Video: AI Defined # 4 Unsupervised Learning

Hey there,

In this video I share the latest edition of the artificial intelligence defined series where I give definitions for common machine learning and artificial intelligence terms.

In video # 4 I define the 2nd type of machine learning: Unsupervised learning.

Check it out

Here

 

Some thoughts on Rising Wealth Inequality and what that means for marketers!

Wealth Inequality

Last year homelessness in Los Angeles County rose by an astounding 23% last year. 

Why?

The average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in LA county, not the just the nice parts is around $1800/month.

My best friend is an engineer for Universal makes around $100k a year and is perpetually broke because he spends 50% of his income on housing.

And it’s not like he’s living in a mansion. He lives in a 1 bedroom in a downtown mid-rise.

Back east in NYC all of my friends have been forced out of the city to Weehawken or Hoboken because they simply could not afford the rising rents in the city.

Contrast this with an anecdote my ex fiancee recently shared with me about how the 6th floor of her luxury building in midtown has been rented out by “some sort of Saudi prince” who uses it to store around 100 motorcycles.

Stories like these highlight how bad the asymmetry is between the haves and the have nots as well if not better than any sort of statistics but I prepared some anyway:

Some quick wealth inequality stats:

The Richest 1% hold 40% of all wealth in the USA

Over the past 25 years only America’s most affluent families have added to their networth.

The richest 1% own 50% of all stocks and mutual funds held in the USA

The billionaire’s on the Forbes 400 list have more wealth than all black households and 1/3rd of Latino households combined.

As Drew Magary once wrote “If you’re not rich in America, you are fucked.”

I am VERY passionate about wealth inequality in America because it directly affects our freedom.

In 2014 This study   done by Cornell revealed that America is not a democracy but rather an oligarchy where only the richest among us voices are heard.

The incredible book Dark Money by Jane Mayer goes over the myriad of ways that rich families like the Kochs and The Mercers have subverted our political system for their own ends.

Suffice to say I was not surprised when Donald Trump became president.

At some point I would love to write a detailed passionate plea for wealth re-distribution similar to The Case For Reparations by The GAWD Ta-nehisi Coates. But for now I want to be a little more self centered (shocking I know) and talk about what this rising tide of wealth inequality means for marketers like me.

And possibly you.

What does that mean for those of us who make a living creating content designed to sell stuff?

Here’s a few of my thoughts on the subject: 

  1. Sell either expensive or cheap stuff nothing in the middle. When the big financial crisis of 2008 hit I was unexpectedly in a good place because I was selling expensive $5000 year long dating coaching services. In a recession counterintuitively luxury goods sales rise because the rich still have their money even if they have less. If you had $20 million and lost half of it in a crash you still have $10 million which makes you a luxury consumer. The flip side of this is that if you have a cheap product like one of my clients who also launched his $11.99 male hygiene product in 2008 you can see the same success as well. As less people have money , products need to be able to justify a luxury price tag or be around $10. 
  2. A crash is coming, prepare accordingly. We are in a big bull market and inevitably when prices of assets climb for this long we are due for a crash. Whether it will be as big as the crash of 2008 remains to be seen, but only idiots think that the market can continue to go up forever. Anyone marketing should be preparing for the next financial crisis and how it will affect your business.
  3. Luxury purchases are about to come back in a big way. Luxury items tend to boom when a financial crisis hits. Expect coaching especially for businesses that guarantee more income to explode again. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see a variety of expensive crypto scams as those who have a base understanding of blockchain will find a ravenous audience in those trying to move their money out of a bottoming stock market. In any event I would imagine that the market for luxury purchases and the marketers who sell them will be booming soon.
  4. Price is everything for poor people and nothing for rich people. This is something I have already noticed from consulting. While smaller companies with lower budgets have to stress and agonize over every penny, companies and individuals that have money might not even check the price. Price is everything for those who don’t have money and nothing for those who have all the money. Keep that in mind and watch this video of 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy thinking Potatoes are $100 a bag.      

5. SMBs are going to be in TROUBLE! Small and medium businesses or SMBs are the lifeblood of the economy. They also are the businesses hit hardest by economic declines and most affected by wealth inequality. Not to go all Nassim Taleb here on you but SMBs tend to be affected most by the fat tails of probabolistic outcomes. If they don’t get that lucky black swan to become a larger 10M+ business they often end up going the other way. If you are a marketer who sells mostly to SMBs you may need to start setting your sights higher or lower. 

