black boots, white beard, etc…

It turns out that Santa Claus has been around, in various forms, for a long, long, time. Mostly in the 1800’s. His name is derived indirectly from “St Nicholas”, from a dutch rhyme about “Sinterklaas”.

It wasn’t until 1823 that Clement Moore’s "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" (more commonly known today by its opening line, "'Twas the night before Christmas . . .") was published. That, more than anything else, cemented in people’s minds what Santa looked like and the way that he did things.

By the 1930’s various illustrators and poets had each added their bits to the overall tradition (he didn’t live at the North Pole until almost 1870).

It was then that, under the direction of Coca Cola, Haddon Sundblom painted a series of magazine and point-of-sale ads that depicted a full-sized, chubby, red and white clad old man with the white beard that we know so well today. Read the snopes article for the full details sometime. Very interesting.

So, while Coke might not have invented it, they had a big role in the image and the way it was cemented into popular culture. They played a big part in branding in our minds what Santa looks like.

So, why am I going on about all that in an article about business? Especially as one who generally decries the rampant commercialism of Christmas? Because it shows very clearly the power of branding advertising. I would be hard-pressed to find a company who has more effectively utilized branding advertising in their overall marketing scheme than Coca-Cola.

What is branding advertising? It’s any advertising that doesn’t expect an immediate response. It’s any advertisement whose primary purpose is to seal in your mind the name and image of a product. That way, when you’re in a store, and you walk past the product on the shelf, your reaction is positive, even possibly eagerness to have it. You think, “Oh, yeah, I heard about that!” and you pick it up and buy it.

Almost all of television advertising is fundamentally branding. They don’t expect you to leap from your seat and rush immediately to the store and buy something. But they do expect that you will later on. That’s the payoff.

Unfortunately, many online advertisers don’t see the power of branding advertising. It’s strong stuff. It’s what makes product names into household words. But all to often online advertisers don’t see past the clickthroughs. They get so fixated on the immediately measurable statistics of the direct results of their ads, that they don’t imagine that there could be more long-term results. These branded results might be less measurable, but they are definitely not less powerful. Quite the opposite.

I mean, Coca-Cola did it with Santa. They do it everytime someone in a movie cracks open a can of Coke. They’ve done it so well that they actually have people paying them for the privilege of being walking branding advertising. Everytime someone buys a Coke T-Shirt or purse, they’re paying money to advertise for Coke. Go figure, eh?

The challenge with branding advertising is that it is more long-term in its results. You have to advertise lots and lots, and with consistency, in front of lots of people. The more you do that, the more it pays off in recognition and branding.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Winning the Game

Over at the Small Business Blog, there was a posting about defining success. It got me thinking. I remembered a story:

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I enjoyed playing strategy games with military miniatures. For those of you who aren’t into various kinds of adventure gaming, that means, “I liked to play with toy soldiers.” My friend and I were working up some rough ideas for a new set of rules for a game. We had talked about a lot of ideas, even written some up and done some playtesting of some systems.

Anyway, one day, I combined a lot of these elements and ideas for the game system into a first draft of the rules, a sort of “version 1.0”. I wanted to test it out, to see just how well it would flow. At the time, I had a couple of teenage foster boys living in my home. “These guys would love to try it out,” I thought to myself. So, I pulled up a bunch of my figures (space goblins or some such, as well as a human army), set up some hills on my dinner table, and called them in. I taught them the rules as they were, and we played a game.

I lost.


I mean, they really kicked my sorry butt. Wiped the table with my face. Messed me up bad. Whatever you want to call it. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the two of them, seeing a chance to get away with attacking an authority figure, teamed up against me. Either that or the dice were against me. It couldn’t have been that I played badly, of course…

But at the end of the game, I was excited, not sad or upset. I was excited because the game system I had written had worked, and worked well. The boys and I had all had a great time playing it. The evening had been a great success.

In looking back at that evening, I’ve realized that a large part of your happiness in life depends on how you define your success. If I had defined that evening’s success or failure by whether or not I’d won the game, I would have put the game away and never played it again. But that wasn’t the point. The point at the time was: Did it work? The answer was: YES! That was success.

So, when I tackle my business, I want to make sure that I define success in terms that will really make me happy. Financial success is a large part of it, partly because it’s so easily measurable. But that’s not all. Personal accomplishment and growth can be a part of my definition as well. How much I can give to others, and what good I can bring into the world can also be a part of the equation.

Steven Covey encourages us, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, to “Begin with end in mind.” Wouldn’t it be much easier to set clear business goals, if we have a clear definition of what success is?

That can take some thought, and some soul-searching, even. Why am I in this business? What am I trying to accomplish? Where will it take me in the long run? Answers to these questions are not always easy.

But they’ll help you win the game!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Gone Phishing

I got an email today that bugged me. It’s not the first time I got one of these, and I suspect it won’t be the last. It’s someone out there on the web goin’ phishin’.

Now, you’ll notice that I didn’t spell that “fishing”. The newer spelling refers to someone out dangling electronic bait in my face, hoping I’ll bite and give them some of my personal information. Here’s what these emails are like:

They usually start out by establishing their credibility. They’ll look like they’re from some institution (often financial, but it could be your ISP, or eBay, or anyone else you deal with). I’ve gotten ones where the phishers even mimicked the company logo and web address.

Then they tell you there’s something wrong with your account. Sometimes, they’re spoofing a general sweep, like the company was trying to update their databases, or even that there’s been an error and they need to reconstruct their information. They tell you that in order for your account to continue, you have to fill in some vital information to “verify”.

That “verification” can happen either via email, by replying to the phishing message, or by going to a website and filling in the information. Both are usually bogus.

Once someone, thinking they are preserving their account, fills in the information, it’s captured and the phisher walks off with your info. Then, they can send out spam from your ISP account, steal money from your PayPal account, post fraudulent auctions from your eBay account, or just have the weekend of their lives with your credit card.

The single biggest thing you can do to protect yourself is not reply. If there’s concern, or if you think it might well be legitimate, call or email the company being represented directly and ask if the concern is valid. Don’t make any contact off the email. Go directly to their .com website, rather than a link in the email. Look up their toll-free number. Get confirmation before you respond.

Many virus protection programs can screen out many of these phishing lines, so running a good filter or firewall is valuable.

For more information on how to protect yourself, look up this article from the FTC’s website. Or for more background, this article about the history of phishing from the Wikipedia.