Secrets From The Guy With 100 Million YouTube Views

Published in Online Spin, March 21 2014

Somewhere in a little town in Belgium, on a square where nothing really happens, Kris Hoet and his team decided to place a red button. A large arrow dangled above it, with the words, “Push To Add Drama.”

The resulting video -- a promotion for the launch of the TV channel TNT in Belgium -- has been seen 50 million times and is the second most-shared TV commercial of all time. (The first is Volkswagen’s Darth Vader ad.)

Hoet himself is the head of digital & Change Architect at Duval Guillaume, a small agency in Antwerp. In addition to the dramatic surprise on a quiet square, they’re responsible for the Carlsberg bikers ad, this stunt for the launch of “Skyfall,” and this eerie provocation about Internet safety. Duval Guillaume has generated over 100 million YouTube views -- earned views, not paid eyeballs -- as well as countless coverage by all forms of media. So when I caught up with him yesterday, I begged him to tell me how he did it. What’s the magic?

He starts by refusing to think about advertising in a traditional way. “Advertising,” he said wryly, “has a bit of a branding problem.” What he and his colleagues strive to do is separate the storytelling component of advertising from the social currency. They might have control over the storytelling, but it doesn’t mean anything unless people

It's Time To Face The Truth About The Marketing Trap

Published in Online Spin, March 14 2014

“How many signups did we get last week?” he asked. I flinched inwardly, then told him, anticipating the inevitable. The inevitable was, of course, what I got: dismay, anger, blame. I was the one he was dismayed with, the one he was angry at, the one he blamed. “We have to hit our targets for the month,” he raged, “because I have no way to explain it to the board if we don’t. Do whatever you have to do.”

I did what I had to do. I beefed up AdWords spend. I sponsored Facebook posts. I promoted YouTube vids. I got the signups.

And then I had to explain the cost per acquisition.

It was a broken model. We were so focused on reaching investment-related goals that we had no room to identify and remedy fundamental problems, even though that’s what we needed to do. We needed to understand why people were dropping off after signup, or after

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Three Simple Rules To Dramatically Increase Your Start-up's Chance Of Success

Published in Online Spin, March 7 2014

I was pretty hoity-toity last week.

I talked about existential crises, communicating who you truly are, finding those people who resonate deeply with you and forging a joyful connection with them. I spoke about the communication being a dynamic relationship, about alignment and culture, about values, and filters, and worldviews.

But sometimes things are a lot simpler than that. And while I believe in and stand behind everything I said last week, it is also important to remember we are humble animals, often driven more by our lizard brains than by our executive brains. So here are three simple rules for your start-up that take into account our oh-so-basic human nature:

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The Truth About Branding, Marketing And Advertising

Published in Online Spin, February 28 2014

“No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow… No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.”-- Jan Koum, WhatsApp

“It turns out it was just advertising. There was no higher calling.” -- Linds Redding

The advertising industry is in a state of existential crisis, thanks to technology; analytics; migrating, fickle and/or distracted eyeballs; Netflix and other on-demand services; piracy; privacy; attribution; the decline of print as a medium; stagnating television audience numbers; and the fact that we can finally start to understand which 50% of our ad spend is wasted.

And even though the television ad industry is

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Good 'Idea Carrier' Essential For Spreading A Message

Published in Online Spin, February 21 2014

The first few times I took my husband skiing, I tried to give him a few pointers. “Keep your chest pointed downhill,” I said. “Bend your knees so your weight is on your shins.”

He didn’t want to hear it. So, for Valentine’s Day, I gave him a ski lesson. We went up the hill with the instructor. “Keep your chest pointed downhill,” he said. “Bend your knees so your weight is on your shins.” “Wow!” said my husband. “It works! That’s amazing!”

I’m guessing this story is not at all surprising to you -- and the fact that it isn’t demonstrates our instinctive understanding of a core facet of human behavior: Our assessment of an idea hinges on our perception of its carrier.

