Category Archives: branding

No one cares about seeing you live.

I haven’t blogged in a while.

Kinda got bogged down by life, but I’ve had the itch, but didn’t want to write just to be writing.

I had to be inspired. You know what I’m sayin’?

Anywho…

File this under “rant”.

Remember when Ustream came out?

Everyone was so excited about being able to see their favorite artist, entertainer, comedian or speaker streaming live from an event.

The appeal of Ustream was the fact that you could see live events without actually having to attend.

Since Ustream, there have been many more copycats in its wake trying to replicate that appeal of Ustream with varying degrees of success.

Take for example Meerkat (now Houseparty), which purported to offer users the ability to stream events live directly from their mobile phones.

While streaming in the correct orientation was somewhat of a challenge, and getting people to tune in to your stream while your stream was live was also somewhat difficult, it did reinforce the belief that live streaming was a thing of the future.

Where Ustream had opened up something that people were really interested in, Meerkat took it one step further with their mobile app.

Then came Twitter which also offered a live streaming option in the form of Periscope.

And we all know how that went…

Does anyone actually use Periscope?
These live streaming forays were all followed up, of course, by Facebook Live, which is by far one of the more popular live streaming applications out there.

There are others out there too, like Instagram, but they’re all ‘also-rans’ so I’m not going to devote too much time reviewing each one.

Suffice it to say, if you’re trying to live-stream anything, you’ve got options.

So what does this all mean?

It means that people who have no business streaming their business to the world are all over my feed with their foolishness.  

That’s what.

Every workout, walk down the block, shopping trip, bar mitzvah – every mundane pieces of peoples’ lives are being streamed and broadcast live as if anyone gives two shits.

Why am I getting notifications that “Jerome is now live!”?

I don’t give a fuck!

There’s double entendres at play when you say something is live.

The obvious connotation, is that there’s something happening right now, in real time.

The other, is a form of slang, which implies that an event is exciting, engaging, ‘poppin’.

But nine times out of ten, Facebook Live events are anything but.

And I’m just going to put it out there, turning in a circle to give a panoramic view of your setting, walking around to create a sense of movement or holding your phone high above your head in your outstretched hand does nothing to make your stream any liver.

What has live streaming actually accomplished?

Deepened the cult of narcissistic personality that grips today’s society?

Giving folks a misplaced sense of importance?

Generating a glut of bad videos?

Do you Facebook Live or live stream yourself?

How many people have actually tuned in?

How many people have watched after the stream ended?

Few to none, I’m sure.

You’re probably thinking, “if I keep it up, more people will tune in.” Right?

Wrong.

No one cares about your live streams.

So stop.

You’re embarrassing yourself.

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Filed under branding, opinion, rant

5 Resolutions to make Your Brand more Social in 2015

2015_loading

It’s that time of year again, where folks publicly state the things that they are (or aren’t) going to do in the upcoming year.

Cats resolve to do everything from losing weight, getting organized, finding a new job, drinking less, to saving money, eating healthier or reducing stress.

By and large, we make personal or individual resolutions, but very rarely do we devote this type of attention to our brands. But if  you think about it, was 2014 a stellar year for your brand? Aren’t there things you wish you had done better last year?

I’m sure there are.

But you didn’t.

In fact, you probably couldn’t have been more social because you don’t know what you were doing wrong.

Lets think about this for a moment, shall we?

Your Facebook page could have been more engaging. Right?

Right.

You probably could have posted more on Facebook, uploaded more flicks on Instagram, responded to more people who commented on your blog, or reciprocated more follows on Twitter. Right?

Right.

To be plain, you could have been more social.

But you weren’t.

Worry not my friend!

Here ere are five resolutions to make your brand more social in 2015.

Resolution No. 1. I will go mobile this year.

Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. Did I say “mobile?”2015 will be the Year of Mobile. Brands who adopt a mobile-first approach, will far outpace those which fail to accept the fact that the mobile is the sweet spot for brands – especially in the retail and self-service industries. Mobile is the primary means through which folks are getting online, browsing and making discrete purchase/payments. With Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Wallet and other mobile payment platforms, it’s the key to unlocking tight sales and generating revenue across screens.

One brand that has taken the importance of mobile and social to heart is Williams-Sonoma. The Williams-Sonoma family of brands, which include Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, pottery barn kids, PBTeen, West Elm and Mark and Graham, have embraced mobile with mobile web properties that are simple to navigate and resulted in expansive growth of their brands online. In their annual report, Williams-Sonoma cites e-commerce as their “fastest growing business” and a “significant part of their sales success.” Other brands should look to companies like Williams-Sonoma, to see how mobile can be effectively leveraged in 2015.

Resolution No.2. I will implement a loyalty program.

Loyalty is becoming increasingly valuable to users who are looking to stretch their dollars. Who doesn’t want to be rewarding for spending money on the brands they patronize? More importantly, in this “look at me” world we live in, folks are quick to share that free coffee they just earned on Starbucks on Facebook (or Twitter) or invite friends to take advantage of a special offer (especially if it means they can earn more loyalty points for doing so).

