The best 9 lessons in social marketing mastery I learned from my Yiddishe Grandmother

There are others before me who gratefully acknowledge the marketing lessons their grandparents taught them, e.g.  Eric Fulwiler and I now happily contribute to this chorus of gratitude.

It was my Yiddishe Grandmother, long gone before social media ever hit, who when I think about it, was a “maven” (Subject Matter Expert) in the world of social media. I’ve seen her work the social “networking” dynamic at level that few people get to encounter and it’s probably why I am so bullish on social media’s potential to be the major platform that will drive marketing for the next decade.

To appreciate why she was such a powerful teacher requires a brief understanding of her life. My Grandmother, Margit Grosz was born at the beginning of the 20th century in Hungary – the daughter of a highly respected and mystical Hasidic rabbi. She married a young Rabbi and by the time World World II crashed in on her world, she had nine children. On December 3, 1944, she and eight of her youngest children marched into Bergen Belsen, (my father was the “oldest” at 15 and my youngest uncle a mere baby of about 8 months).

This story should have had a tragic end, but in fact she did the remarkable – she was able to save every single one of her children after having endured six months in the death camp. After the war, her influence broadened and she helped thousands as the “Rebbetzin”, literally meaning Rabbi’s wife but also conferring on her the honorary title of spiritual leader, of the shattered Hasidic survivors. As one her oldest grandchildren (out of 100ish), I often accompanied her on her expeditions (reluctantly I must admit) but  I had the chance to witness first hand how to create a thriving socially connected set of networks to the benefit of all. Her wisdom influences me today as I think about how to harness the power of social networking to achieve business results.

This list, inspired by her, I dedicate to her.

1. Keep it simple, direct and honest.

Perhaps the most powerful way to explain this point is explain how my Grandmother saved her children in Bergen Belsen. I will let my father’s account describe what happened next (written when he was in his in fifties):

The morning after our arrival, we were ordered to line up for “appel”, which was roll call. It commenced at 8:00 a.m.  One day, the snow was ankle deep and it was bitter cold. My youngest brother, Chaim, at only eight months was nursing. My mother tried her best to keep him warm and quiet in her arms. The other children were crying bitterly. The one-eyed officer suddenly approached my Mother and began to yell in her face; “What are they crying about? I have my job to do.”

My Mother answered simply; “Listen – can’t you hear the cries of my children?”

Then that one-eyed sergeant announced; “From now on, your children can remain in their bunks. I will come inside and count them in their beds every day.”

What is remarkable is that her simple, direct one line appeal, which seemed wholly inadequate, would have achieved such life savings results. This story cemented in my mind the power of direct engagement. Over the years, I saw again and again how her direct and simple approach achieved results beyond what would have been expected. I saw her get CEOs of major corporations to make major donations of money, goods and services and I saw politicians agree to her requests. Simplicity, directness and honesty is a powerful engine for influencing.

2. Keep engaging.

I never knew until my twenties that sometimes family fights resulted in a complete break down in communications. I had never witnessed it. In my world, if a family dispute escalated to the point of a complete rupture, she forced open the lines of communications. In her mind, keep engaging to keep people connected – no matter what.

That is true in social media too. One must keep the community engaged with people, management and technology. One must manage the interactions so that everyone can feel safe to participate.

3. Make sure everyone in the community benefits.

She had a remarkable ability to use the power of her diverse networks to the benefit of all. I saw how she fluidly moved from one network to another creating loose, cross network associations to achieve a task at hand. She got the CEO of Dupont to donate a huge shipment of contact paper twice a year to redecorate the heavily worn surfaces of the synagogues in the neighborhood (they could not afford new furniture). She then used the leftover it to redecorate and brighten desolate rooms in state run mental institutions for children. (Sidebar – It turned out years later, I learned that my husband’s uncle was a patient in one of the institutions she rehabilitated and who clearly remembered “The Rebbetzin”. What are the chances of that!!)

Translating this lesson to social network marketing means to learn to mix it up and create ways for different networks to cross pollinate so the there is exponential benefits to everyone.  For instance, create programs that pair x-genr’s looking to break into a new career with career veterans. Or create a program that pairs PC savvy kids from distant continents who share a similar passion. Well orchestrated, this is a potent power that can propel social networking programs.

