So, I have a new hero. And so should you.

 

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If you’ve been playing along at home, you know that lateral thinking is sort of my thing. Why? Dozens of reasons. Because it leads to creative solutions. Because mental play strengthens thinking skills. Because it can introduce new life into existing narratives…

Because sometimes, it’s hilarious.

Don’t believe me? I have a wonderful new example. Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky, to the fine and ancient city of Manchester in the northwest of England.

But first, a quick heads up. This story is slightly off-color. And deeply immature. Which is exactly why it made me laugh.   Continue reading

So, here’s Thought Experiment #12

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

In previous Thought Experiments, I’ve asked you about everything from coffee to evil. But as a card-carrying nerd (No, really — I have a S.H.I.E.L.D Agent ID I got from the Marvel Experience, and if that isn’t a nerd card I don’t know what is), I think it’s time we got down to the good stuff.

Comic books.

Oh, comics. How I love you. From the goofiness of the Golden Age to the grittier-than-thou late 80s and 90s, that four-color art form warms my heart. Cliche monthly titles or sprawling graphic novels that challenge the form. Sophisticated storytelling like Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman. Insightful coming-of-age work like Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin. Inspiring brilliance like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. And I can’t forget artists and inkers…

I’m going to stop before I start babbling.

Comics are having a serious pop culture moment, and they owe a lot of that success to the idea of the superhero. There are all sorts of other stories, of course, but when we think of comic books, we think of fluttering capes and quips made under pressure and feats of superhuman coolness.

So here’s the experiment: If your brand was a superhero, who would s/he be? What sort of costume, powers, and backstory would set him or her apart from the others? Maybe your brand is a driven anti-hero detective. Or a conflicted beacon of righteousness. Or a compassionate, regal visitor to the world of men.

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, ought to be thinking about what makes your brand unique.

Go ahead. Give it a think. See what you get.

So, what do Andy Beal and Wil Wheaton have in common?

 

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The folks at DFWSEM, who are professional but refreshingly un-phony, have a meeting the second Wednesday of each month. And said meetings aren’t just fluff and filler. They bring in some heavy hitters to speak on a wide range of online marketing and social media topics, cats like Bill Hartzer and Roger Dooley and Dallas Search Engine Academy superheroine Beth Kahlich.

Last week, they snagged Andy Beal, who’s more entertaining than a dachshund in a cardigan, to speak on what not to do online under any circumstances and then how to fix it when you do it anyway.

I blogged about it for Argent Media over at the [Ag] Search Blog, but here at Stately Studer Manor, I wanted to concentrate on one point he made. One, because it neatly dovetails with my personal philosophy of Don’t Be Creepy. Also because it was a profoundly weird story. And because sometimes, hey, we all need to be reminded of certain rules. A particular rule often called Wheaton’s Law in the nerdier sectors of the intarwebz. Y’know, Wil Wheaton? Ensign Crusher of the Enterprise? Nemesis of Sheldon Cooper? Yep, he’s got a Law. Which is this: Continue reading

So, ready to get your graphics on?

 

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As anyone who’s ever seen me try to decorate a cake will tell you, I am not a graphic designer. At all. And if you’re wearing a lot of hats in your small- or medium-sized biz, I’m guessing you’re not a designer either (unless you run a design firm, in which case you don’t need this post). But not being a graphic guru is bad news for both of us, buddy, and I’ll tell you why.

Gmail grid view.

Now, I’m not saying that those three words should cause you a bowelquake of panic. But I am saying you should check it out.  Continue reading

So, why do we keep having this problem?

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Confession time, my little chinchillas. I’m a nerd. No. I mean, I’m a nerd. A D&D playing, glasses wearing, bad-horror-movie-quoting nerd. Need proof? Here’s one of my four embarrassingly overburdened comic book shelves.

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See? Nerd.

Which means, of course, I love Superman in any and all forms. Even the old TV show the Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. But something has always bothered me about the show.

It’s the criminals. They’re stupid.   Continue reading

So, again with the creepy, Facebook?

 

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Facebook. Sweetie. Boychik. Come here. We have to have another chat. About the creepy.

You’re doing it again.

I know that you want to be all things to all people, and that now you have stockholders to earn for. And hey, new features build buzz and keep folks in the app, rather than zipping over to Yelp to find restaurants and reviews.

But you could maybe be not so stalker-y?  Continue reading

So, here’s Thought Experiment #11

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

You don’t have to be Lamont Cranston, who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, in order to see if something’s wrong at work. If you have a business, or run a department, or supervise anyone or anything at all, you know that one of your responsibilities is to shore up the weak and make best use of the strong. That could mean people. That could mean processes. That could even mean weird directives handed down from the home office/upper levels that make no real-world sense. So here’s my question to you. Do you know what the weak parts are?

In other words, if you were the bad guy, all nefarious and mustache-twirling, how would your take down your own biz?

Maybe you’d approach a dissatisfied employee who’s vital but feels under appreciated and has been more negative than usual recently. Maybe you’d exploit a manufacturing inefficiency. Maybe you’d develop a social media strategy for your competing company that whupped the pants off what you’re currently rocking.

What’s really important is that you take stock. New year, new start, right? Like Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

Why would I ask this?

Because as you let your inner evil genius out to play, it ought to occur to you, buddy, “Hey, now I know what parts of my sky-writing firm/jelly bean factory/envelope licking service need to be fixed!”

Go on. Take a look around. See what you find.

So, here’s Thought Experiment #10

 

Time for a Thought Experiment

There’s always time for lateral thinking.

Philly’s favorite son John Wanamaker is one of the fathers of modern advertising. He was the first to buy a half-page newspaper ad, the first to buy a full-page newspaper ad, and — more near and dear to my heart as someone who thinks writing is an art, dammit — the first to hire a full time copywriter.

But maybe most famously, he’s the cat that said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

So here’s your task, my little tater tot. Let’s say your marketing budget gets slashed in half. Boom! 50% gone like Gone Girl. Pop quiz, hot shot. What do you do? What do you do?

Do you pull a stunt and try to go viral? Skywriting? Maybe a street campaign with clever flyers optimized for Instagram and reaching out to influencers on social media? Or do you whittle down and dig into data and try to figure out where each of your dollars really does the most good? Maybe both?

Why would I ask this?

Because you, buddy, should be considering how to blow past setbacks.

Wrap your brain around it. See what you get.