That was basically just a coffee fueled braindump on wealth inequality and how it affects marketers feel free to leave other thoughts concerns or comments in the comment section below.

AI is Coming For Content Creation Jobs, Faster Than You Think!

“The Robots are Coming To Take Our Jobs!”

Fear of having jobs taken by robots (or immigrants, or people of color if we’re being honest) is a fear as old as jobs themselves.

A quick search for the root of this fear leads to results like this wikipedia entry for Technophobia which can trace it’s roots all the way back to a group of weavers destroying machines in 1675.

The fear of robots specifically goes at least “The Brazen Android” a story published in The Atlantic all the way back in 1891.

Whether it’s weavers, or Ford assembly line workers or now sportswriters the fear of robots taking our jobs is nothing new.

For the most part the fear of robots was limited to more manual tasks like assembling Ford F150s.

Companies like Braincorp have created automatic floor sweepers, while the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner has been cleaning homes with questionable effectiveness for over a decade.

Robotic Process Automation or RPA use machine learning to complete tedious paperwork tasks such as compiling documents for signatures or checking for compliance or legal privilege.

But for the most part those who created things (like content) believed that we would be safe from the robot job apocalypse.

Only it appears we were wrong.

First the content creating robots started by writing ads. If you’ve worked in online marketing over the last few years you’ve no doubt discovered programmatic Pay per click (PPC).

Programmatic PPC is an artificially intelligent system that allows you to automatically buy, place and optimize display advertising.

Or in other words the robot buys, places and optimizes the ad for you.

There goes a whole industry of PPC consultants.

Programmatic PPC
The Mist Comes For PPC consultants

In fact it’s been estimated that in 5 years all PPC ads will run, and optimize automatically after the initial setup without any human interface necessary at all.

Which is why Google is actively calling everyone who advertises with them to offer them help with their programmatic system.

I know, I’ve been on 3 of those calls and grilled them for information about their robots which I’ll share in an upcoming article.

Now content creators, bloggers, and video makers have another type of AI to content with as content creating algorithms have begun to slowly trickle onto the market.

The technology being used is

  • Natural language generation (NLG) similar to Natural language processing (NLP) this is the task of generating natural language from machine representation systems.
  • Intelligent narratives sometimes also called “data driven narratives” which are stories created from the collected data personalized for the audience.
  • Automated storytelling technology which is responsible for the first AI created screenplay Sunspring

And this technology is ALREADY being used.

3 companies already using A.I to create content:

  1. Quill. The most well known NLG software is Quill which was created by the Narrative Science company. Quill started as an experiment at Northwestern and currently produces over 1 million words a day as it creates reports, news stories and headlines for companies such as Groupon, and T.Row Price. 
  2. The Washington Post. It’s no surprise that a paper owned by the World’s Richest Man Jeff Bezos would be on the frontlines of AI created content. The Washington Post has an in house AI content creation system called “Heligraf” which wrote over 850 stories in 2017 alone. Heliograf also composes social media posts, news updates and alerts. Notable events covered by Heliograf include the Rio olympics and local political races in the DMV area.
  3. The Associated Press. While many people associate the AP with the old world journalism of newsrooms, black coffee and unfiltered cigarettes, they are actually one of the most advanced companies when it comes to content creating AI. The AP uses Automated Insights to take care of it’s oft neglected by humans corporate earnings reports beat. But what really separates the AP from the rest of the pack when it comes to intelligent content creation is with Wordsmith “The World’s First Public Natural Language Generation Platform. Let’s explain because that is a mouthful. Wordsmith works with you to create a story. First you set up rules, a template and and the required datapoints. From there Wordsmith does the rest creating the story. Wordsmith generates over 1.5 Billion Pieces of Content A Year or about half as much as I do. Companies that use Wordsmith include Microsoft and Allstate.

If you like me make your living creating content those last few paragraphs sent a cold shiver down your spine.

But there’s still reason for optimism if you are a content creator!