Loyalty is especially important in the retail space. When the price of an item is virtually the same regardless of vendor, loyalty is sometimes the difference between making the sale or not. Best Buy has a particular good loyalty program, which rewards patrons for spending with them. Best Buy customers earn points for every dollar they spend, which can be redeemed for reward certificates. Loyalty members also qualify for discounts, free shipping and hosts of other special promotions. Starbucks, Sephora and Walgreens each have loyalty programs that reward customers who enroll.

Resolution No.3. I will use text messaging to engage.

Mass push notifications (aka text messaging) are a rudimentary, but effective way of interacting with your current or potential customers. Even though it seems counterintuitive in this age of smart phones, apps and responsive mobile sites, texting is still effective for reaching millions of mobile users who relish the quick tidbits of information that can be shared in 160 characters or less. One great thing about text messages is that, in addition to their brevity, you can embed links, which will let the user access greater detail, if they want, with a simple click.

Beyond the ability to broadcast messages to large numbers of people simultaneously, text messaging is far less intrusive than email, as users opt-in to receive them. Thus, there is a far greater likelihood of your messages being read and acted upon. There are a number of brands effectively using text messaging to engage with their audiences, including retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Aeropostale. Each of these brands understand the importance of text messaging, alongside their other targeted marketing efforts.

Resolution No. 4. I will use social media more.

Instagram has become the de facto platform to connect with this social demographic. But Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ (among others) still have a place with millions of users. This year, resolve to connect with your audience across multiple SM platforms. Even if you’re not creating unique content for each channel, at a minimum, make sure you’re broadcasting across all of them.

In 2014, brands like Fiat, Jockey and Burton, all made effective use of social media. By focusing on greater engagement, thoughtful campaigns and a commitment to truly using social media platforms, these brands were able to connect with and grow their respective bases in 2014.

Resolution No. 5. I will refresh my content regularly.

There is no worse sin in social media than stale content. Something new happens every day, so there’s no reason for your content to be static. Whether it’s a new sale, coupon, discount, store opening, product release, acquisition, whatever, updating your website or social media profiles with the new is always a good look for your brand. More importantly, by regularly refreshing your content, you give your users a reason to visit your site, social media space, or mobile app frequently.

I’m not talking about being social for social’s sake.

There’s nothing to be gained from spending all day on Facebook (or any other social media platform) if there’s no appreciable ROI.

I am talking about leveraging social media to enhance your brand and strengthen the ties that bind you with your current and potential audience.

As customers become increasingly more mobile and social, adopting a strategy that accepts this as a starting point becomes critical to the success of any initiative.

If you’re struggling to figure out how to adopt of develop a more social strategy or implement mobile effectively, or if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

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Filed under branding, mobile, social media

Go loyal. Five tips for building a loyalty campaign.

Loyalty

If you’re anything like me, you’re a loyalty whore.

If a brand or business I patronize has any kind of loyalty program, sign me up!

CVS, Duane Reade, Starbucks, Amtrak, US Airways, Starwood, Modell’s, Whole Foods, Children’s Place.

You name it, I’m registered.

And why the fuck not?

If I’m spending my hard earned dough buying your goods or services, why shouldn’t I be rewarded?

Sure, I’ve got to spend $1,000 in order to get $5 off my next $500 purchase, or fly a gazillion miles to upgrade to first class, but so what?

I’m being rewarded for my loyalty!

And loyalty equals retention equals repeat purchases and visits.

As happy as I am to find that a business I support has a loyalty program, I am equally dismayed when they don’t.

Really, why wouldn’t you want to incentivize patronage?

In this competitive day and age, when shoppers have so many choices of where they can spend their dollars, doesn’t it make sense to offer something your competitors don’t?

If you’ve thought about implementing a loyalty program, but don’t know where to start or think that it’s too expensive or difficult to manage, here are five simple tips to get your loyalty game popping!

1. Use an existing loyalty platform.

If you’re unsure of how to start a loyalty program, fear not. There are a number of really good off-the-shelf loyalty programs that you can use to get started. They don’t require any technical expertise, and in many instances, they’re free.

loyalblocks

One such program is LoyalBlocks. LoyalBlocks is a loyalty app for businesses. It’s fully customizable and allows merchants to offer promotions and specials to their customers, in exchange for frequent visits. With LoyalBlocks, you simply set up your ‘loyalty club,’ create your rewards, custom specials, punch card offers and in-store content, and you’re ready to go. There’s also a customer-facing app which your customers can download and start getting rewards.

shopkick

Shopkick is another app that rewards users for simply walking into different businesses. Partner stores and establishments benefit from the foot traffic and engagement. With Shopkick, users who visit partner businesses receive “kicks” or points, which can be accumulated and redeemed for rewards. Businesses who sign up for Shopkick receive beacons which can be discretely installed, and which track when users are in (or near) their stores. Shoppers can receive targeted offers and prompts, based on their location to drive sales.