4. Be generous with your time, talent and experience.

This lesson can be a challenge in today hyper connected, on call 24/7 business life. In the case of my Grandmother, if she was short of funds to buy gifts for kids over the holidays, she herself would crochet little dolls for them (and yes – she drafted us grandchildren to help her crochet her dolls). She devoted her time happily until the job was done.

In the context of social media marketing, this means showing social networking courtesy. If asked to donate your network to a good cause – do so. You can also create ways for members to be able to easily connect with each other by providing technology to enable video chat. Show communities how paying it forward always pays back in spades.

5. Assume the best in everyone.

I remember when I was little, my Grandmother was talking to a woman who had lost everyone in the war had become very bitter.  “How is it that you have no hate in your heart” in reference to a German neighbor. My Grandmother answered simply: “Eich hub niescht kan breraira”, “I have no choice”. In her mind, judgment or hate had no place in her world because she understood that it was a poison pill more harmful to her than anyone else. Instead, she assumed people to be of good character and intention and she operated accordingly.

This lesson holds true as we manage our social networks. We should assume that most people in communities are well meaning and well intentioned. Once we are guided by this principle, it puts a clear context for moderation business rules and community participation.

6. Be brave.

The most powerful way to bond community members is to be brave and share honestly with others. Being vulnerable demonstrates a strength that encourages others to gain courage. I learned this lesson when I observed her bravery time and again to venture outside her comfort zone to get what she needed for her community. Imagine the scene when my Grandmother, the Chasidic Rebbetzin who barely spoke English, went marching into the office of Dupont to ask for help. I admired her courage.

Bravery in the social media world requires guts and a willingness to put our company selves out there. A case in point is the recent Pepsi promotion where they used “crowdsourcing” to create their newest flavor. That kind of bravery encourages greatness in your community and in your marketing.

7. Create scalable intimacy.

There has been much research to suggest that our human brain can handle a community of, at most, about 150 people. A community larger than that and the cohesion begins to deteriorate. Similarly, it has been observed that, for instance, Twitter groups of a few hundred are intimate and interactive. Once you pass that threshold and cross into a group of thousands, interaction stops. My Grandmother understood this principle intuitively because she organized her social networks according to maternal line – not married couples. This was her uncharacteristic “data file system” which allowed her to manage multiple family groups of optimal size efficiently despite the vast expanses of family connections.

This lesson is probably one of the hardest for marketers to address because they need scale in order to achieve meaningful results, yet they must maintain the intimacy that social media allows. The trick, therefore, is to create tightly knit communities with synergistic interests that can bind but can scale too. An example, a book lover’s community where different genres can break off into micro communities. This might mean having hundreds of communities concurrently, but companies like Google, Dell and HP have developed programs to manage these diverse communities using lots of new technologies. At a smaller scale, there are self serve platform like SocialGo that help a company to manage groups efficiently.

8. Treat everyone with respect.

Seems obvious yet is surprisingly hard to execute in the social network world of today. The trick, as my Grandmother taught me is to refuse to categorize anyone according to stereotype segments. In her world she was blind to ethnicity, skin color, religious affiliation and or wealth. To her everyone was truly created equal and the simplicity of this approach created powerful allies for her. This principle applied to digital social networks would yield comparable results.

9. Think of others – not just yourself.

I leave this lesson for last because it was her hallmark and it was what made her beloved among the entire Hasidic community around the world. Translated to social media, it means that your goal for the network should be to create place for true connectivity and community – and not just for commerce purposes. It means introducing tools (e.g. video chat) and opportunities that enable connections and bonds that are can enrich all members.

If the orientation of the community is focused on the community — then there is a foundation for success. Focus outward before you focus inward.

There you have it – these 9 power lessons shape how I think about social networking today. I hope it inspires you too.