Why Content Creators shouldn’t panic: 

  1. Emotional Depth. If you look at the reviews for Sunspring the AI created screenplay you’ll see a lot of words like quirky and interesting. That’s because it’s still very difficult for AI to recognize the role that emotions play in making content interesting! Think of a show like “Parenthood” which is basically emotional porn. They crank the 70s music, a mother and son have a universally emotional moment and we all cry. AI has a LONG way to go until it is capable of writing shows like “Parenthood” or it’s evolutionary successor “This is us.”
  2. Context. In this Post I talk about how the biggest challenge for AI when it comes to language is context. Identifying things like sarcasm, and irony are still difficult for machines to do and are a BIG part of creating content that connects with your audience. Until computer programs can understand something as complicated as the “Aristocrats” joke comedians and other content creators will still be safe

3. Creativity. Last but certainly not least is creativity. Movies like Memento, or Pulp Fiction which bent the way narratives are used can’t be created by AI. AT least not yet. There will always be something to be said for the genius of human creativity that cannot be replicated.

I think about AI with regards to content creation like the famous quote about 500 monkeys at typewriters writing the best novel of all time. Or more accurately like this simpsons clips

While content creation robots are coming, all they are going to do is take the menial content creation jobs. They won’t be writing the World’s best novel or even the most popular blog posts.

If you’re a content creator who just churns out crap, then yes your time is probably coming to an end because the robots can churn out crap faster and cheaper.

But there has always been a market for good writing, entertaining videos and engaging speeches and I think there always will be.

 

10 Great Quotes On The Creative Process For A Monday!

Happy Monday!

I had a nice weekend of actually not working for the first time in a long time.

Which means that as I try to ease back in to the creative process of the week which will include creating

 

  • 3 articles for this blog (optimistic I know)
  • 5-6 articles for various clients
  • 3 videos
  • A report on marketing Artificial Intelligence services

I am reminded that the creative process is a workmanlike one. As you are probably already aware I am not a huge fan of inspirational quotes but I do find the following 10 quotes on the creative process to be particularly useful and enlightening so here we go

All quotes are from Good Reads  and have not been fact checked for accuracy.

10 Great Quotes On The Creative Process For A Monday!

  1. “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

[MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004 ]”

Jim Jarmusch

  1.  “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”

(Casual Chance, 1964)”

Colette

  1. “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories

  1. “A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”

Alice Munro, Selected Stories

  1. “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.”

(Interview with NEH chairman Bruce Cole, Humanities, July/Aug. 2002, Vol. 23/No. 4)”

David McCullough

  1. “Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.”

[Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking (The Creativity Post, December 6, 2011)]”

Michael Michalko

  1. “Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.”

Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

  1. “Dialogue is not just quotation. It is grimaces, pauses, adjustments of blouse buttons, doodles on a napkin, and crossings of legs.”

Jerome Stern, Making Shapely Fiction

  1. “We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.”

Walt Stanchfield

  1. “Don’t dash off a six-thousand-word story before breakfast. Don’t write too much. Concentrate your sweat on one story, rather than dissipate it over a dozen. Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will none the less get something that looks remarkably like it. Set yourself a “stint,” [London wrote 1,000 words nearly every day of his adult life] and see that you do that “stint” each day; you will have more words to your credit at the end of the year.

Study the tricks of the writers who have arrived. They have mastered the tools with which you are cutting your fingers. They are doing things, and their work bears the internal evidence of how it is done. Don’t wait for some good Samaritan to tell you, but dig it out for yourself.

See that your pores are open and your digestion is good. That is, I am confident, the most important rule of all.

Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.

And work. Spell it in capital letters. WORK. WORK all the time. Find out about this earth, this universe; this force and matter, and the spirit that glimmers up through force and matter from the maggot to Godhead. And by all this I mean WORK for a philosophy of life. It does not hurt how wrong your philosophy of life may be, so long as you have one and have it well.

The three great things are: GOOD HEALTH; WORK; and a PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE. I may add, nay, must add, a fourth—SINCERITY. Without this, the other three are without avail; with it you may cleave to greatness and sit among the giants.”

[Getting Into Print (The Editor magazine, March 1903)]”

Jack London

I certainly feel a bit more creative, hopefully you do as well!

To a productive Monday!

A Beginner’s Guide To Using Themes in Your Content Creation

I was in 10th Grade the first time I was introduced to the idea of themes in literature. My English class was reading the “Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you went to high school in the USA you probably have a similar memory.

I’ve always been a pretty fast reader especially with fiction so I read ahead of the class and quickly realized that the Scarlet Letter was about so much more than just a woman who had a child out of wedlock.

“The Scarlet Letter” is dripping with themes about society, shame and stigmatization, all of which are universal themes that even a hormone crazed teenager can appreciate which is why it has stood the test of time and is taught to all 10th graders as an example of great literature.

