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This photo was taken at New Belgium Brewing HQ in Fort Collins Colorado. It’s the journal written by now ex-owner and founder Jeff Lebesch. In his travels across Europe where he gained inspiration for his nascent brewing business and captured those stories within. When you visit New Belgium you are struck by the pervasive use of storytelling and story making employed to communicate the businesses history, growth and modern incarnation.

On Friday I published a LinkedIN article “How to hire a Chief Storyteller” in it I use the example of the message “hidden” inside Dr. Seuss’ children’s classic Green Eggs & Ham.

Stories are the language of human communication. From the camp fire to the modern advertisement the best persuasive communication are stories.

That doesn’t mean we communicate in stories 100% of the time. There is a time and a place for cold hard facts, strategic messaging and even debate.

That being said storytelling is a critical part of our communications tool box and every company needs a Chief Storyteller to be responsible for forging, wielding and maintaining this important tool.

If you are over the age of 27 and want to feel like an underachiever read this book. Ryan Holiday takes you on a journey from being VP of Mrketing at American Apparel,where apparently his days started quite leisurely and involved a steam room, to the bleeding edge of business growth.

The book is more about the mindset of Growth Hacking than anything else. And there is where it shines. Whilst many of it’s explicit examples are squarely targeted at the world of start ups the lessons are universal.

Holiday cracks open marketing with an analytical bent, challenges traditional thinking, mixes in an accelerated view of product development, product market fit and how to do so with a questioning, scientific mindset.

At it’s crux growth hacking is about using all tools at your disposal to grow a business. Marketing traditionally has been about generating future demand. And gets hung up on intangibles like awareness and branding. Growth Hacker Marketing brings the demand generation into the now and the modern technology platform of the web and social help facilitate that in ways that don’t look or feel like traditional marketing. But they still grow the business.

It’s a fun read, packed full of good references and examples. Additionally Ryan goes to the additional mile to share his recommendations for other great reads and next steps to get you on your way.

*Father’s too… but, well you didn’t have to deal with the pregnancy. No, shut up, you didn’t.

Read this post as if Jim Gaffigan were reading it. Specifically as if he were reading it like he was reading his book; Dad is Fat. Which my beautiful wife and best friend gave me for Xmas. If you don’t know who Jim Gaffigan is (most people in England for example) he’s an American comedian and is rather funny.

Every time a friend or colleague is in the run up to becoming a parent I share a few quips with them about the journey they are about to embark on. Both to impart my vast and seasoned experience as a parent which I can leverage to make me look important but also, and mainly, to pass on good advice I received pre-fatherhood. All advice which I can report back from the battle field that… yup… it’s all true.

On to the quips.

Pregnancy is fraught with concern and worry. The good news is it doesn’t last forever. The Pregnancy that is. The bad news is that it’s just preparing you for the concern and worry of parenthood. This will only last for for approximately the rest of your life.

Parenthood is one of life’s most unique experiences. It is in fact the original, unique experience. Net to finding a good cave to have the baby in.

Parenthood is one of the hardest things to do. Trumped only by pregnancy and giving birth. It is by far the most amazing, rewarding, delightful, love filled, “I feel like my heart can’t get any bigger” thing any human can do. Your life is about to change FOREVER in the most amazing ways.

Also you won’t get any sleep any more. But luckily pregnancy has been getting you ready for that.

Make the most of your life now. It will be gone come the arrival of your little one. It’ll be amazing and different, of course. It’s just that your old life will be a closed chapter. Get out, go on some dates, see a movie or two in the cinema for the last time in the next five years. Enjoy the end of this chapter so you are ready to throw yourself head long into the next one.

Get ready for the adventure!

Edit: Imagine my horror today when I discovered one of the main reasons we hated the Vue was *still a problem* with the product Keurig sent to replace. The problem**: they added DRM to their 2.0 coffee machines! Not to fear, you can get around the problem http://www.keurighack.com/ Plus coffee + starwars, let’s just say the video is a fun watch regardless. And here is some CNN Money coverage of the topic.

**Not being in the market I hadn’t researched the product offered to me by Keurig. I still can’t fault their stellar customer service.

AKA how Keurig just made me a customer for life.

Put simply: they know how to turn frustration into an amazing customer experience.

In more detail;

We had purchased a Keurig about 6 months ago. My wife saw a “great deal” on Groupon for a fancy new “Vue”. We had loved our original Keurig machine. We discovered it via a friend. He loved his and when we visited we enjoyed it for the whole weekend. We *had* to get one. So we did. The K-cups were reasonably priced and there was a whole ecosystem around them. Third party brands, different types of coffee. You name it.