Judy Shapiro

8 principles of spiritual literacy as inspired by the Hasidic masters

I diverge briefly from my normal posts about marketing with this post because I caught wind of a new book by Dani Shapiro called Devotion that seems to touch an important topic for many people. The book outlines a woman’s search for spiritual clarity (author’s note – I have not read the book – but it’s going on the list :)). In an interview on The Today Show the author comments that she was brought up in the Orthodox tradition which she “abandoned” when she reached adulthood and replaced with “nothing”. She explained how in her mind, Jewish religious practice was an all or nothing proposition. Most sensitively she described that her search was motivated by a desire to answer her children’s questions about spirituality with answers that demonstrated depth of thought. This book emerged out of her recognition that she wanted to fill the spiritual gap for herself and for her family.

I feel a kinship with her, similarity in name aside, but because I too was brought up Orthodox. Not just Orthodox mind you, but I was raised in a Hasidic Rabbinic family – the ultra right wing of the Jewish spectrum. Yet, unlike Dani, I did not abandon my upbringing even as I pursued a wonderful career in technology marketing. I was fortunate that my family, the Hasidic Rabbis from Europe, were trained to be spiritual masters so that under their tutelage I was trained to understand the fundamental principles of being spiritual.

They taught me their legacy of “spiritual expectations” (note I don’t say beliefs) that transcended any religion or religious practice so that I could construct a functional model for the spiritual seeking soul. These expectations frame the spiritual seeker’s quest to an actionable set of principles which apply no matter what religion (or lack thereof) you were raised in. While these ideas represent my interpretation of these spiritual concepts – it is inspired by the lessons I was fortunate enough to have been taught by them.  I pay homage to their wisdom as I share this list with you.

1) There has to be a conscious choice to be a spiritually sensitive being. It can not be assumed that this is a goal everyone strives for. It is not. Do not assume that because you are seeking spiritual vigor – everyone shares your enthusiasm.

2) Rituals are the physical training ground for the spirit. There’s a wonderful Hebrew phrase: “Mi-toch lo’ lishma ya’voh lishmah” – translated to mean roughly, “From non devotion comes devotion.” In other words, the rituals won’t always evoke an “ohh” spiritual glow, but over time they do. When I first started to light candles on Friday night nearly 30 years ago to mark the beginning of the Shabbath, (you start lighting candles when you get married), it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Now, though when I light my Sabbath candles, the atmosphere of the room is noticeably changed. Once the ritual becomes part of your being; that frees energy to fully exploit the value of the ritual. There’s no more wasted energy worrying about “when” or “how” to spiritually train – that was all taken care of once you accepted the sanctity of the ritual. Without the impetus of religious sanctity – sticking with any ritual practice that is substantive enough to deliver the spiritual goods is really really really hard.

3) Accept that to be a spiritual being requires an investment of time. There’s no shortcut. The rituals of the ultra religious of all traditions are designed for success because they eliminated the hassle of figuring out the nitty gritty details of how to be spiritual, letting the focus be on the spiritual work. By contrast, how successful would anyone be creating their own rituals and then sticking to it? There are more bad jokes about the futility of keeping New Year’s resolution than I need to make my point.

4) There is no such thing as “sin” with the moral sting we all associate with that word. The Hebrew word “Het” means more like, “Oops, missed that time – try again”. In my world, when you committed a “sin”, you were “reproached” for it much in the same way one might speak to a young child who, when they are first learning to catch a ball, misses. “Oops – not quite – try again.” No guilt. No shame. Just an expectation that you could do better.

5) Spirituality is not something you are but something you do. Spirituality can not be thought of as a cloak we don at certain times and then discard when it is inconvenient. It is reflective in how we act – all the time.  For instance, I must light my candles every Friday at precisely the proper time no matter what. If I miss it – I can not light later in the evening because there’s no “do-over”. Being spiritual means that if I feel that my ability to light the candles on time is in jeopardy, I will re-organize my entire day to ensure I can fulfill this ritual on time.

6) Often, people confuse being a “good or moral person” with being spiritual. They are not the same thing. Morality is often culturally based and evolving – slavery being a good example, whereas spirituality transcends cultural influences.  The work of spiritual masters from 3,000 years is as relevant today as they were in their day.

7) I do not “expect” that there is a God (breathe everyone). Here’s what I know for sure. There is the world of the “known”; the world we can measure, touch and analyze. Then there is the world of “kaddosh”; usually translated to mean sacred or holy, but actually meaning “other” or separate – the world of the “unknown”. This “unknown” state is often referred to as God.