Still a lil’ gun-shy and just want to test the waters? Then FourSquare may be perhaps the simplest way to get started. Currently, there are over 50 million people using Foursquare to find businesses. The simple act of having visitors check-in to your business via FourSquare and share that check-in with their networks, can prove an invaluable driver for your business. FourSquare’s online tools for merchants let businesses track visitors, create ads, special offers and deals.

2. Give something away!

retailmenot

One sure fire way to get people into your store is giving something away – discount on their next purchase, 2 for 1 special, coupon or gift-with-purchase – anything to make customers feel like they’re saving a buck. Apps like RetailMeNot have made it super easy for businesses or brands to give potential customers a reason to shop with them. RetailMeNot operates the world’s largest marketplace for digital offers, enabling consumers across the globe to find hundreds of thousands of digital offers from their favorite retailers and brands. App users can search through offers, which can be redeemed in store or online.

groupon

Similarly, platforms like Groupon or Living Social, which offer steeply discounted deals, are another way of giving customers (and potential customers) a means through which they can get down with your brand. By routinely publishing special offers, your customers will have a reason to check in on you often to make sure they’re not missing out!

3. Incentivize sharing.

If you’ve ever purchased a Groupon or a Living Social deal, you know that you can get your deal for free by inviting your friends to buy the same deal. If the deal is compelling enough, it’ll gives users a reason to share. Even if the person who shared the deal can’t get enough of their friends to buy it (and thereby earn their’s free), people love to announce the fact that they just copped a good deal to the world. By adding social sharing capabilities to your offers, you’re taking advantage of folks’ natural narcissistic inclination to share.

4. Make it social.

Much like the point above, we live in an increasingly connected world, where virtually everything we do is posted on social media. Folks share when they’re on their commute to work, when they’re eating out, when they’re at the gym, even when they’re doing nothing. People spend more time on social media than they do with their children. Make it easy for your users to share by building social sharing capabilities directly into your loyalty program. More importantly, give points for liking you on Facebook, tweeting about your experience or adding a hashtag to a picture and posting it on Instagram and engaging in that social behavior. Social is an increasingly important part of most people’s lives nowadays, so get in on the action!

5. Promote. Promote. Promote.

icon_promote

If you’ve got a marketing budget, think about taking out ads talking about your loyalty program. Set aside part of that budget on Google Ads that drive specifically to your loyalty landing pages or to landing pages where your loyalty program is featured prominently.  Don’t have a budget? Then tweet, post status updates on Facebook and hashtag the heck out of some flicks to drive awareness about your new program.

If a loyalty program falls in the forest and there is no one around, does it make a sound? There’s nothing worse than a loyalty program that no one knows about. So don’t let your loyalty program languish in obscurity. Talk about it!

Have some ideas on building a loyalty program, I’d love to hear about it. So feel free to comment below.

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Filed under apps, branding

My Top Ten Takeaways from INBOUND14

INBOUND 2014

At this time last week, I was leaving INBOUND14, HubSpot’s annual conference, which brought together some of the biggest and brightest in marketing, technology, e-commerce and business.

Over the course of four days, I sat through numerous keynotes, talks, breakouts and hands-on learning sessions, led by industry titans like Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, Guy Kawasaki and Martha Stewart.

Yes. I said Martha Stewart.

I finally had a chance to go over all my notes in Evernote (I’m kinda digging Evernote, y’all) and I’ve put together a list of my top ten takeaways from Inbound 2014.

1. It’s all about context.

While everyone is talking about mobile, mobile, mobile, we should be talking about mobile in context to the overall user experience. Our focus should be on how optimizing users’ interaction with our brands regardless of entry point (desktop, tablet, mobile or kiosk).

2. Experience over technology.

If you line up two similar products, side-by-side, the one that performs better is the one that’s going to win. When you’re competing for users’ time, attention and money, you’ve got to create an exceptional, seamless, quality user experience, for all touch points.  Brands should focus on ensuring that their website, mobile site, application, or products enhances the user experience.

3. Blend the physical with the digital.

Users are expecting brands to provide them with greater information to enable them to make informed decisions in real time. The best brands are allowing users to seamlessly move from physical (a product with a QR code) to digital (which is scanned and provides product information and “Buy Now”, “Add to Wishlist” or “Email to a Friend” options) are the brands that are going to win.

4.  Think customer first.

Old school marketing put the brand voice first. New school marketing puts the consumer voice first. Today’s engagement focuses on the consumer and is tailored to address their needs. More listening and less talking. When designing online, mobile or interactive experiences, the focus should be on building (or deepening) brand equity rather than selling.

