Friday, July 29, 2011

The Wolf of Wall Street: Back to his old ways?

If you have not yet heard of the Wolf of Wall Street, you have been living in mainstream and social media isolation for the last few months. Why? The ‘Wolf’, aka Jordan Belfort, has systematically exhausted (for the most part) all marketing channels (both online and offline) to promote his current speaking tour. Skeptical? Good. It’s a healthy place to begin.

So how can I capture the Wolf in a sentence of less? Let’s give it a shot. Arguably a born entrepreneur, Jordan followed the non-traditional path of dropping out of dentistry school to enter into the world of sales; eventually rising to the top of stock broking and fundraising (venture capital), before succumbing to the lure of ‘the green’ (money) which saw him spend some time in jail- where he inevitably learned another skill (writing) and sought to publish two best-selling books, start a ‘redemption’ speaking tour and climb back up the business ladder. Okay, take a breath.

That was a lengthy sentence, and those grammatically-inclined will be shaking their heads… Get a life! But do you have the picture? Jordan is a man of immense talent, charisma, salesmanship and speaking ability. For a more detailed bio, feel free to have a chat to my friends ‘Google’ and ‘Wikipedia’: they both are more than willing to elaborate.

Naturally, such a controversial character will breed immense skepticism and even blatant disregard. I ask you to lend me your ears for one moment. Having listened to Belfort speak in Sydney for two consecutive years I am more than convinced that although he is far from a perfect- better described as ‘hilariously human’- and yes, I just quoted myself- he is a source of unrivalled inspiration.

His work ethic and charm are something to behold. To give you a specific example, within minutes of sitting down to listen to his presentation he says frankly, ‘if you are afraid of hard work, you are in the wrong place… you can leave now and have your ticket refunded’. This is a concept that was re-enforced many times. He even acknowledged that many would already be working their knuckles to the bone. Befort says, ‘work harder, and smarter’. Sure, this can become somewhat of a cliché. Yet Belfort sets out a simple and profound approach to tackle this labor.

He divides this into ‘Inner’ and “Outer’ game strategies, which I’ll get to in the next post. Until this, if you’re interested you can read more on Jordan’s website,

Finally, I must offer an answer to my original question: is the Wolf back to his old ways? Well if those old ways were captivating audiences and taking giant steps in the world of business, then the answer is a resounding 'yes!'

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Speed Thinking: a way of the future?

The pace of life has never been faster. Whether you are in business for yourself, working for someone else, or if you don't neatly fit into any category, busyness is something that is unavoidable. This is mainly a product of media channels, but more specifically: the fact that we are plugged into them for the majority of the day. Most people are now saying 'slow down!' But is that really the answer?

Dr Ken Hudson would say 'No!'. In his 2010 book Speed Thinking: Thriving in a time poor world, Dr Hudson offers a solution. His solution is a new system for thinking, and it's not just a matter of thinking more or finding a nirvana-like state where one can tap into the substratum of infinite knowledge... or is it?

At it's core his system is simple- yet far from simplistic. The basic concept involves brainstorming in a limited time frame- he suggests two minutes- with the intention of jotting down as many solutions to a predetermined question or problem. Sounds haphazard? It is and it isn't.

On the one hand, when you are forced to think quickly you are forced to spit out incomplete and unsiphoned solutions, some of which you may not be entirely content or happy with in the moment. But is this a problem? Dr Hudson suggests the opposite. He suggests that when you put your ordinary filtering systems aside, then you are left with raw and uninterrupted data that is often more creative and useful. In practice, the speed thinking process is not yet complete, so even if this data was somewhat 'raw', the 4-step-process that Dr Hudson offers in this book provides a comprehensive means of transplanting the data into a useful context and solidifying its value.

Dr Ken Hudson, or "Dr Speed" as he if sometimes known, has a new website where you can learn more about speed thinking and try out his application: Speed Links. Check out if the results really do speak for themselves.

Check out the Speed Thinking Zone.

So is speed the answer? Let me see. I'll give myself 2 minutes and try to come up with 9 solutions....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Guus Hiddink vs Pim Verbeek: Who is the better leader?

As Australia is on the brink of her first World Cup Finals match against Germany, the weight of expectation has not been higher. Indeed, win or lose; jubilation or desperation; the thrill of the World Cup it palatable. As with any monumental occasion, often you cannot control the outcome, all you can do is prepare as best you can and hope you have the right man behind the reins. So this brings us to the question: Guus versus 'Pim', who is the better man?

Expressing a strong dislike and disrespect for the A-League- which may or may not be unfounded, is but one of Verbeek's notable 'virtues'. Yet one of his more widespread trademarks is his 'boring' style of football. Now, you may be excused for thinking that the A-League is not the greatest football league in the world. That's a fair enough comment- yet such a great detail of gratitude is owed to Frank Lowy for fervently attempting to put football on the Australian radar.
Now there is a temptation to adopt a job interview approach and compare and contrast the two résumés. But in the interest of giving Pim a chance, we will go to other means. As a side note, comparing Guus and Pim in terms of their 'transcripts' is like comparing Shaquille O'neal and Muggsy Bogues- or for those non-NBA civilians out there, think about the A-League in comparison to the English Premier League. Hold On! I'm starting to side with Verbeek already, let's just move along shall we? Good idea.