8)  Everything in the universe changes including the world of the “Kaddosh”, the “unknown” and the world of the known. In fact, the world of the unknown is quickly flowing towards the world of the known so that soon these two worlds will emerge into one. That is the spiritual singularity – when there is no more “unknown” a.k.a. God. When might this singularity happen? Who knows, but often people think the time of the Messiah is that singularity moment. I’m not so sure but here’s an interesting little tidbit. According to mystical Jewish philosophy, the world will “evolve” into another form of existence by the year 6000. We are currently in the year 5770 of the Jewish calendar, so that gives us about 200 years until the next cycle. That plunks us right into the time of Star Trek. I like the synchronicity of that because that fictional show gives us a glimpse of how different our understanding of life will be in 200 years. Perhaps in 200 years our spirit, mind and body will be better aligned and free to evolve …

These Hasidic masters understood spiritual power and mastery. It is my legacy from them which I share with you so you can create the spiritual house that best suits you.

Judy Shapiro

Want to understand the essence of Yiddish angst? The secret is revealed in seeing how business leaders inspire.

One of my favorite ex-bosses was fond of saying; “Failure is not an option” when asked about the secret of his success.  His Turkish/ British sensibilities expressed this concept as a statement of fact – unequivocal – no heroics – no bluster … It simply was the reality. It was meant to encourage people to realize that you keep trying until you achieve your goals.

Now while many of us we have heard that expression before, subtly within the phrase lays a wonderful aspirational dynamic. Since failure is not an option – the only other possible outcome is success.   Uplifting, motivational and inspiring. Well done.

Now – here’s the Yiddish version of that sentiment (fyi – I was raised in a Hasidic family speaking mainly Yiddish until I went to school). Mind you, same the net effect is intended, e.g. to encourage people to carry on no matter what, but the difference is how a “Yiddish” CEO would say it which is in a more plaintative “Never surrender” type of sentiment.  In the psyche of the Yiddish (largely traumatic) experience, this sentiment had the same duality that the “Failure is not an option” phrase has but with a key element of angst thrown in. In this mindset, you also had two outcomes. 1) “You surrender” which was understood to mean  you died – either a physical or spiritual death; or 2) “Never surrender” – you managed to lived to see another day. No great vision of glory but simply the ability to go on was success enough.

Same concept – keep going no matter what – but worlds apart in their outlook on life. One uplifts and inspires – the other is satisfied with much less grand results. And in seeing the contrast one can see the entire essence of Yiddish angst.

Me – I like to use both ideas. The “never surrender” gives me a sense of extra urgency and imperative (OK – so I do worry too much) while the “failure is not an option” phrase reminds me of the prize.

I confess though, living is both worlds can confuse at times (just ask my husband or this ex-boss :) .

Judy Shapiro

Is the Internet devolving into a segregated, class-based system?

In the real world, segregation by class or race or age is rightly understood as under utilizing the full potential of people in society. There is universal recognition that people should be free to achieve their highest potential based effort and talent – not on what money they were born with. And this ideal is what we all believe delivers the best humanity has to offer.

Now when the Internet was created barely 20 years ago – it seemed to emerge from a perspective of an open, “democratic” framework where anyone could achieve anything. It leapfrogged over our normal inclination to create a stratified society but allowed unfettered potential to anyone irrespective of class.

The promise of this egalitarian digital society fueled so much hope. In this digital utopia, the thinking went, small ecommerce sites could challenge the big guys. Or anyone from any corner of the world could enrich their mind with a mouse and an online connection. And closed societies could now be opened within this enlightened new world.

While the real world continually and relentlessly divides the world into the “have’s and have nots”, the Internet seemed to have sidestep that whole unsavory dimension of our human nature.

But as the Internet emerges from infancy into maturity, I sense a new dynamic that is subtly introducing segregation into the system. It started when the small ecommerce sites realized that it took more than digital pluck to get ahead in the online ecommerce world since SEO and advertising did cost money.

Then, when Microsoft introduced BING as a “decision engine”, it was another, subtle form of class division. After all, most of the time a decision is only required in a buying process not in true information discovery. And the recent news about Murdoch making his content invisible to Google continues the segregation momentum. No more can news be available for all – but only for those who can pay.