Julianne Wurm highlighted this concept

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Forget Facebook Likes: It's Time To Return To Fans

Published in Online Spin, February 14 2014

Via Mashable, today’s must-watch video is the brilliant Derek Muller from Veritasium, talking about Facebook fraud and how fake Likes destroy your ability to reach your true fans.

If you don’t have the eight minutes and 59 seconds it takes to watch the video -- and, if you’re involved in online marketing, you’ll need to find the time -- here are the key takeaways:

  •  If you pay for Likes at all, through Facebook or anyone else, there’s a good chance many of the Likes will be fake.
  •  If you get fake Likes, they will not engage with your page.
  •  If a big percentage of your Likes don’t engage with your page, Facebook will interpret your content as irrelevant and show it to fewer and fewer people.

One more key takeaway: Muller points out that

Social Media Isn't Winning On Madison Avenue

Published in Online Spin, February 7 2014

You may have heard that Twitter’s share price is down. Apparently, annual revenues of $665 million -- an increase of 110% over the previous year -- aren't enough to keep investors happy. Slowing user growth and a decline in timeline views caused the market to yoink nearly $10 billion off the recently listed company’s market cap.

Point, Facebook, which can finally relax a little now that its share price is significantly higher than its IPO value, after spending well over a year beneath it.

Twitter might be facing a tough week, but these two companies still tend to

It's Not The Government, It's You: The No. 1 Rule For Surviving The Grant Process

Published in Online Spin, January 31 2014

A startup is strapped for cash. Its founders hear about a program whereby they can get some cash. The cash dangles in front of them. It is so shiny. They walk toward it. It is right there. It is so beautiful. Some thorns brush at their sleeves, but they don’t notice. The cash seems a little farther away now, and just around a bend, but they can still see it and they keep walking. It calls to them. It is so welcoming. After many miles of walking and many twists and turns, they reach it.

They are so happy. They look around. They have no idea where they are or how they got there. They are surrounded by blackberry brambles and cannot see the original path they followed. They begin to despair. “Why?” they cry. “Why did an evil entity put the cash in such a horrible place and make it so difficult to get to?”

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Cheap, Plentiful Tools Don't Ease Startup Pain

Published in Online Spin, January 24 2014

Every time I meet an entrepreneur, I ask them how they’re doing. I do my best to make it clear I’m genuinely interested in the answer: looking into their eyes, giving them time to formulate a response, implying in my tone that the answer may well be lengthy, complicated, and full of despair -- the way you ask people who have suffered a recent bereavement how they’re doing. Without exception -- and regardless of the real or apparent success of the endeavor -- the answer is the same: some variation of, “It’s hard work. I’m exhausted, anxiety-ridden, and full of doubt. If I had known before I started…”

The entrepreneurs I meet seem to find it cathartic to talk about their challenges, with good reason. It’s a lonely job at the helm of a fledgling organization, and it’s often a huge relief to know that all your concerns mean you’re normal, not crazy.

But the universality of these concerns bespeaks a bigger truth: namely, that entrepreneurship is hard work, work that tends to leave you exhausted, anxiety-ridden, and full of doubt.

You might not guess this from the public image of entrepreneurship. Last week, The Economist published a

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Can Venture Capitalists Not Be Evil?

Published in Online Spin, January 17 2014

“I think I’m just going to become an asshole,” David said. “It’s obvious girls actually prefer it.”

“NO!” I yelled -- didn't mean to, but I couldn’t help my immediate and urgent reaction. Softening my tone, I added, “Look, it’s true some girls respond to guys who treat them badly. But is that the kind of girl you want? Someone who doesn’t value herself and who puts your sorry ass on a pedestal? And do you want to be the one who reinforces to this girl that she is in fact worthless and doesn’t deserve a healthy relationship? Don’t you dare.”

It seemed so obvious to me -- and yet, he hesitated. David’s dilemma came down to a choice between two worldviews. One says it’s more important to win the girl, the other says it’s more important to do the right thing.

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