Themes are found throughout literature, but you might be surprised to find out that they are also found in great content marketing.

A theme is what your content is REALLY about beyond the surface levels.

If your content is a picture, the theme is the frame. Themes focus your content on what’s really important the same way picture frames focus your eyes on the photograph.

Let’s look at a couple examples of themes in well known marketer’s content:

Tim Ferriss- Them: “Life hacking.” While I would argue that the theme of the “4 hour workweek” is lifestyle porn for 9 to 5ers, the obvious theme in Ferriss’ content is life hacking. In the “4 hour body” Ferriss details all of the ways that he attempted to hack the human body including his experiments with steroids and what I like to call “Rich guy” medical testing. In a weird bit of life imitating themes Ferriss has now hacked the art of the best selling book and turns transcriptions of his interviews with famous people into bestsellers like “Tools of Titans” which offers wait for it….. Life hacks from the rich and famous. Tim Ferriss is out here living his theme.

Dave Asprey- Theme:”Bulletproof Living.” Dave Asprey originally sprung to fame online with his “Bulletproof Coffee” which combine butter, coconut oil and coffee to create what Dave claimed was the world’s best breakfast and the basis for everything from weight loss to improving your cognitive function. He followed up on this with various other products and diets based on “Bulletproof” living. One thing that wasn’t so bulletproof were some of Dave Asprey’s claims on the Joe Rogan Experience which led Joe to go on this epic rant

Donald Trump – Theme: “I Am Rich, and Successful” Leaving the politics out of it Donald Trump has created 30 years of products and investments out of the theme that he is what a rich successful business person looks like despite never being one of the 100 richest men in America let alone the world. From “The Art of The Deal” through Trump University and the Apprentice Trump has consistently used the themes of wealth and success in every business venture and to drum up billions of dollars of free publicity

Get the idea of what themes are in content now a little bit better?

Great, now let’s look at how to figure out the themes for your content with

3 questions to ask yourself to figure out what your themes are:

  1. What do you want to be known for ? The first part of deciding on your theme is figuring out what you want to be known for? Try to boil this down to 1 or 2 words or phrases that really encapsulate what you want your themes to say about you the same way that Donald Trump uses his themes of rich and successful.
  2. What themes resonate with your clients? In addition to what you want to become known for you also need to keep in mind what resonates with your clients. There’s no point creating content with themes that don’t resonate. This is one of the reason self help resonates so strongly with some people while others just think it’s weird. The themes of self help are things like empowerment, destroying limits, creating the world you want and for some people those themes just don’t resonate.
  3.  What are your values as a company? What are the things you want your company to be known for? In the mid aughts Verizion went all in on the theme of best cellular service. You might remember these commercials:

The only problem with that theme was that over time consumers started to care less about the quality of their cell phone coverage as cell phone coverage improved overall. This lead to “Paul” switching sides from Verizion to Sprint as Sprint jumped on the theme that price is more important than service.

Ok, now you have your theme or possibly a couple of themes (I would advise against more than one theme but do you) how do you start to incorporate these themes into your content?

5 ways to incorporate themes into your content

  1. Show, don’t tell. The first piece of writing advice given to any aspiring author, you want to demonstrate your themes rather than explicitly telling your audience what your theme is. Though I will add a caveat that some audiences have trouble with subtlety so you have to know how sophisticated your audience is.
  2. Have running features. One of the constants throughout content with good themes is what I like to call running features. A good example of a running feature is an inside joke or re-occuring situation. In all of Shonda Rimes shows for example, one of the themes is that alcohol reveals the character’s emotions. Olivia Pope drinks a fancy super expensive red wine but switches to Tequila when things start to get real.
  3. Connect the dots without giving the answer. When it comes to injecting themes into your content you really want to lead the horse the horse to water but not try to make him drink. If you spell out what your themes are too obviously you risk coming across as try hard or insincere. Instead you want to sprinkle in bread crumbs that make it very easy for the audience to figure out what the themes are without stating them or making them too obvious.
  4. Be consistent. Remember that themes are about what the content is REALLY is about and by extension what your business is about. That means that EVERYTHING you produce needs to be consistent and fit in or at least not blatently violate the themes you have established.
  5. Look for unique tie-ins. Last but certainly not least you want to specifically look for unique or unusual ways to integrate your themes. While you want to be obvious about how you connect the dots and seed the themes in your content, the more unique or out of the ordinary the way you get to the theme is, the more it will be remembered and understood similarly to the Greek parables which sought to teach morals through stories.