It seems to me see that our digital society is following the sad patterns of our real world societies of info “have’s and have not’s”. It is sad to watch. It is sad to contemplate that in the drive to monetize the Internet; our early ideals of the Internet seemed to have fallen by the wayside.

But there are companies who are fighting this trend and who continue to offer the promise of a free Internet and have innovated to generate revenue while maintaining this ideal. Some great examples include Comodo who offer the best in PC security for free and a social networking company called Houseparty who empower anyone to earn revenue from the Internet legitimately (and without any financial investment).

Can you spell R-E-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N?

Judy Shapiro

The Alchemy of Digital Marketing As Inspired by Renaissance Masters

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.. Einstein

I was reading Thomas Cahill’s exquisitely written “Mysteries of the Middle Ages”, when it occurred to me that to be brilliant in marketing today is more like being a Renaissance man; trained in a broad range of skills that mesh the rational with intuition and the quantitative with imagination.  Not only that, though, I chose to plant this post in the soil of “alchemy” and the renaissance tradition precisely because the central theme of a Renaissance man that applies to us here is their ability to traverse between the rational and imagination effortlessly. They afforded equal vigor to the pursuit of scientific truths as they did to philosophical contemplation. This paradoxical and improbable juxtaposition created the fertile soil for brilliant minds like Francis Bacon and Thomas Aquinas to shape the foundation of our modern, techno-rich, hyper-fast digital world.

This is the context then within which I profile the “digital Renaissance marketing man” of today. We need to be broadly trained across a wide range of skills, yet also be trained at blending the rational with the “ephemeral”. We must learn to command quantitative statistical theory, exhibit sound creative judgment, understand commerce requirements, demonstrate keen graphic sensibilities, provide key insights on sociological trends, follow emerging Internet technologies, be sensitive to the platonic-sized demographics shifts and be masterful influencers.

In seeking to achieve such competency, we can be guided by the example of our Renaissance teachers through our commitment to a rigorous learning path inspired by the noble goal of learning simply for learning sake. In keeping with this tradition, I will advocate understanding digital marketing for the sheer joy of learning, without thought to commercial gain. With true inquiry as our motivation, truths are discovered and once insight is achieved, these newly acquired skills are yours to command to rival the accomplishments of any marketing scholar.

The philosopher’s stone of marketing

The philosopher’s stone was the legendary, magical substance supposedly capable of turning base metals into gold. I like the illusion for our purposes here, especially as it is consistent with our renaissance inspiration.

So suspend your modern sensibilities for a time so that we may begin our training into the secret alchemy of turning ordinary marketing tactics (base metals in our alchemy world) into marketing gold with the philosopher’s stone, embodied in digital marketing. Indeed, I contend that digital marketing’s transformative power similar to the philosopher’s stone can be activated if one learns the secret blend which is, in equal measure, rational analysis combined with creative intuition to use digital marketing to engage us.

That’s the rub though. Achieving this magical balance can be as elusive as catching the unicorn in the thick forest – and no wonder – it’s very difficult. The first problem we encounter is that digital marketing is so new that it cannot be analyzed with rational metrics. Then there’s the very practical concern around risking resources with new programs where it’s anyone’s guess as to how they will perform.  On the creative side, you have to rely on digital agencies or small technology companies to interpret the technology into a creative concept, often clouding your instincts given the sheer novelty of the medium.

But again disciplined training will help us rise above the challenges because we can learn new ways to evaluate these new media, and in ways that let us merge rational metrics with intuitive sensibilities. How we do it? By making a study of the Big 6 – the primary elements or ingredients of successful digital marketing.

6 Elements That Unleash the Transformative Power of Digital Marketing

I put forth what I think are the six main elements of digital marketing, as key to us today as the four  “roots” or elements of earth, air, fire and water were to Empedocles, a Greek philosopher and scientist  who lived in 5th cent BC Sicily.  With these 6 primary elements, one can begin spin magical digital marketing programs reasonably and reliably (notice that I continually merge the magic with the metric – a skill that comes with deliberate practice).

1) Seek knowledge – not just information.

A researcher once told me to be suspicious of any analyst who said numbers were objective. He helped me understand that data can provide the answer to any question – the trick is to know how to interpret the data.

