Essentials #9 – Mad Dogs, Dreamers and Sages

Mad Dogs, Dreamers, and Sages is a new book written by Stephen Zades and Jane Stephens. Zades and Stephens believe true growth cannot be attained through methods of the past. Cost cutting and M&A will not fuel companies forever.

They, like many, believe the name of the game is ideas. The trick is creating an environment that encourages new ideas. Companies that can make new connections with existing ideas are the one that are going to prosper.

Zades ran a advertising firm in his past life. One of the process they used of was the Creative Odyssey . The agency and their clients would travel around the world to interact with [and this is a list from the book]:

graffiti and hip hop artists, avant-guard filmmakers, curators of fashion, political strategists, journalists, futurists, psychiatrists, screenwriters, actors, musicians, drama coaches, performance artists, chaos theory physicists, corporate titans, entrepreneurs, congressman, technologists, and toy designers.

The new philosophy requires a new set of tools. They talk about the use of story and conversation. They about the importance of contradiction as you make these new connections. These are just a few.

This book is all about soft skills. We will not find formulas or calculations. It is about putting yourself and your company in a different place. One that will allow you to generate ideas you never expected.

Essential #8 – FC Now

If you are a regular reader, you might see I am a little partial to the Fast Company camp. I talked about FC Now a couple of weeks ago. It has now moved to the top of my blog list. If I don’t get through anything else, I want to make sure I read the daily posts from FC.

Add FC Now to your regular diet and you will feel alot better.

Essentials #7 – Wired Magazine

A few days ago, I was recommending this month’s issue of WIRED to an old co-worker. This month’s cover story is “The New Diamond Age” (in a past life, I use to grow diamond – in about 45 minutes). The past cub-mate said, “Isn’t WIRED a computer magazine?”

I would say it is a technology magazine. Some of the articles that caught my eye this month were the world power grid (very timely considering the rather large problems of today), the see-through sea-kayak, and crime prediction a la Minority Report. And I am only halfway through.

Technology fueled by ideas. It is those ideas I like being exposed to. They are ideas that I don’t run across through other items I read. To me, that is a sign that I have found the right source.

It’s $12 for a year’s subscription. You can drop that on lunch.

Get a subscription to WIRED.

Essentials #6 – Advertising Secrets of the Written Word

Last week, I talked about the amazing copy in Nike’s advertising.

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word by Joseph Sugarman shows you how to write great advertisting copy. Joe knows what he is talking about. BluBlocker sunglasses were his creation. He sold a couple million pairs through magazine ads and infomericials.

There are alot of reasons I like the book. He is a great storyteller. Each chapter starts with a story about a product he was trying to sell and he proceeds to use that situation to illustrate the point he is trying to get across. The products are a little dated, but I also found that enjoyable. You’ll read about the Pocket CB, Consumers Hero, and Magic Stat. He once sold his $240,000 personal airplane through a magazine ad.

The biggest reason I recommend this book is that you will be a better copywriter when you are done. I know for a fact that I am better. The advice is very practical and can be used immediately. Joe lays out 57 points every ad should cover and ends the book with 12 ads that he wrote and his explanation of their success or failure.

The knowledge he presents translates to any written communication where you are trying to persuade someone of something. I used his recommendations to improve a cover letter for a direct mail piece. I think you could apply his stuff to resumes, company memos, or school term papers.

Advertising Secrets of the Written Word costs $39.95 – a bit more than your normal hardcover. Don’t let that stop you. It is an outstanding book.

Essentials #5 – Jump Start Your Business Brain

I read Jump Start Your Business Brain about a year ago. As an engineer, I don’t like many of the mishy-mushy aspects of marketing. Neither did Doug Hall. His background was chemical engineering and he struggled with “a lack of disciplined principles” while working at Procter and Gamble.

After left P&G, he started his own company and began a quest. Hall looked at a set of 4000 concept descriptions for new products and services and tried to find out why some ideas succeed and some fail. They looked at things like brand category, sizing, and pricing versus the competition. None of the concrete measurements correlated with the success of the idea. The big break came when they started to look at the perceptions and archetypes the customers had running through their head. Some examples of this are benefits, features, focus, value perception, and emotional versus rational orientation.

The research yielded three factors that Hall claims can be statistically linked to improving the success of a business idea:

  • Overt Benefit – What is in it for the customer? You must be very direct in the cluttered marketplace for your customers to get it.
  • Reason to Believe – Customer confidence is at an all-time low. You must provide persuasive credibility that you will do as you promised.
  • Dramatic Difference – Without uniqueness, you are selling a commodity. The difference must be dramatic, 10X more dramatic then you think.

Only 20% of business ideas actually succeed in the marketplace. Hall says you can double your chances of success by marketing around these three ideas.

I used these principles as I developed a marketing plan for my business. I think they helped focus my message. Looking back now, I think I could push the envelope on all three aspects and get an even greater benefit.

You can order the paperback through Amazon.

P.S. And that is only half of the book. The second half talks “The Three Laws of Capitalist Creativity” – improving the quality of your ideas.

Essentials 4.3 – Purple Cow

Purple Cow is Seth’s latest work and continues to build on the ideas from his other books. Here he talks about the importance of being remarkable. And his meaning for the word is the definition that has you telling other people. It is another flavor of an ideavirus.

I have really been struck by this concept. When you put the remarkable litmus test on something, you start to think how rare the reamarkable is. Harry Potter is remarkable. Anheuser-Busch is not. Circuit City is not.