5.  Rethink mobile.

Stop thinking of the mobile device as THE entry point, and start thinking of it as AN entry point. Rethinking mobile means placing the consumer at the center of your strategy (and not the device). It means realizing that sometimes a user is not going to want to interact with you via mobile, and being okay with that. It means to stop comparing mobile to desktop (and expecting engagement, conversions, page views, time on site, etc.) to be the same. It means that if the user is spending any time with your brand over any medium, you’re doing something right.

6.  Stay fluid.

It’s very easy to be set in your ways. But it’s better to be agile and responsive. You should always be listening, be prepared to react and be willing to change. Users respond favorably when they know you’re listening, paying attention to their concerns, and implementing solutions that make interacting with your brand easier or more fulfilling.

7.  Think holistically.

Sometimes, the best way to engage users may, in fact, be offline. Since we always have our mobile devices with us, brands have the ability to seamlessly marry our off and online worlds. By paying attention to more traditional modes of communication (billboards, text) brands can create numerous opportunities for engagement, where the medium is subservient to the message.

8.  Subtract, don’t act.

One theme that was repeated throughout the sessions, was the importance of simplifying your apps to accommodate the user’s primary objectives when interacting with your brand. Brands like Hilton and Torchy Tacos simplified their apps to “bare bones”, which pushed engagement and increased their bottom line.

9.  Think about why we are mobile.

While most of us equate “mobile” with “phone” it really means “the act of moving about freely.” Your mobile strategy should be about enhancing that sense of freedom, and not restricting it. Brands should focus on understanding the behavior of their users, and devising strategies that meet us where we are, rather than forcing us to interact in rigidly defined ways.

10.  Facilitate experiences.

When it comes to mobile, your primary objective is to help people do what their doing better. Moreover, your mantra should be: “Don’t interrupt. Enhance.” Rather than simply push a new app, update or feature, focus on what your customers are doing and seek ways to enhance the user experience.

If you’re interested in checking out some really great recaps of the sessions, visit inbound.org.

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Filed under branding, digital advocacy, mobile, technology

I am a Rockstar. You are a Rockstar. A study in self confidence.

Lipperhey_portrait

I regularly find myself giving out sage advice to folks.

Of course my advice is sage, why else would people seek me out I offer it unsolicited?

Anywho, the advice I give ranges widely from person to person.

Sometimes its about technology, sometimes business, sometimes branding.

But usually, its about helping folks to overcome whatever obstacles they face in their path to success – however “success” is defined.

“Stephen, how can I get my boss to give me more money?”

“Stephen, I don’t feel appreciated at my job. What should I do?”

“Stephen, why do I keep getting passed over for promotions?”

“Stephen, can you show me how to get more followers on Twitter?”

“Stephen, what if no one reads my blog?”

I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

And while the individuals and circumstances they find themselves in may change, there is one constant theme: self confidence.

I find that people are often unaware of their self-worth, and as a result constantly look to external sources for validation.

And that, my friends, is what I call “The Mind Fuck.”

The Mind Fuck is when the opinion of others matters more to you than your own (opinion).

You fuck yourself royally, when you’re incapable of achieving a sense of self-worth in the absence of the support of others.

But, it’s not your fault – well not totally your fault.

I’ll tell you why.

Since we were children, we’ve been programmed to seek the approval of others.

It started with our parents.

Oh how they cooed when we spoke our first word, ate solids for the first time, crawled, then walked, made caca on the potty.

Our formative years were spent being trained like puppies to live in civilized society.

Such that today, Like Pavlov’s dog, we still salivate for those doggy biscuits of approval.

With that kind of insidious brainwashing, it’s understandable why we fall into the trap of giving two shits about other people’s opinions.

What are we as humans, if not social creatures?

But that’s the rub.

Because we are all social creatures, we crave that approval, the “likes” and “follows,” shares and retweets, that say, “you are somebody” and (unfortunately) define many of our current social interactions.

And when we don’t get it, for whatever reason, many of us take it as a blow, a slight, a diminishment of who we are.

Why?

That’s easy: we’ve never cultivated our Inner Rockstar.

What’s an “Inner Rockstar”?

The Inner Rockstar is that thing that makes us unique.

It’s that special characteristic that sets us apart from the rest of the world.

It’s that thing that we possess, that defines us.

Maybe you’re a whiz with PowerPoint.

Or can automatically calculate the ROI for every dollar spent by your firm.

Perhaps you’ve revamped your company’s non-existent marketing strategy.

You might be able to whistle the Stars Spangled Banner with your nose.

Yes. Whistling through your nose is awesome.

Your Inner Rockstar is the part of you that is awesome, regardless of who else knows it.

“Okay Stephen, I’m a rockstar to myself.  So what?”

So what?

So everything!

What makes a rockstar a rockstar?

They let everyone know they’re a rockstar.

They may not rock a t-shirt emblazoned with “I Am A Rockstar” on it.

Although they should – it would make them easier to identify.

But they wear their rockstar status openly.

Think about it.