I make this point to highlight how important it is in any quantitative exploratory that you be absolutely clear about what you want to know going in. You can drown in data without having learned how to do anything better. To avoid the “data analysis paralysis” trap, be disciplined and work on getting data that you can clearly see driving to a specific business result. It requires a lot of self discipline not to accumulate all types of data, but it will cost far more in a lack of focused answers than all the mounds of data will be worth. So seek out knowledge – not information.

2) Create solid information systems.

Building on the point above, creating solid business information systems is sadly often, overlooked and neglected, especially in technology companies (ironic – no?).  This is a great pity because solid information systems are a key touchstone of any successful digital marketing campaign, arguably any business.

Eventually, though, every company comes to the “OMG, we need a system to track campaigns” moment. Then “all of sudden” there is a flurry of urgency to buy or build systems that are dicey and prone to data glitches. This is a recipe for disaster for a couple of reasons.

First, building information systems takes discipline, patience and a creative approach to information architecture. If ever there was a time to spend money on outside help, this would be it. Get an information architect or business analyst to help you create a system with a management dashboard to get at high level, mission critical information quickly. Time is not your main consideration here – creating a solid system is.

Second, know that information systems take time to mature to work out the kinks. If the success of any program is wholly dependent on the data from these new systems … hold your breathe and be extra sure to manage everyone’s expectations. It is as likely to fail as it is to work in the first try at it.

If you find yourself in this “OMG” position, take firm hold of this project and drive it an actionable conclusion. Do not leave it solely to data architects or business analysts. Apply your judgment to create an information system that permits you to give data its due without ever being enslaved by it. If done correctly, this type of infrastructure will illuminate your business because you can trust the information to be solid and reliable without ever blinding you in the process.

3) Every program has a purpose and a place.

Yes, there are loads of new technologies out there and more to come and in greater frequency too, so it becomes difficult to evaluate all of them. To stay head of the curve, learn to apply the “rule of purpose” to each new idea. This rule requires that before any new technology is considered, it is linked to a specific marketing program or goal. By applying the “rule of purpose” you will evaluate only those programs that can drive business results today without wasting a lot of time on programs that are cool but not useful at the moment.

4) Use common sense in evaluating new approaches in digital marketing.

We’ve all been there. The sales person, properly groomed with the right amount of product to sculpt his perfected coiffed style, is giving you all the right promises; low CPA, low CPM, low CPR or high conversion, high efficiency or high impact.

But by the time he is done, it sounds almost too good to be true. If you find yourself getting that, “too good to be true” feeling, that’s your first red flag. Your common sense is trying to tell you something and you should listen with an appropriate amount of skepticism. Ask for business cases, be clear about how the program will be measured and include a contingency in the contract if something goes wrong.

Yet, the seduction of these programs demands we consider them seriously. We can heed the call only if the programs adhere to some basic requirements:

  • It can not divert more than 3% of budget in terms of time, cost and labor
  • It can not exceed your cost per acquisition metrics – and in most cases, these programs should beat current CPA metrics to make it worthwhile to divert efforts
  • The program does not rely one just one business metrics – but includes at least two success metrics
  • There is a clear “out” clause

Finally, after you have done your due diligence, be sure to apply the good old common sense filter again to the mix. If the program can withstand that scrutiny, then give it a whirl. Win or lose – you win because you learned something.

5) There’s no substitute for “hands on” experience.

Sorry to say this but nothing replaces personal experience. Renaissance training required lots of experimentation and we would be well advised to follow their lead. Unfortunately, sometimes agencies insulate us from this practical, real world experience much to our disadvantage. If they are a digital agency, then they advocate programs that are very technical, so no real personal learning is gained.  The larger agencies kinda avoid the whole mess by sticking to the mass media programs they can execute efficiently within their fees (labor intensive programs like social media is a nightmare for larger agencies given falling fees).

That pretty much leaves you on your own. So to understand this stuff, you gotta simply roll you sleeves up and play with it yourself. Use social media (be safe please) to tweet and twine so you can experience the interplay within the digital social world. Explore how Facebook is viral but within a limited sphere. Try new approaches within semantic and real time search engines.