The “Vue” was none of that. Oh, yeah, it had the same benefits as far as automation is concerned, and some fancy new features. However within a few minutes of opening the box we discovered to our horror, the cups were different. Wait. What? Different? Why would they do this*. We had been conditioned by Keurig to think the K-cups were Keurig. We never expected a different cup. An incompatible cup. Cups that are hard to come by, are quite a lot more expensive, and in our case Costco never seemed to sell.

*to differentiate, add value and innovate and to their credit try be more ‘green’. Unfortunately in this case it seems to have back fired. The Vue doesn’t appear to have been well received, or successful and never really got great reviews.

This mornings caffeine related needs were the straw that broke the camels back. I decided to tweet my frustration, as I sipped a cup of English breakfast tea. Don’t be fooled, I was enjoying my tea. I love my tea. I love my coffee too.

The tweets;

coffee

They replied. Then DM’d. Seven hours later I had a phone call. With a very kind offer. 60% of a “Keurig 2.0” system <reels of list of features>. When pressed he offered to throw in two free boxes of coffee. I expressed my appreciation but that frankly at $70 added to the $70+ I spent on the “Vue” that I wasn’t really a happy customer still. It was ‘ok’ but I didn’t want to spend any more money on a company and products I didn’t feel great about, at that time. I suggested that I would continue sharing my experiences and that I’d be more than happy to return the old unit to Keurig in exchange for a replacement, a “2.0” if you will. I’m not out to scam any one. I just want an awesome automated coffee maker. And to do business with great companies.

After asking for the serial number the nice chap on the phone asked if I minded being put on hold. Several minutes later he returned, and, voila. Keurig agreed that for the return of the ‘brew head’ from our “Vue” they would send me a “2.0” which is now on it’s way to us and should be here in 5-7 business days.

And that leads us to this post.

The reason why this matters is, put simply, as follows; In today’s customer centric economy there are simply too many options for you to afford losing any customers. Let alone treating customers in a way that will result in them bashing them to their friends, and quite frankly their thousands of twitter followers, LinkedIn contacts and Facebook friends. You have to aim for AMAZING. “Good” is just that, it’s OK, it’s good, it’s as our friends in the valley so like to say “table stakes”. It doesn’t retain you, it certainly doesn’t make you loyal and you as a customer are primed to jump ship at a moments notice… Good isn’t good enough, not any more.

If you want to be REMARKable, to be REMARKED upon in a positive manner in this highly connected over saturated world where opinions matter and spread like wild fire then you have to aim to create AMAZING customer experiences.

Kudos to Keurig. They just won a customer for life. And I’m happy to share this experience with you.

What was your best recent customer service experience? Or worst? What did it leave you feeling? What was the outcome? What was the company involved?

I just waxed lyrical on this subject over on LinkedIn in “Creating marketing that doesn’t suck”.

What I’m driving at is that marketing that just served brands has a limited shelf life, and much of it is festering. Marketing that also has value in and of itself, for the customer, is what modern marketing is increasingly looking like.

Do you ever feel sold to, even by the shorter, cutesy, more entertaining advertisements? We all do and that is the crux of the issue. The best marketing and advertising crops up for you when it is most relevant and helpful to you. The challenge for all marketers is creating the right content and finding the best places to put it so that can happen.

When marketers do that, marketing doesn’t suck.

I go into more detail here.

Flavor-and-Fuel-Poster-FINALhr

Flavor and Fuel is a short film about what it takes to do the amazing. It is an exploration of the lives of people who make two very different companies tick. Each company has a different product, business, approach, location, audience, and group of employees. Despite their differences, there are ties that bind and commonalities which are universal. Namely, a journey in which anyone who has pursued something of passion in their life will enjoy.

The film’s IMDB entry is here, please watch the film and rate it!

The two businesses couldn’t be more different: Lotus F1 Team is a Formula One racing team based at Enstone in Oxfordshire in the United Kingdom while New Belgium Brewing is a craft brewer based in Fort Collins, Colorado in the United States. The former has a brand that inspires sleek and cool with a truly global feel; the latter, warm and textured with a genuinely local vibe. The film follows employees of Lotus F1 Team and New Belgium Brewing as they pursue their passions, overcome challenges, and exhibit sheer tenacity while doing amazing things for their fans.

