Sunday Roundup – March 2, 2014

I have five stories for you lads and ladies this week. Other than the Harvard Business Review article, most of the articles focus on values – yes, even the article about Comcast.

So, without further adieu; feast your eyes on my Sunday Roundup:

Feminism is having a wardrobe malfunction.

This makes an important point about values that can be applied to individuals or businesses. We all have our own sets of values, and the organizations we operate and/or are employed by have sets of values. No matter how good we think our values are, they are ours alone. We can and do believe any number of things, but none of those things are necessarily the “right way”, they’re just “our way”.

Erika Linder is Him and Her in Mesmerizing Campaign for Crocker Jeans.

Androgyny for the win! Gender, as usual, is irrelevant. First of all, I’m impressed at how well Ms. Linder acts the male part – some of her gender swap is makeup, but some of it appears to be how she moves the muscles in her face.

How does this relate to values? Not all genders are considered equal in North American society, whether that gender is the result of good acting and make up, genetics, or bring transgendered. It is well past time to reconsider the value we place on gender.

Human2Human: Jargon or an Old a that Still Matters?

How much value to we place on being “businesslike”? How much to we place on human interaction and conversation?

Employees, customers, and anyone else directly or indirectly involved in a business are human beings before they chose to involve themselves with a business. Even the C-suite of a company is a human being by birth.

From my perspective as a marketer, it is easier to be human. Having a real, honest conversation with a prospective client is far more engaging than acting like a machine. After all, I was born human, too.

How To Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To.

I don’t always agree with what comes out of Harvard, but I would not accuse them of being poor workers – they seem to get a lot done. How do they do it? Perhaps they do not use the tips in the following article, but I like to think they do.

Comcast doesn’t give a f*ck.

Of course they don’t. By owning almost all of the cable networks in the United States, they don’t have to care about competition or what customers want. Customers have no choices other than Comcast owned services, so Comcast has no incentive to be anything other than self-serving, and there are no competitors offering better prices or service or anything else that I customer would want from their cable network. So do we value our cable television enough to stand up against Comcast buying cable providers? I do, at least I would if I lived in the United States.

Over to You…

What did you read this week? Did I miss something important? Do you have a question? Leave a comment and tell me about it!

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Textbook Reading: It’s Just a Phase…

In my first year at college, a student approached me after class to ask a question.

“How did you remember that one sentence in the assigned chapter that answered the professor’s question, man?”  At the time, my answer was lame (and the irony is that I can’t remember the professors question or my answer):

“I just read the material.”

Though not exciting, that was the correct answer at the time.  I would skim the chapter, and then read it soon after.  Since then, I have refined my textbook reading technique into a phased approach.

It works for me, but it is by no means the “only” way to get through an assigned reading.  At the very least, I hope it will help you create an approach that works best for you.

Phase 1: The Set-Up

Set Aside Time

My usual is 4 hours in a morning for one subject, 4 hours the same afternoon for another subject.  If pressed, I can add additional reading or assignments (or a social life) to the middle of the day or evening.

If you’re taking a course that has a regular schedule, a regulated reading schedule will be helpful.  The routine will make it easier to actually do the reading instead of putting it off until later.  It will also make it easier for your brain to categorize and retain the information.

Grab a glass of water.  Fill a cup of coffee.  Make your lunch.  Whatever makes your study time comfortable and allows you to retain information; do it.

Study Space

I study at my dining table.  Always.

Just like the consistent timing of a study session, the consistent place will help you retain information.  It can also help with the next step.

Remove Distractions

Turn off the cell phone.  Log off Facebook.  Disconnect from the internet.  Lock your front door.  Seriously.

This is the most important step.  Do it right.  You are trying to create knowledge, so focus on that instead of the world around you.

Phase 2: Information Intake

Know What You’re Getting Into

Read the chapter overview.  It’s there for a reason: to tell you what you’re about to read.

Read the End First

Just like an awful novel you don’t feel obligated to read completely.

A well written chapter summary is worth its weight in gold.  It should tell you what you can expect from the chapter and the author’s writing style.

If the summaries in your textbook suck, write a list of the reasons why and discuss them with your professor.  Generally they choose the textbook for the course, so will appreciate the feedback.  If they don’t, then they aren’t much of a professor.

Skim the chapter

Read definitions of key terms.  Highlight sections that grab your attention.  Take a look over charts and graphics.

At this stage, you don’t need to think about the information.  By this point, you should have a general sense of what the chapter is trying to say.  If questions come to mind, write them down and try to answer them in the next phase.

Break

Take a 5 minute break.  Mentally bounce what you just read around in your mind.  There is no need to draw conclusions.

Phase 3: Knowledge Creation

Other than removing distractions, this is the most critical phase.  It will take time.  It may not be easy.  However, it will help you get what you need from the textbook.

Reading

Read the chapter word for word.  Re-read the summary.  Take the time to consider definitions in a way that will help you understand what the term means.

Highlight key concepts.  Think about them, too.  Ask yourself “what does this concept mean in the context of this class and my life?  How can I apply it?”

