death of originality and creativity

One of the odder analogies I use when I teach and present is that of cooking and compression. When creating digital media, it’s best to work with the original uncompressed digital file for the best final result. Using compressed (cooked) files, you’ll not get a clean final product. To show this, I take audiences’ minds into the kitchen:

You can take raw hamburger meat and make a meatloaf.
You could chop up the leftover meatloaf, add seasoning, and create taco filling.
You could take that leftover taco filling and add it to a pot of chili.
You could take that chili and…etc.
Eventually, the meat will be processed repeatedly until it turns into an inedible mush that still has artifacts left over from previous incarnations.

Yum.

It’s an analogy that works for mp3s and jpgs, but it’s also what’s happening more and more with creativity and originality in our culture. Instead of new ideas, we’re recycling old ones. We’re using leftovers to fill us up instead creating a fresh standard.

They’re making a Broadway play based on the movie ‘Animal House’. Think about that while recalling what other classic movies and TV shows have been ruined by redux adaptations and reimaginings. Add that to the rote and repetitive grind of reality TV, pop music, sports, and other packaged entertainment for the masses.

And that’s just pop culture / entertainment. The same thing is happening in design, technology, and art where the mixup, mashup, reblog, retweet, adaptation, parody, and share are sometimes considered of more importance than the original.

Eventually, it’s all going to turn to mush.

Who will create fresh content and provide original ideas? Sounds like an opportunity for someone.

UPDATE: A few days after I posted this, James Lileks wrote a few great paragraphs (as always) that are related to this idea. Take a look at the last third of his post (after the dog and set parts).

three commencement addresses that are worth your time

‘Tis the season for people to sit in hot black robes and listen to vague motivational pomptitude (and circumstanitude).

Out there in the cultural zeitgeist, I think there are three commencement addresses that are worth your time. These three are good; not only for recent graduates, but also for anyone who needs some business motivation.

To satisfy the Apple fanboys, I’ll list Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address first. It consists of three stories, and I like the first one best. You never know what connections from the past will come together to create new ideas. Here’s the text of the speech or you can watch it here.

Conan O’Brien’s 2000 Harvard address is mostly jokes and very funny. (naturally) But it actually contains one of the best messages that a twenty-something or anyone can learn: Failure is necessary to succeed.
The quality of the video below is poor so you’ll find the text version is better.

The odd thing about Conan’s speech is that he gave it about ten years before the Leno / Tonight Show fiasco. It’s been his only commencement speech until this year when Conan is scheduled to address the graduates of Dartmouth. It will be interesting if he expands on his theme. (UPDATE: He did.)

“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” was originally a 1997 column in the Chicago Tribune, but Baz Luhrmann reworked the column as a spoken word / musical track on an album. The track became a worldwide radio hit in the summer of 1999. It became an ear rut for me that year in my radio days. The lyrics contain many truths.

One of the final verses of Sunscreen pretty much captures the essence of all commencement addresses…

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

R.O.I.

There seems to be a current craze in taking the standard abbreviation, R.O.I., and substituting another word for “Investment” to make a point.

For example, I have recently heard people talk or read articles about things such as: Return on Inspiration, Return on Innovation, and Return on Impressions. The points these speakers and writers made with the change were good. After all, changing the standard paradigm is a great way to get an audience to think in new ways.

But, I’m afraid. I think changing what R.O.I. stands for is about to jump the shark and become a business cliché. (Forget the fact that I regularly have to explain / spell out what R.O.I. actually means to people.)

But since it’s currently the hip trendy thing to do, I offer the following suggestions:

Return on Iceberg
Extra income for a restaurateur serving cheap salads.

Return on Ichabod
Washington Irving’s royalty check.

Return on Illustrator
Income of a logo designer.

Return on In-N-Out
Animal Style Double-Double. Animal Style Fries Well Done.

Return on IKEA
Acquired from assembling lingonberry flavored furniture.

Return on Iamb
re-TURN

Return on Interrobang
Is it hard to invent punctuation ‽

Return on Iridectomy
Priceless when you have a posterior capsular tear with vitreous loss.

Return on Inflation
Now is the time to BUY GOLD!!! Call for my free brochure!

Return on Infomercial
Ron Popeil’s second house.

Return on Impotence
Call your doctor if it returns more than four hours.

Return on Investment
Oh…wait.

Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Delivery

You own a pizza company.

You bake a pizza and have the delivery driver randomly pick a house out of the phone book to deliver the pizza to.

The owner of the house has to “opt-out” of the pizza delivery.

Sure, some people might be hungry and accept the pie. But can you imagine how annoying it would be to have to decline pizzas all day because there are thousands of pizza places in your town delivering like this?

And aren’t you wasting a lot of time, energy, and dough by sending out so many wasted pizzas? It would be much more efficient and productive to only deliver pizzas to people who order one. Why are you ticking off your entire market base by randomly delivering pizzas that people don’t want?

Now replace the word “pizza” with the word “email”

I’ve noticed a recent up tick in the number of legitimate companies that are adding my name to their list because they really think I want to hear from them. The emails have unsubscribe options all over them because that’s what the guy learned in the $99 email marketing seminar down at the Airport Marriott.

Just because you offer a way for people to opt-out doesn’t mean that you’re not a spammer. You’re a spammer when you send people things that they didn’t ask for.

Gump Marketing

Lately, I’ve noticed lots of companies have adopted a Forrest Gump marketing philosophy.

This occurs when you’re not taking care of the marketing side of the business, but you’re still growing and opportunities are presenting themselves because of destiny and/or blind luck.

Does it work for some businesses? Yes.

Is it a sound philosophy? No.

Because while sometimes you find yourself an international ping pong champion who meets Nixon, you could just as easily be waistdeep in mud in Southeast Asia while Jenny is back in the states getting high.

You control your marketing destiny. Don’t be swayed by wherever the current takes you. Develop a marketing plan and get to the goal.

Marketing teaspoon

I don’t know where this story should be attributed. But ever since I heard it several years ago, I’ve always remembered it….

There was a businessman who was having lunch with an older collegue. The businessman was telling his friend how much he was working and what important things he was doing for his company.
When the older friend heard this, he picked up a teaspoon from the table and started stirring a glass of water. He said that the businessman was the teaspoon and the water was the company and water’s motion was all the impact that the young businessman was having on the company.
And then he took the spoon out of the glass.
And the water quickly stopped its motion.
The older friend said that’s also what would happen when the man left the company.

While this little business analogy is probably meant to showcase the importance of work-life balance, I also see it in the light of businesses that I have marketed in the past. Actually, I’m seeing it happen right before my eyes.

I invested years of my time and energy to build a brand…and then when my “marketing teaspoon” left…all the brand equity I built was squandered in a few short months.

It’s like owning a car for several years and caring for it. You never squealed the tires. You changed the oil regularly. But then you get a better car and sell the old one to a young kid who just got their license…and they wreck it.

There’s not much the marketer can do.

But there is something the company can do. When you pull a marketing teaspoon out of the glass, make sure to put another one back in.

tags:: marketingphilosophybusiness analogiesdeep thoughts