However, in my mind, there is no excuse for boring football! Pim's response points to Australia's qualification into the 2010 World Cup as he pleads with us to judge him by his results. Now Pim, listen up, I am 100% behind Australia progressing far- and to demonstrate by unwavering loyalty to the Socceroos, I am wearing my green and gold scarf despite my toasty inside surrounds necessitating no such heating garment- but tell me this: Is this great game dictated by who wins and losses? If we were to side with you I guess we would have to give Italy a hearty pat on the back for 'getting the results' against Australia in the last World Cup! I still can't sleep at night without seeing Totti sucking his thumb as my heart was literally breaking, tears running down my face faster than an bolt- Lightning, Hussein or otherwise.

This great game is not just about results! It is about passion, it is about drama, it's about waking up at a ridiculous morning hour to cheer on a team that it every bit aware of its underdog status. Now it may seem like I'm getting carried away here, but Pim, here me when I say: "it will all be forgiven; just show me the sexy football! Go Australia!!"

I have decided I'm no longer holding back. Guus... you are the man. You were the man. You are our man. Four years ago, I looked to you for hope. You looked back. We had a moment there. You delivered the goods, but more still, you packages them so well. You brought the sexy football back to Australia. I only now hope that our beloved Socceroos have not forgotten that little voice that says 'passion' and'heart' that Verbeek may have quashed or smothered with the command to 'deliver results'. Perhaps I'm not being entirely fair to Pim. But I have one more request.

Pim. Please. We want emotion. We want drama. Show us that you care! No-one is grading you on the quality of your poker face. This is something that we endeared about Guus so much. He was not afraid to show us his true colours. The measure of a coach... Let me rephrase that: the measure of a man is not by his ability to disallow the flailing emotions (so rampant in a highly charged football pinnacle) to voice themselves in his demeanour.

Let me borrow Tom Cruise for a moment.. We want the truth! And in case you are part Jack Nicholson, we CAN HANDLE THE TRUTH! If you are hurting, show us you are hurting! If you are anxious, know that we are too. If we score and win, then GET UP OFF YOUR SEAT and DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO! Your time is now. Our time has come. Show us the sexy football and we will all be shouting your praises from our houses, taverns, street-corners or wherever else we will be congregating tomorrow morning to bring our boys to glory.

Go Australia! Game on!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Viral Marketing: An Introduction

If you cite "viral marketing" in a business plan or new product pitch, it's about the same as saying "I'm going to close my eyes and hope for the best!". Why? Viral marketing (VM) is not simply a methodology- at least not in the same was that direct response television advertisement or a simple below the line campaign is. Rather, VM is an organism that is not reliant on one form or strategy. Interestingly, this is where it derives its power.

As lava explodes from a volcano- whether from the top, side; and in a semi-solid or liquid state- so too does VM find the path of least resistance. Essentially VM is word of mouth on steroids. Maybe it starts in the form of a youtube video or chain email; perhaps in something as simple as a large outdoor advertisement- the medium is not important. What is important, just like lava; is that the information is red hot! An attempt to manufacture or propagate this phenomenon by distribution on many and varied platforms is busywork. If the idea is cold, there will be no contagion. VM is like gossip: the more juicy it is, the faster it will spread.

Having said this, the term 'viral marketing' is most commonly used to describe an online phenomenon.

Dr Ralph F. Wilson suggests there are 6 basic elements for a successful viral strategy. They include:
  1. Gives away products or services
  2. Provides for the effortless transfer to others
  3. Scales Easily from very small to very large
  4. Exploits common motivations or behaviours
  5. Utilizes existing communications networks
  6. Takes advantage of others' resources
Whilst there is distinct value in what is suggested here, all of Dr Wilson's finding can be summarized in one phrase: : "provide value".

This works in all circumstances. Whether it is a funny youtube clip, a news item; or even a new product launch- the essential ingredient is VALUE!

Yet, point number 4 is highly useful. Laughter, fear, disgust, shock, wonder, surprise, hope- to name a few common human emotions- are all excellent feed for the viral machine. Then, it is simply the potency of those emotions which will dictate how likely an individual is to share it.

For example, a recent viral video known as "Dogman" aired on Australian television program "A Current Affair" in April 2010. Allow me to refresh your memory...

Undoubtedly, here the dominant emotions we are dealing with are shock and surprise. Together they offer a hilarious item that simply must be shared. It is the nature of humanity to want to share its condition, which is a provocation of some core and powerful emotions.

Perhaps the most unequivocal current example is the social media platform "Facebook". There is no denying the huge value that Facebook provides for its users. It offers the opportunity to connect with friends, to play and socialize, to share experiences through photos, and simply have fun. These elements are so universal and powerful that it is no surprise it can seen so much viral success.

The biggest mistake made in viral strategy is a disconnection between the emotion you are using to propagate your idea, and the emotion you intend to associate with your brand. For example, if you are a security company who intends to release a funny video of crooks who hurt themselves whilst trying to break or bypass your security devices. The emotion which will sell- and by sell I mean facilitate- the viral campaign is laughter and, to a lessor degree, sympathy. However, the emotions that you require to sell your product surround the concept of "safety" and comfort. In the end you will have a campaign that makes people laugh and feel sympathy, but have no more sales and no increase in revenue. What a waste!

Viral Marketing is a tricky business. There are two things to take away
  1. Provide Value
  2. Ensure a connection between the emotion that facilitates your viral campaign, and the one that sells your product. If there is a such a gap between these two, you have wasted your time!