While reading, take notes based on how you understand what you are reading; you can always check your understanding with your professor.  These will be useful in class and later in life.  The way that you understand the content is more important than how the textbook presents it. Exact format is unimportant: mind maps are effective, but you may find other forms of notes to be more effective.

If there are example exercises, do at least a few of them.  This is especially important for math-heavy classes.  Do the math; it will make your in-class and in-exam life less painful.

Re-read sections that do not make sense.  Take a 5 minute break to consider a section if it still does not make sense.  Write down questions.

Review

Reading needs to be done first; however, review is just as important for retention of information and creating knowledge.

Open the textbook to the appropriate chapter, read over your notes, highlighted concepts, and sections that didn’t quite make sense.  Consider how it could apply to your life or how you assume it applies to the context of the class associated to the textbook.  Think of examples of putting the chapter concepts to use.  Spend at least 10-20 minutes reflecting on the material.

Review in a way that fits the class material.  For dense and complex textbooks like those I read for psychology and consumer behaviour classes, I recommend taking additional time for review.  When I took those classes, I would dedicate the first 4 hour session to reading with some time to review, and then a 2-3 hour block either the next day or later in the same day to review and re-skim the chapter.

Break Away

Organize and collect your notes.  Close the textbook.

You’re done…for now.

Phase 4: Final Review

Re-skim the chapter and your notes the night before or the day of (if you have the time) class.  I know some students that re-read the entire chapter.  Write down any new understandings of the material that come to mind as you revisit it; same for questions.

Bring your knowledge to class.  Answer questions.  Ask questions.  Feel smart.

How do you read your textbooks?  Is there a specific ritual like the one I’ve described?  Tell us about it in ta comment.

Branding, Marketing, and some Queens

One of my favourite podcasts is the Rock Star Branding podcast put together by Brian Thompson, Michael Brandvold, and Greg Kihn.  This week’s podcast focused on the difference between branding and marketing.  These terms are often used interchangeably, and as a marketer myself, I find that confusion to be dangerous to entrepreneurs and business owners.  Brian, Michael and Greg did a fantastic job of explaining the difference in the podcast, so what I will do is show you my current favourite example of each.

First of all, let’s start with textbook.  The 3rd edition of Marketing An Introduction defines it as “…the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, partners, and society” (Armstrong, Kotler, Cunningham, & Buchwitz, 2010, pg. 7).  A bit of a mouthful.  

The same text goes on to define as brand as “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” (Armstrong, Kotler, Cunningham, & Buchwitz, 2010, pg. 328).  Less intense than the first, though not as all inclusive as I would like.

Queens Branding & Marketing

I’ve been on a Queens of the Stone Age kick for the past month.  The marketing campaign for their new album, …Like Clockwork, has driven me into a fanatic, frothy-mouthed frenzy of desire to purchase the album, and while the record will be released by a new record label (QOTSA was signed to Interscope, now signed to Matador), the band’s brand has remained in tact during the course of the campaign.

When I think of Queens of the Stone Age the words I associate with the brand are “mysterious”, “blunt”, and “uncompromising”.  Lead singer/guitarist Josh Homme is notorious for not divulging more information than he has to.  Given that he never gets asked about his personal life in interviews, I have a hunch that he has a long list of rules for an interview (and yes, those are a real and normal thing – ALWAYS talk to the journalist before the interview and lay down the rules).  Homme and the band are well-known for being uncompromisingly blunt to the point of being rudejust plain silly, or accidentally explaining his rude outburst at Norwegian Wood.  Regardless of your personal opinion of Homme’s behaviour, you understand how forthright he is and that the band is an extension of how he brands himself (though his branding may just be personality over purposeful choice).

Homme is a representation of Queens of the Stone Age’s brand: an image created and maintained across every medium the band uses to communicate to and with the public.  Marketing is about campaigns designed to encourage purchasing the upcoming album.  As I already mentioned, the marketing campaign promoting …Like Clockwork is a brilliant example of how branding and marketing interact to enrapture fans and non-fans alike.

Clockwork Campaigns

I picked up most of the album’s marketing campaign via Facebook, though it campaign utilized FacebookTwitterYouTube, the likeclockwork.tv website, and an iPhone application called Vine.  By using short, assertive sentences with ambiguous or meaning, the mystery, bluntness, and uncompromising image of the brand is maintained and the marketing campaign rolls on.

Below is a gallery of the Facebook posts that are part of the marketing campaign.  Read the text and take in the images.  To me, each post reads as a mysterious and blunt – just like how the band has branded itself.  The images are bleak and mysterious.  The copy and images are branded content that are part of a marketing campaign.

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The Take-Away

Branding: How a product(s), service(s), person(s), and/or company are presented and what they stand for.  Think of it as the image or words that come into your mind when you consider the product, service, person or company.

Marketing: Campaigns meant to spread awareness, encourage purchase, build brand loyalty, maintain brand image in the customer’s mind, and/or any other objective related to building at business/brand.

Does that make sense?  Comment below, email me, tweet me, just make sure you tell me if this still doesn’t make sense.  I am more than happy to help you understand the two concepts discussed above.

All images are copyright of their respective owners and publishers.