That was a lot of information!

Let’s quickly go summarize everything to make sure that you get the absolute most value out of this post.

I started this post by telling you about the first time I noticed themes in 10th grade while reading “The Scarlet Letter.”

After that I defined theme for you as follows:

A theme is what your content is REALLY about beyond the surface levels.

If your content is a picture, the theme is the frame. Themes focus your content on what’s really important the same way picture frames focus your eyes on the photograph.

After that we went through 3 questions to ask yourself to determine your themes:

  1. What do you want to be known for ? The first part of deciding on
  2. What themes resonate with your clients?
  3.  What are your values as a company?

And I taught you 5 ways to incorporate your themes:

5 ways to incorporate themes into your content

  1. Use subtext not context
  2. Show don’t tell
  3. Connect the dots without giving the answer
  4. Be consistent
  5. Look for unique tie-ins

Now you know everything you need to start incorporating themes into your content making them resonate with your audience and help them define you and your business clearly in their minds.

 

 

7 Signs Your Content Sucks!

Every month over 59 million blogs are published on WordPress alone.

That means every day 1.97 MILLION blogs are written and published.

Nearly 2 million a day!

30 hours of video is published to Youtube every minute.

But if we can keep it all the way 100, while there is no lack of content, the VAST majority of content SUCKS!

It’s true.

It can be hard to face the reality that your content isn’t up to par.

But base rates are base rates and with so much content out there, the majority is not going to be good.

Here’s 7 ways to tell if your content sucks!

  1. It doesn’t get shared. This is one of the easiest metrics to measure. Quality content gets shared. I personally share 3-5 articles a day on my Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook accounts. If something resonates with people or they think it’s useful they will share it. If your content is being distributed properly and people aren’t sharing it, that’s a huge red flag that your content is the problem.
  2. It’s generic. Almost every search term out there has some EXTREMELY generic content on the first page of the search results. If when you google the subject of your blog post you find 5 other results on the exact same subject that’s a sign that your content sucks.
  3. It’s formulaic. I have to admit I can be guilty of this. Especially when I am writing introduction or beginner level posts. But if you write every post around the same formula whether it’s a personal revelation, list post, quotes post or whatever. You want to have different types of posts so that your audience doesn’t get bored.
  4. It doesn’t trigger the 3Bs. In his book “Trust Me, I’m Lying” Ryan Holiday talks about how content that goes viral threatens the 3Bs. Behavior, beliefs and belongings. When you’re creating content you want to be aware of how it affects and triggers those 3 Bs. In this post I’m trying to trigger your belief that your content is good enough. If you’re an online marketer that might also directly affect your belongings because bad content will negatively affect your business and income.

Check out my video on Ryan’s latest book here

5. It’s too short. I always say this and people always disagree but the numbers back me up. Don’t trust me, trust Neil Patel who did a deep dive into the data and proved that longform blog posts over 1500 words perform WAY better than these stupid short 500 word blurbs that have infected the content creation business because they are cheap and don’t require actual writers. If you do short form content not just me but Neil Patel guarantees your content is not performing as well as it could have.

6. You don’t get comments. Comments are a bit hit or miss in the era of the captcha but they are a brute force metric for seeing whether or not people are feeling what you write. If people are not commenting on your posts and asking questions in addition to just saying “Great Post” chances are that your content could be better.

7. It doesn’t drive sales. Last but not least good content leads to sales. So many marketing managers and professionals I talk to say they can’t quantify their content’s impact on the bottom line. That tells me that their content simply isn’t good enough. Great content is the best salesman there is. When people read or watch quality content they are going to contact you and ask about your products or services. Bad content, mediocre content and even good enough content don’t drive sales, great content does.

Ok that’s going to wrap it up for me on this beautiful Friday as I am hoping to get out of the office and actually enjoy my day.

To re-cap the 7 signs that your content sucks are:

  1. It doesn’t get shared.
  2. It’s generic.
  3. It’s formulaic.
  4. It doesn’t trigger the 3Bs.
  5. It’s too short.
  6. You don’t get comments. .
  7. It doesn’t drive sales.

Now get out there and make content that doesn’t suck!

 

 

How To Copy These 3 Awesome Examples Storytelling Marketing

 

I remember the first time I took notice of storytelling in marketing.

It was 1995, and Nike had rolled out a new signature shoe for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway.