It’s critical to stay curious and maintain a willingness to experiment and play. As we all know, play is a great teacher, so avail yourself of this powerful method of learning.

6) Celebrate the creative mind.

For those of us on the marketing front lines, we want silver bullet marketing answers. For instance, Martin Lindstrom’s book, Buy-ology, is highly seductive because it gives us a well organized list of mechanisms that can be used to evoke specific purchase responses. Yet, his well documented set of markers and triggers obscures the real art of creating successful marketing – the creative spark that draws us in and compels us forward in the purchase process. This creative magic is the powerful pixie dust we all desire in our marketing programs, but make no mistake – it is creative magic steeped in science. Really? You bet and here’s how it works.

First, learn to trust the accuracy of your inner voice to guide your judgment of a campaign. Love or hate – allow yourself to first appreciate your reaction and then try to understand why you reacted as you did.

Next, marry your creative instincts with the science of digital testing. Exploit the internet’s ability to let you test incessantly and iteratively. It provides a great learning laboratory for new ideas and combinations. This is how art can be realized through science and how we can bring the best of both the rational and the creative to work together.

Finally, utilize all the new learning in neuro-marketing courtesy of Lindstrom and others to add a fully integrated and optimized approach. Mix it all up and you get the magic potion that transforms mudane marketing into marketing that sustains businesses in these transformative times.

In conclusion, dear students, we are reminded that in the Renaissance, men understood how to merge the ethereal, sublime nature of art and magic with logic and rational thought. With that as our model, we can create the new “magic” of today’s brilliant digital marketing world.

Men of science are men of art living on the edge of mystery… borrowed from J. Robert Oppenheimer

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

PS – Given my training as a historian, I am deeply grateful to (and envious of ) Thomas Cahill for his clarity and precision with which he brings the lives of people from 800 years ago to life with relevance in today’s seemingly removed culture.

I hope the tone of this post is appreciated for its attempt to playfully discuss challenging problems in marketing.

The final mystery.

Everyone has their “big question”.  For some it is around the next, best technological innovation. For others, it is about advances in the human condition.

For me, the “big question” is around how will our biology and technology merge. I remember fondly my days at Bell Labs where over lunch we would argue the subtler points of human consciousness. “At what point”, we asked each other, “once we added technology to our bodies, would our individual humanity be too weak to maintain our soul? Do you think science will be able to create a soul one day (I came down on the side of yes – it was a distinct possibility)?  Did we need a certain “critical mass” to maintain our personalities?” 

 The answers remain as elusive today as they were over a decade ago. But at least more people are asking the same questions today whereas a decade ago it was rarely the subject of polite conversation. And if you ever suggested that science can create souls well that usually resulted in some deeply uncomfortable conversations.

Today, people are more opened minded and I have more freedom to chat about this stuff with more people that ever before. I can challenge the belief that some have that there is a man vs machine confrontation coming (I don’t BTW). Others believe that our ability to create technology will outstrip our ability to introduce safeguards preventing the technology from running amok. Still others imagine a matrix-like world where we are all just the result of some massive software program and we only think we have free will  (but if one thinks one is free – does it matter if you are not).

Ah – such philosophical quandaries.  I long for Spinoza’s simple view of everything. He maintained that anything and everything was eventually knowable (yeah – the Church was not happy about that idea since it put a crimp in their monopoly in the business of knowing God). Plus Spinoza understood God as follows; all matter is divisible but once you hit “matter rock bottom” so to speak, that indivisible thing Spinoza called “Substance” (a.k.a. God).

It’s a simple world view that is eminently satisfying until one realizes that it does not account for the leaps of brilliance only the human heart can take. Or the flashes of insight that allow someone to create a masterpiece no machine has yet been able to duplicate. Nor does it explain the power of love to transform and the essential element of hope to sustain the human spirit.

Today, science has put forth many more questions than it actually answered over the last 50 years.  Maybe, just maybe, the human spirit needs mystery just as much as it needs hope. Maybe the final mystery is that we need mystery to sustain the spirit. The more I ponder this mystery the more puzzled I become.

Ah – the exquisite agony of it all. No software program could ever fathom that …at least I don’t think so. 

Judy Shapiro

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