Seth again used the concepts to sell the book. It started with a pre-release edition of the book that was available in quantities of 12 for $60. The book came in a purple cow milk carton (pictures). The 4,000 copies were sold in 19 days. And every person that bought a dozen gave friends the other eleven copies. The virus spreads and interest builds as the release approaches.

In conjunction with the release, Seth wrote an ebook called 99 Cows. He wanted to further illustrate the idea of being remarkable with real live examples. He makes it available through Fast Company for free until August 1st. He makes it available through Amazon here and all the proceeds go to charity.

He also offers a Purple Cow workshop. And how do you spread the virus some more? Offer the workshop for free if you buy 25 copies of the hardcover. It got me and most of the other 50 people that were there.

I think it is another Essential read. There are plenty of resources below to find out about the Purple Cow phenomenon.

Purple Cow Links:

Essentials 4.2 – Unleashing the Ideavirus

Seth takes word of mouth marketing to the next level in Unleashing the Ideavirus. He claims interruptions no longer work at means to make people aware of your product. He says the way for someone to find out about your product is from someone else. From there, Seth creates a whole new vocabulary and talks about hives and sneezers.

He again uses his methods to move his book. He posted the book at Anyone could download it for free. Anyone could pass it on to someone else. At last check, a couple hundred thousand people had done just that.

What is more amazing is that people started contacting Seth and asking when the book was going to be published. You could get the book for free and people still wanted a souvenir. He had a small run of the book published and sold copies for $50 a piece. He sold them out. The more he gave the book away, the more money he made.

Unleashing the Ideavirus is another required read. Go download it for free and figure out how to make it work for your business.

Essentials 4.1 – Permission Marketing

Seth wrote Permission Marketing in 1999 when email was starting to become an accepted mechanism for marketing. Seth was very familiar with the topic, having founded Yoyodyne, a company which created online direct marketing promotions.

The most important point I took away from the book was the idea of getting permission. Seth believes the only purpose of a website is to get permission to talk to a prospective customer. And like direct marketing, you need to give them a good offer in exchange for their permission. Over time, you want to get additional permission to find out more about them so you can tailor your products and services to meet their needs (Direct Marketing 101). What is different is the cost of doing business over the internet is nearly zero and the ability to tailor messages and offers is taken to a whole other level.

What is always great about Seth is he follows his own advice when he sells his books. He created a web site at It is a one page site that asks you to enter your email address and in return you will be sent the first four chapters of Permission Marketing. The offer worked on me. I got through the first four chapters and had to read the rest. It just happened that the link to Amazon was at the end of the text.

There is alot of basic marketing applied to a different tool in Permission Marketing, but I still think it is well worth the read. Looking over the book, I have started thinking about what I should do with this site…

The Essentials #4 – Seth Godin

I think you need to become familiar with the work of Seth Godin. As a matter of fact, I think it is so important that I am going to devote the whole week to talking about his stuff. You can read his bio here.

I would start with checking his blog out. He uses it to illustrate the ideas he is talking about.

Coming up, we have three days of Seth’s books (and each has a pretty good story). On Friday, I think I will give you some links to other places you can find him and his ideas.

The Essentials #2 – Fast Company

I am amazed by the number of people who still haven’t heard of this magazine.

I think of it as Fortune on a high dose amphetamine.

But it is more than that. The ideas they talk about strike a chord with people. A friend once described it as hope. I think that is a great description. The magazine taps into the idea that we are trying to make our companies and ourselves better. And others are struggling to do the same thing.

Fast Company has created such a devout following that reader groups have sprouted up all over the world. The network is collectively know as Company of Friends. The activities vary from city to city. I am one of the coordinators for the chapter here in Milwaukee and we meet monthly to discuss an article from the magazine. We normally bring a speaker in (many times the author or subject of the article) to discuss the topic in further depth.

So after you subscribe to FC for $12, find your local chapter and attend an event this month.

AFP Essentials #1 – The Wall Street Journal

I think there are a set of items that a businessperson needs to be familiar with and using to be successful in today’s world. This is the first installment of the A Penny For… Essentials:


Most people’s first reaction to the Wall Street Journal is “only big, important people read that.” With a circulation of 1.9 million people, are there that many big, important people?

I will admit I was one of those people who thought it wasn’t for me. About two years ago, I started reading it secondhand as my mother passed it along from her business. That went on for about six months, and then she stopped getting it. Almost immediately, I started to get the shakes and had to get a subscription myself.

I know I haven’t convinced you yet. Let me tell you how I read the Journal:

1. I start with the “What’s News” Section. It gives you a column of business teasers and news teasers. There is enough room to get beyond the big stories and touch on some things you would have missed from other normal morning news sources.
2. Next I turn to the Marketplace section. I find these to be the most interesting stories and read almost every one. These stories really talk about what is going on with companies and trends in the economy.
3. I usually head back to read the offbeat story off the front page – always worth the read. Todays was a story about the owners of a small shoe store in Detroit that are trying to revive America’s long-distance running program.

Beyond the business writing, the Personal Journal runs three days a week and covers topics from retirement to health to child rearing to gadgets. Great, in-depth coverage of things that are affecting you everyday. The editorials are outstanding. During the Iraq War, it was the place where you could read the op-eds world leaders writing.

I know I probably still haven’t convinced you.

Get the 13 week subscription for $60 and try it out. See if you have the shakes when it runs out.

Some people say they don’t have time to read the paper. My answer is that part of your job is to know what is going on around you. Here is a good start.

I couldn’t end without a nod to the iconic hedcuts.