Those who are not big basketball fans may not remember Penny Hardaway but for a few years from 1993-1998 he was a big deal.

The heir apparent to Michael Jordan.

But there was a problem.

Unlike his teammate Shaquille O’neal Penny had a laid back relaxed personality that wasn’t suited towards being a pitchman. He wasn’t outgoing or gregarious like Shaq, he didn’t have Michael Jordan’s mystique of invulnerability and he didn’t seem to want to be in the spotlight off the court.

So what did Nike do?

They invented an alter-ego for Hardaway. A puppet voiced by Chris Rock, called “Lil Penny”

Lil Penny was everything Penny was not; brash arrogant and more than willing to tell everyone how great Hardaway was.

Nike would go back to the puppet well in the late aughts creating puppet versions of two players with larger personalities in Kobe Bryant and Lebron James

The lesson here was clear if you don’t have a great pitchman or personality for a product, just make one up.

Old Spice used this tactic as well when it created these commercials with Terry Crews

Then replaced him when he got too famous and expensive without missing a beat

The first lesson from storytelling marketing then is that characters make stories.

Great storytelling whether it’s around a campfire or a pre-roll before a youtube clip needs to be built around characters.

Let’s look at another great example of storytelling marketing an what that can teach us.

In 2017 Dove rolled out a series ads with #realdadmoments

The campaign was incredibly successful because it tapped into a theme that resonates emotionally for a lot of men.

Their relationship with their dad.

This is a pretty well mined theme in storytelling content as you can see

So the lesson here is to start your storytelling marketing with a theme that you KNOW people will relate to emotionally.

Stick to tried and true themes that your target audience can relate to.

Last but not least I want to share this ad from the Mcdonald’s “I’m Lovin it ” campaign.

 

Mcdonald’s whole I’m Lovin it campaign was brillant as it sought to tell stories that showed Mcdonalds being a part of people’s everyday lives.

Mcdonald’s constantly gets a bad rep for a variety of reasons. If I had a dollar for every person who told me they hadn’t eaten at Mcdonald’s in years I’d be rich. Yet somehow there is always a line at the drive thru but I digress.

I picked this ad from the I’m lovin it campaign because it was unexpected.

Most people have never thought about using a drive thru to keep their child asleep while getting something to eat. This commercial reframes Mcdonald’s from just being one of dozens of fast food options to being a helpful friend that is there when you need it.

You don’t want your audience to be able to guess the ending of your stories when you start telling them. There is nothing worse than the audience beating you to end of the story.

When using storytelling in your marketing, take a little extra time to see if there is an unexpected story that could be told instead of the obvious ones.

Let’s quickly re-cap and do a TL;DR

I started out by talking about my first memory of storytelling marketing; Lil Penny.

 

The lesson of Lil Penny is that you can be creative and just make up a personality for a pitchman or a product. I also provided some other examples of this like the old spice commercials.

Then we talked about the Dove #realdadmoments commercials and using common themes like the relationship between Dads and sons. You want to pick common themes for your stories that people will relate to emotionally.

Lastly we looked at the Mcdonald’s I’m Lovin it commercial with the sleeping baby to remind you to look for the unexpected story that reframes what your product or service means.

That’s about all I got for you, tell me your favorite examples of storytelling in marketing in the comments below!

An Insight From My Insufferable Diet That Might Help Your Content Marketing

I really hate dieting.

A lot.

I once estimated that being on a diet drops my overall life happiness by 50% and I stand by that assertion.

The problem is that I also don’t want to be fat.

And I was getting fat.

I tipped the scale at 225lbs about 5 weeks ago which is the heaviest I have ever been.

So I decided to jump back on the Slow Carb Diet popularized by Tim Ferris which is basically the Atkins diet

You can eat as much as you want as long as you avoid all carbs and sugars not coming from veggies.

No fruit, no rice, no bread, nothing fun.

Which brings me to the first thing that always stumps me about the fact that the weight loss industry is a 64 Billion dollar a year industry.

Dieting and losing weight is simple but not easy.

No matter what diet you go on whether it’s low carb, low fat, keto, paleo or low carb to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume.

Calories in, calories out is math and math doesn’t lie.

Workout more and eat less you lose weight.

But that’s super unsexy so there is a whole industry out there to help you look for cheats and tricks and flim-flams to make losing weight easier.

One of the best “tricks” of marketing I’ve ever seen is what I like to call the fallacy of net carbs.