Tony Robbins. Wayne Dyer. Steve Jobs. Corey Booker. Mick Jagger.

What do all these people have in common?

Confidence and swagger.

They way they hold themselves out to the rest of the world.

The presence they command when they walk into a room.

It’s their confidence.

Confidence.

Plain and simple.

Confidence makes you a rockstar.

Don’t believe me? Try this little experiment.

The next time you’re with a group of people, offer up a fact about something obscure.

For example, did you know that Google Glass was actually conceived by the 16th century inventor Hans Lippershey, who created the telescope? He was the first person to conceptualize images projected on (or through) thin panes of glass. Google owes their innovation to Hans.

This is not true.

Hans Lippershey did invent the telescope, but didn’t conceptualize a wearable computer.

But if you present this information with confidence and authority, stating it as fact, 9 out of 10 people will believe you, without pause.

Why?

It is because Hans Lippershey actually developed a Google Glass concept in 1570?

No. It’s because of your delivery.

You sell it and they’ll buy it, hook, line and sinker.

Imagine, now, that you do everything with that same level of confidence.

Especially things that you’re good at.

I’m certain that you’ll start to realize that you’ve got some mojo.

To be clear, being confident and good at something will not necessarily make you a rockstar in the eyes of the public at large.

But if you can manage to convince yourself that you’re a rockstar, you’re one step closer to convincing others of the same thing.

Now get out there and rock out!

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Filed under branding

Take the Steak. Be fearless. Insight from Social Triggers.

newbrain

I was listening to an interview this morning with Adam Braun, the author of “The Promise of a Pencil.”

Braun is a philanthropist who left Bain Capital to start Pencils of Promise, a not for profit organization that builds schools and increases access to education for children in the developing world.

In the course of four years, Pencils of Promise has broken ground on over 200 schools and provided educational opportunities for more than 20,000 children.

A friend of mine put me up on this podcast, Social Triggers, and this interview is one of the episodes.

If you’re not up on Social Triggers, let me school you.

Social Triggers is a blog founded by Derek Halpern, an online and web traffic expert.

It’s also the title of his podcast series which provides advice on building and growing your brand online.

Halpern publishes a blog with over 100,000 subscribers and produces one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.

So the interview with Adam Braun was one of the many he offers to his listeners to help them be more successful.

Anywho, as I’m listening to the podcast, I’m struck by one story that Braun shares from his book.

Apparently, when he was being courted by Bain Capital, they took he (or is it “him”?), and the other Bain prospects, to an expensive dinner, where they were treated to Kobe steaks.

Having backpacked through the third world two months prior, subsisting on communal meals and charity, having a 2 pound steak all to himself was heaven.

He was seated next to a female partner who barely touched her steak, and she asked the waiter to take it away when she was done.

Rather than wait for the plate and steak to be bussed away (and after two months of “waste not want not”), he surreptitiously spirited the steak off of her plate onto his.

Needless to say he was not quite that surreptitious.

The partner noticed – as did the rest of the table.

And he became known as the guy who would “take your steak.”

At first glance, this incident seems embarrassing.

I mean, who takes a partially eaten steak off another’s plate?

A savage clearly.

But there is another way to see this.

And my rather long retelling is really meant to emphasize your one takeaway for today: Be fearless.

If you want something, go after it.

Boldly.

Take the steak off the plate.

Adam Braun wasn’t concerned about what people thought of him when he took the steak.

The partner was done with it and was going to send it back to the kitchen, where it was invariably going to be thrown away.

He wanted the steak.

Two months backpacking through developing nations, eating crickets and grass will do that to ya.

And so he took it.

No harm. No foul.

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Well it’s true.

You’ll never get anywhere sitting on your ass waiting for opportunity to find you.

You’ve got to create opportunities for yourself.

My friend D says that you should never couch things in terms of fear.

It’s a negative emotion.

But being fearless means that you are devoid of that negative emotion which holds many of us back.

Being fearless means that you make opportunities for yourself.

Being fearless means that you dive into the abyss.

Being fearless means that you start where conventional wisdom stops.

You take the steak.

If you’re about self-improvement, or simply want to learn more about Adam Braun’s experiences I’d definitely recommend his book “The Promise of a Pencil.”

And the next time you find yourself confronted with a situation and you’re unsure of what to do, think of Adam and take the steak.

Note: For my vegetarian readership, please replace “steak” with “eggplant.”

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Filed under advocacy, books, branding

When you’re amazing it shows. Ode to a professional gangsta.

You're packin' a mean piece o' steel, Mister.

You’re packin’ a mean piece o’ steel, Mister.

I know when you read the title of this post, you thought, “Oh here he goes again!”

And on a normal day you’d be right.

I would absolutely be talking about me.

Heaping mounds upon mounds of praise on myself, crowing about how great I am at everything I do, and how the world hangs on my every word.

But today, not so much.

You see, today I’m going to heap praise on someone whom I consider a professional gangsta.