Every human enterprise shares a few key traits. First, there is the essence, the idea, the flavor of the enterprise. What do the people who are so passionately engaged in this pursuit truly care about? It’s this core of an idea that keeps people committed and prepared to pour their heart and soul into something. It’s what attracts other people to a commonly held ideal. Secondly there is the drive, the energy, and the human capital any given person is prepared to sacrifice for an undertaking. This human energy, this fuel is the air that we breathe, the life we invest, and the time we spend doing something we love. The forging of these elements together in the pursuit of goals is the essence of success.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy Flavor and Fuel – A Story of Modern Craftsmanship (video link).

Heading into the new year many of us take time to ponder our plans for the future. A key component of this is understanding your purpose in life.

In this letter to a personal friend the legendary writer Hunter S. Thomson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) answer the question on "what is my purpose in life". Not surprisingly it is well written and witty. My purpose is different to your purpose and well…. Read on to hear what he says.

These 7 questions to ask yourself will help you with your purpose, direction, job, life…. Basically with all of it. It is an irreverent, funny (in a "because it’s true" kind of a way) take on finding ones purpose.

This topic is so important. In our high tech, high paced, high demand world it’s easy to miss out on the approaches you can take to bring creativity into your life. This is important because creativity isn’t just about artistic past times like painting or photography it is the living breathing heart of human ingenuity.

In this article 12 things you were not taught in school about creativity smashes some of the propaganda and assumptions that plague creativity and how it is viewed in the workplace. I’m not sure what did it, the industrial revolution creating an over bearing sense of rational rules all or if was something else. Whatever it was, and for the longest time, many of those in the west have by in large assumed creativity is something separate to industrious productivity. It’s simply not true. “12 things” will help you retune your brain.

And in this MIT Technology review you will gain epic perspective on how to unleash your creativity by none other than Issac Assimov himself. Scientist, prolific author inventor of the concept of Androids (i.e. I, Robot) lays out some ground rules to tap into and harness both your creativity and that of the people you work on. It was actually a DARPA paper. How about that!

I initially saw this as a chain letter from a friend. But it struck me that it has inherent value when you add the ‘why’ of each book. How did it influence me. What have you loved to read and how did it influence you?

1. Secret Diary of Adrian mole aged 13 3/4 – Sue Townsend

Inspired me to start a diary in 1990 which I’ve never stopped.

2. The Art of War – Sun Tzu

Is a fascinating perspective on human conflict and ‘taking whole’. It’s much much more than a ‘handbook for conflict’. I feel it helps me better understand humanity and our interconnectedness with each other an the world.

3. Snow crash – Neal Stephenson

4. Cuckoos egg – Cliff Stoll

3&4 are in no small part why I work in hi-tech.

5. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho.

A beautiful metaphor for interconnectedness.

6. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Opened my mind up to all the fiction could be.

7. Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

Resonated with me as a child and inspired me to work hard in life

8. Consider Phelbas – Ian M Banks

Fueled my love for Sci-Fi and influenced my own writing.

9. The Elegant Universe – Graeme Greene

Research for my 2nd novel, and my love of astrophysics and quantum mechanics (what, you didn’t know that about me?)

10. Thought as a System – David Bohm

Research for my 2nd novel and ended up profoundly affecting how I viewed the world, people, thought and the interconnectedness of our own minds with the fabric of space time.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it did. The concept of the infographic was hijacked to mean “any colourful (colorful) representation of data”.

And I know you could ‘argue’ that it’s ‘information’ in a ‘graphical form’. It’s an argument that is as developed as the thinking behind what the “infographic” has become. And if you use it I’m going to assume that you are in the group of marketers who are making the sort of “infographics” I’m critiquing. It’s OK to create cool, beautiful graphics with stats in them, just please I implore you not to think of them as or call them an infographic.

An infographic conveys a lot of complex data in a visual story that captures your attention at a high-level then draws you in. Subsequently delivering further layers of information in a consumable manner that would otherwise make your eyes glaze over. The result? You come away from it with some hitherto unknown insight into said topic.

An Infographic (click for readable source):

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Not an infographic, but that’s OK (link) just don’t call it an infographic Smile

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That’s right, just putting numbers or a chart/bar graph on a poster doesn’t magically bestow it infographic status.

Little known fact: some of the best Infographics are about coffee.

And this is one (below) of my favorites by The Oatmeal. Note how it’s not just a bunch of stats prettied up and how it mixes in all sorts of interesting information visually that helps you remember… such as the coffee belt bit.

Now, what do you think? And what is your favorite infographic?

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