The Fallacy of Net carbs

Net carbs are not a thing.

They are an invention of marketing based on some VERY shaky science that says that if you eat carbs but also eat fiber and certain alcohols like glycerin you can avoid a spike in blood sugar so the carbs don’t count.

Take this Atkins bar for example. It contains 23 grams of carbs but also has 12 grams of fiber and 2 grams of glycerin so they market the bar as having 3 grams of net carbs.

But that’s not how carbs work!

Just because your blood sugar doesn’t spike doesn’t mean that your body is not absorbing the carbs.

If you’re using a low carb or keto diet where you are trying to get your body to run on fat instead of carbs one of these bars wrecks your entire day by supplying your body with carbs to burn instead of fat.

Plus these bars have 230 calories!

You have to eat less to lose weight no matter what diet you’re on.

There’s no way around it and the composition of the food only helps so much.

Earlier I linked to a Tim Ferris article about how you can “Lose 20 lbs of fat in 30 days without exercise.”

While that’s technically true, you can only do that if you have a lot of fat to lose in the first place.

At 225 lbs while exercising 3-4 days a week, even if I followed that diet exactly I probably wouldn’t be able to shed 10% of my body weight in 30 days without going to some extreme measures. But if another person who weighed 270 lbs started the same diet it’s not out of the question they could lose that much that fast but they would not be able to lose 20 lbs each and every month.

Calories in, calories out is the basic formula for losing weight but you still have to make adjustments in order to actually get the best results.

For me, I started off really badly on this diet because I was trying to cook healthy foods at home which lead to me doing a lot of snacking and overeating of “healthy food.”

One of the adjustments I have to make if I am serious about losing weight is not keeping any extra food I could snack on in the house because 3,000 calories of meat and cheese while technically on the diet is still not going to help me lose weight.

I also had to start counting calories. People hate calorie counting because it is annoying and also math. But for me I know I lose more weight when I try to eat between 1500-1800 calories a day and no more.

These two tweaks got me back on track and I am not only 10lbs or so from my goal weight of 200lbs losing about 3 lbs a week.

So how does this relate to content marketing?

Content Marketing has a bunch of formulas that can work from funnels to webinars, the problem most people run into is that you can’t just do things the exact same way someone else teaches it.

You’ll always need to make little tweaks, adjustments and course corrections EVEN if you have a winning formula.

And not making those tweaks and corrections is what dooms a lot of dieters and a lot of content marketing campaigns.

 

9 Things 500,000 hands of Poker Taught Me About Business, Decision Making and Life.

“Now Ev’ry gambler knows that the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause ev’ry hand’s a winner and ev’ry hand’s a loser,
And the best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep. ”

Kenny Rogers “The Gambler”

I don’t remember exactly when I caught the poker bug but as with most things I get into, it was way past the peak of when it was popular.

This was after Black Friday when the government shut down all the legal poker websites so I started playing on a Caribbean site called Carbon Poker.

I ended up playing at least 3 hours of poker a day online for about 2 years. For awhile I was playing 8-12 hours a day on weekends. I never made thousands of dollars and at my best I was probably a little better than a consistent break even poker player online and a guy who could win a couple hundred bucks from the tourists out here on the strip pretty consistently.

I recently was deleting things off of my computer and deleted my old carbon poker account which had about 500,000 hands of poker logged in my tracking software so it got me to thinking about what I learned about poker and decision making during my brief foray into the poker world.

Here’s 9 things I learned about business and decision making from playing poker:

  1. Luck is a MUCH bigger factor than anyone wants to believe. This is the biggest lesson I learned from poker and it is super important. Luck is usually the biggest factor in any success story and no one likes to talk about it because it makes us feel like we are less in control of our lives. Obviously you need to work hard, and make the right decisions but oftentimes the difference between the Ipod and the Zune is luck. 
  2. You have to evaluate decisions regardless of results. The right decision does not always yield the intended result. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the right decision. It’s the right decision to make a continuation bet after the flop if you raised when you entered the hand, no matter what your cards are. Likewise you can make the right decisions on a product, do everything correctly on the launch and the product can still flop. That’s why you have to evaluate decisions in postmortums, based on the information you had at the time. Poker is a game of trying to make the right decision with incomplete information.  
  3. There’s a ton of math in poker and math scares americans. The biggest challenge for me when it came to learning poker from various books and online courses was the math. There’s a ton of math in poker. Expected value calculations, calculations for hand ranges based on the number of decks and cards dealt, the odds that the opponent is holding what he/she is projecting is in their hand. You have to do a lot of math and do it pretty fast to be a great poker player. Even when using software that does a lot of the math for you. Another thing you’ll learn is that most American poker players not only don’t know the math but are too scared to even make a basic attempt to understand it. One of the only things I had going for me as a poker player was I put in the time doing the math. That alone was enough to beat most tourists in low limit games. 
  4. Study the data, not your memory. Another interesting phenomenon around poker players and gamblers in general is that they remember results much differently than what the data said. You’d run into a lot of guys who swore they were break even poker players who my tracking software said lost hundreds of dollars per hour. You have to study the data not your imagination. Men lie, women life, data doesn’t. 
  5. Tilt is real and not just in Poker. Tilt is a poker word for when a player gets emotional and throws away all common sense chasing after pots they have no business being in. The otherwise pretty bad movie Molly’s Game has a good example of tilt when the otherwise tight winning player is bluffed by a known loser and then tries to beat him on every hand leading to his ruin. Tilt is real, and it happens in business and in relationships more than people realize. An executive is on tilt when he responds to a bad advertising campaign by pouring more money into it. A woman is on tilt when she has a fight with her boyfriend goes out with her friends to flirt and ends up cheating. Emotions affect decision making and it’s important to understand how you get triggered and avoid making important decisions when you are on tilt.

6. Life is regression to the mean. The game of poker ebbs and flows. Sometimes you sit down and get dealt a pair of kings twice in 10 hands. Othertimes you have to fold 30 times in a row. But overall everything tends to regress to the mean. If you’re a bad player even if you win big one night over time you will give it back as your performance returns more to what it should be. This is how life works as well. People chase the idea of consistent performance but life regresses to the mean. You’re always going to have good months and bad months. But at the end of the day as the great street philosopher turned Beyonce’s husband Sean Carter once rapped “You are who you were when you got here.”

7. People overweigh recent information. This is often called The Recency Bias in the world of finance. People pay WAY too much attention to things that happened recently and tend to overweight those factors in their decision making. You can do a quick poker experiment to see recency bias in play. The next time you win a big pot or force everyone to fold pre-flop with a big raise, immediately raise again on the next hand and 75% of the table will drop out right away because they assume you must have something again since you won the last pot. Even though this goes against both the math of poker and common sense. People do the same thing when picking financial advisors (picking the guy who had a great year last year), and with the Hot Hand Fallacy in basketball. Base rates are base rates no matter what just happened.

8. If everyone is playing the ideal strategy the ideal strategy becomes inefficient. Online after Black Friday the poker economy got scrambled. No legal sites meant there were less low level players with deep pockets. This meant that when I joined Carbon poker most of the players were pros or semi-pros. This lead to running into a lot of people playing “The Right Way.” Which is to only enter the pot when you have a pair of Jacks or better. “Super tight” in poker parlance. Some players would play 40 tables at a time and only enter hands with a pair of kings or better. With so many people playing this ideal strategy, the strategy became inefficient because you could scoop up tons of blinds and small pots by being aggressive knowing that everyone else is playing tight. The same thing happens in business. Take for example my speciality of content marketing. Right now everyone is using the “ideal” content marketing strategy creating data driven posts or videos and distributing them through networks of blogs and social media. This means that right now the ideal strategy is inefficient and the people who are going to be getting great results from content marketing are the ones who find a different strategy to hack their way to success. This happens in every industry and is often called “disruption.”

9. Playing things tight is easier said than done. In the book “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse he writes ” I can think, I can wait and I can fast.” and I swear he wrote that about successful poker players. As I wrote in the last point the ideal poker strategy is to only play hands that have a high probability of taking down the pot. You really shouldn’t be using a wide range of hands and at most should be playing a distribution of about 18% of the deck. That sounds good in theory but in practice few people have the patience to only play that few cards. Even the pros. Whether it’s boredom, a longing for action or simply misreading a situation it’s easier to say you play tight than it is to actually do it. It’s easier to come up with a strategy, a goal or a diet than it is to actually stick to it and most of the time we end up cheating. But those who can stick to a strategy and wait often are much more successful when the big payoff comes.

That’s about all I got today for life lessons from the Poker table, as always feel free to add things you’ve learned from poker or any game that have helped you with life in the comments.

Best,

JL