Who, I might add, bullied me into even writing this post.

Listen to me when I talk, y’all.

G.A.N.G.S.T.A.

Her name is Dianne Ramlochan.

And she’s not to be trifled with.

In the almost two years that I’ve known her, she has impressed me as one singularly bent on getting her way.

It’s her way or the highway.

Perhaps it’s the only child thing.

Who knows.

But whatever Dianne wants, Dianne gets.

Case in point, I don’t usually “friend” co-workers and professional colleagues on Facebook.

I like to keep my virtual personal world separated from my real professional one. Ya’ dig?

We can be LinkedIn, and you may get a trickle of the virtual real me from the incomprehensibly-difficult-to-disconnect Facebook/LinkedIn nexus.

Can someone pleeeeaaassssseee tell me how to decouple this bullshit?

But by and large, you’re not peepin’ my personal shit online unless you’re digging.

Somehow, though, Ms. Ramlochan managed to Jedi mind trick me into waiving that work-professional life separation.

Don’t you know I friended this heifer?

And she’s following me on Twitter.

She famously quips about how if ever she can’t reach me at my desk via landline, email, mobile phone or text, she’ll “tweet” me.

Tweet me?

How are you going to be tweeting your project manager?

Have you ever heard of anything so ludicrous?

But that’s this chick.

To her credit, when I met her, she had just been hired to the team of one of the illest executive dudes I’ve come across to date.

No nonsense Anthony McLoughlin.

This dude was like Miles Finch from Elf – except a lil’ taller.

Point was, you didn’t eff with Anthony.

If you did, it was your ass.

And D worked for this dude.

Trial by fire is all I can say.

But then Anthony left for the West Coast, and Ms. Ramlochan inherited his fiefdom of projects, vendors and responsibilities.

And turned us all into her vassals.

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What it felt like to work for Dianne.

Overnight, we went from watching Dianne do all Anthony’s dirty work, to having to do Dianne’s dirty work.

I still get cold chills thinking about the day Dianne took over…

Homegirl is relentless.

RELENTLESS.

She had one word you never wanted to see come across your email.

“Unacceptable.”

That’s all she’d say.

Unacceptable this.

Unacceptable that.

Unacceptable the other.

Unacceptable, and cats would gets to steppin’!

Chills.

But we worked it out.

And in the process, she pushed through a few apps, next gen mobile web, iPad kiosk update, a couple of mobile web and app-specific pilots, and a tablet web project.

She had help, of course (=your’s truly), but it all went down under her watchful eye.

And now, she’s leaving the nest – where she truly learned to abuse fly – to new shores.

Those of Saks Fifth Avenue – heaven protect you (said in a whisper).

To leave a wake of psychologically traumatized victims forge new trails.

Anywho, on the last day of our professional lives together, I bid her adieu in the best way I know how.

Memorialized in my blog.

There, D. I’ve made you famous.

PS Congratulations on your new job!

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Let me give you some advice. Do you. No, seriously. Do you.

Keep Calm and Do You

When I was a kid, Nigerian folks would ask me “Chibuzor, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a question we’re all asked at some point in our lives.

Left to my own devices, I imagined myself doing all sorts of things.

I aspired to be an astronaut, race car driver, ninja, superhero.

Things an 11 or 12 year old kid could envision.

Being raised by two no-nonsense Nigerians, though, I always had a scripted answer to the old “whaddaya wanna be” query.

“An engineer.”

The response rolled off my tongue so genuinely and effortlessly, that it always elicited knowing nods of approval.

“That Chibuzor is such a good boy!”

I mean, what else would the son of a PhD and holder of two Masters’ degrees be, but an engineer?

My siblings and I each had our own pat response: “A doctor.” “An engineer.” “A banker.” “A scientist.”

Noble professions that would make any Nigerian parent proud.

And it’s not like we were talking shit.

Our parents went hard with the brainwashing.

If we hadn’t fully projected our future selves in our developing adolescent brains, it was up to Uneze and Nnenna to implant the seeds of our inevitable success themselves.

The fruits of their insidious psychological labor?

My sister went to Harvard and became a doctor. My brother went to Harvard and became a banker. My other brother went to Notre Dame and got his PhD in Economics. And the youngest brother recently graduated from Yale, is probably going to Harvard for his MBA, and will likely be another banker.

But that was them.

There was no Harvard for the kid.

I didn’t need no stinkin’ Ivy League degree to be successful.

If my future were based on things I liked to do at the time, I’d have been a professional masturbator, comic book collector or kung fu movie sound effects creator.

When I was growing up, it was enough just to have a response.

There was no follow-up. No “What kind of engineer?” “Where do you want to get your degree?” “Do you know who you want to work for?”

Nowadays, there’s so much pressure for kids to figure out exactly what they want to do with their lives.

This pressure starts early, with parents projecting upon children their unfulfilled dreams and desires.

“Ya gotta do better than your old man!”

Then society takes over, telling them they’ve got to go to school, get a degree and find a good job or profession.

“You’ll never get a good job if you don’t have a degree!”

Throughout life, there’s the mad dash up the corporate ladder, everyone vying for the elusive brass ring.

“If you ever want to make partner, you’ve got to put in overtime!”

So where did this leave me?

I never really bought into my father’s desire for me to become an engineer.

I didn’t even know what an engineer was, what an engineer did or who engineers worked for.

Weren’t engineers the guys who wore overalls and drove trains?

Who wants to drive a friggin’ train?

Although I did own several a pair of overalls…

Aside from pleasing my dad and relatives, I was just regurgitating party propaganda.

But true to form though, when I graduated high school and got to college, what was my major?

Engineering.

No one tells me what to do!

For two years, I took the required math and science classes and towed the engineer party line.

But my heart was never in it.

And two years later I transferred college, changed majors and graduated with a degree in economics – agricultural economics to be exact.

What the fuck is agricultural economics, you ask?

Agri-ecom (as I like to call it) deals with the production, consumption, environmental and resource problems of the agricultural sector.

What does one do with a degree in agricultural economics?

Go to law school of course!

Now did I want to be a lawyer?

Hell fucking no!

But what else was I going to do with an agri-ecom degree?

And when you tell a Nigerian you’re going to law school, they’re impressed.

Graduated. Passed the bar. Practiced law for a bunch of years.

You know what I learned?

I hated practicing law.

Was good at it. But hated it with a passion.

I’m not going to go into it in any great depth.

Suffice it to say that most laws are written to keep the ignorant masses in their place.  As long as you have enough money and influence, laws are almost irrelevant. And when you hear about avarice, corruption and graft in the halls of justice, believe it.

I shall now step off my soap box and continue.

After trying my hand at things I did just to be doing shit, I decided to just do me.

What, pray tell, does that mean?

It means that I accepted that my greatest gift, my raison d’etre, was to guide other people.

Help folks get out of their own way and realize their untapped potential.

I’m great at telling other people what to do giving advice.

I have an analytical mind, think well on my feet and can quickly assess any situation from multiple angles.

Combined with an awesome bedside manner, charm, wit and an wicked sense of humor, I make an excellent consigliere.

Don’t be mistaken, I am not a “yes” man.

Far from it.

I’m the guy that’ll tell you the truth, not what you want to hear.

Over the years, I’ve helped many a budding entrepreneur realize his or her dreams.

I’ve also disabused quite a few of their pipe dreams.

Why am I blathering on like this?

Simple, if you’re struggling to figure out what you should be doing with yourself – your life, seek  counsel.

Don’t ask your mom or dad, unless they’re titans of industry – and even then take their advice with a grain of salt.

Hellooooo? They’re the ones that got you into this mess in the first place!

Seek out folks in the industries that interest you, who are doing things you find intriguing, or have achieved some level of success that you could see yourself emulating.

If you can’t find someone like that or gain audience with them, get a career coach.

Someone professional and detached, who can assess you, your skills and aspirations objectively.

I went to one, several years ago, and it really helped to focus me on my mission – to conquer the world MWAHAHAHA!

I’m sorry, did I say that out loud?

My point is, don’t paint yourself into a corner trying to live up to other people’s expectations of you.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

Rather, focus on things that you enjoy and find challenging.

And if you don’t know what that is yet, that’s oaky, you’ve got a lifetime to figure it out.

If you get stuck, ask me.

I did tell you that I was an Emissary right?

Above all else, do you.

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Will Beats Music ‘beat’ the streaming music competition? Not with their technology they won’t.

UPDATE: I’ve reviewed the Beats app and you can check it out here.

Beats Music iOS

There’s a new player in the streaming music game, Beats Music.

Yes, Beats as in “Beats By Dre.”

Now at this point, I’d be telling you all about the ‘test drive’ I took of the app, and my general impressions.

But noooo. Beats Music isn’t that simple.

You see, I downloaded the app today, but getting up and running was anything but straightforward.

At the signup page, there were two options: “Sign Up” and “Log In.”

Beats Music Sign Up

I hit “Sign Up” as the service is new and I didn’t think I could use my MOG account.

After completing a few fields, I got a “Registration is Processing” alert.

Beats Music Registration is Processing

Processing? Am I being vetted?

So I took the other route and hit “Log In”.

What’s the harm right?

There was an option to login using either Facebook or Twitter.

Beats Music Log In Facebook or Twitter

I selected Facebook and after a few more pre-populated data entry fields, I got to a “You’re Almost Ready” screen, which I took to mean that I was almost done.

But noooo. Beats Music isn’t that simple.

When I hit “Submit” the screen kinda acted like it wanted to go on to the next step, but stalled.

I tried to click submit several times and several times the app almost did something, and then gave up.

Eventually, I got a “We’re Having Connection Problems.” message and gave up.

Beats Music We're Having Connection Problems.

So I can’t tell you whether Beats Music is any good or not.

But if you look at their website, it’s awesome.

Beats Music Site

It’s only logical that Dr. Dre brings his storied music brand to the streaming music arena.

Who better to help you curate the music thats playing on your Beats By Dre headphones than Dre himself?

Now I have no idea if Dr. Dre actually has anything to do with the introduction of Beats Music, but who cares?

Beats Music is actually a collaboration by Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine and Trent Reznor.

The fact is that you now have (yet) another streaming service for your iOS or Android device.

If Pandora, Spotify, iTunes Radio, et als aren’t doing it for you, theres a new player ready to disappoint!

And I say disappoint because unlike the other players, who offer ad-free and ad-supported versions of their streaming services, Beats Music has only one speed: premium.

That’s right. Beats Music is a pay to play stream service.

After the seven day trial expires, you’re going to have to fork over $9.99 a month for the privilege of spotty streaming service.

I’m sure it will be great to listen to a stream without those damned commercial interruptions.

That’s because one of Beats Music’s selling points is it’s music curation.

Unlike radio, whose music is determined by some music programmer, or most other streaming services, whose playlists are determined by some algorithm, Beats Music’s titles are curated by real people.

Allegedly, Beats Music employs a bunch of so-called ‘music experts’ to curate it’s playlists, which should mean a better listening experience.

That should be a welcome change to folks who don’t want bots telling them what to listen to.

I’d much rather have my music choices picked by a music nerd than a bot any day!

More important than the human music selection of Beats Music, is the heavy brand recognition that they’ve already built up.

If I had to put up money on who was going to come out on top of the whole steaming music competition, I’d have to go with the guys who have already proven themselves at getting folks ot part with their cash for substandard shit.

If you’re going to part ways with several hundred dollars for a pair of booty ‘branded’ headphones, it’s not a stretch that you’ll part with a few buck a month to listen to a ‘branded’ stream.

Now, I’ve yet to check out whether Beats Music is materially different from other streaming services, in terms of content.

I can say that Beats Music SUCKS in terms of technology because the damn thing doesn’t even work.

Perhaps the demand is so great that their servers are down – yeah that’s the ticket – and they’re overwhelmed with traffic.

Perhaps I will get an email and my registration will go through – one day.

Or perhaps not and I’ll be ignorant of Beats Music forever.

But if this snafu is illustrative of what the rest of the Beats Music experience is like – I’ll keep my $10, thank you very much.

Note to self: update this post if you do get an update from Beats Music.

 

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Filed under apps, branding, iPhone, mobile

Need advice? Let me be your Emissary.

20140106-102234.jpg

I was recently invited to join Emissary, a free platform that lets you share advice, make introductions, and get compensated for your efforts.

If you’re not up on Emissary, don’t trip. Neither was I.

I was checking out the profile of my good friend, Ben Tannenbaum, the new Director, Startup Engagement and Acceleration at Mastercard, and noted that he had a Emissary profile.

Intrigued, I checked out Emissary.io and was like “I do this!”

This=being sought out for advice, giving advice and getting paid for my advice.

But I realized that Emissary was doing it big, and I wanted in.

So I sent an email, had a conversation with one of the founders, Mike Sands, and Voila! your’s truly is now an Emissary.

So what? you say?

What’s so effin’ good about Emissary?

Well for one, it’s really about the power of networks.

And you know I’m a proponent of networks.

Next, it formalized the process of giving advice.

If you’re like me, people are always asking you about this or that.

Sometimes you have the answers.

Sometimes you don’t.

But when you don’t, you know exactly where to go to get the information they’re looking for.

Third, Emissary helps you make dough.

Emissary was developed because they realized that there are folks out there looking for the knowledge you (and your network) possess.

As an Emissary, you can quickly connect them with the right people in your network, and earn money for doing so.

Emissary leverages the power of networks by giving its users a platform to do what they do best.

Give advice (or referrals) to folks in need.

To be fair, I’ve oversimplified the process of becoming an Emissary.

They’re still in Beta, so there’s a pretty serious vetting going on.

When I learned about it, I went to their site and sent an email.

A few email conversations and a telephone interview was set up.

After the phone interview, there was a Skype interview, where they probed to figure out what made me an expert and justified making me an Emissary.

Having dabbled in law, entertainment, technology, and mobile, I’ve created a network of specialists in many different fields, that adds value to Emissary.

The fact that I already offer advise (as a consultant) and through my blog, probably didn’t hurt.

I’ve given you a quick overview of Emissary, but a perusal of their site will give you all you need to know.

You can check out my profile here http://www.emissary.io/u/#/stephenchukumba.

Need advice on an upcoming project or issue you’re facing? Hit me up.

Think you’ve got what it takes to be an Emissary? Check ’em out.

And tell ’em Stephen Chukumba sent you!

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