Archives for posts with tag: zappos


When trainers catch an elephant, they will take a strong chain and tie the elephant’s leg to a long steel pole which they drive deep into the ground. For a while, the elephant will pull and fight but they they stop because they learn that they can’t get away. Over time, the pole becomes smaller and smaller because the elephant doesn’t pull as hard. The chain becomes a rope, the pole becomes a stake, and soon they stop fighting altogether. With a fully trained elephant, a trainer will simply tie a rope to its leg and toss it to the ground, or attach it to a very small stake, and the elephant won’t even try to get away.

The elephants’ belief that they are helpless becomes so strong that it becomes even stronger than innate instinct for survival. In 1967 at a circus in Mannheim, Germany, 6 elephants died as the result of a tent fire. They were all tied to very small stakes hammered into the ground…stakes they could have easily pulled themselves free from.

What is your ball & chain?

Nobody is without their own ball & chain.

They limit you. They make you believe you’re a terrible athlete, a horrible singer, just a middle manager, not an executive, a follower not a leader. Our education system doesn’t help (Why grades in 1st grade?), our whole system of rewards and punishment is not helpful either. (Why are good grades in math more rewarded than a good performance  in dancing?)

Brands have their own ball & chain.

Amazon could have just stuck with the vision of being the world’s largest book store. Instead, they revolutionized book reading.

Zappos could have been happy becoming a profitable online shoe store. Instead, they revolutionized customer service.

Dreaming and the courage to do so, is actually tremendously important for us as individuals and companies, but also for our society. Just think what our world would look like if, for example, Einstein, explorers like Columbus, and the Brothers Wright had been “realistic” and hadn’t had the courage to dream and to pursue their dream…. It is not unlikely that we’d still be sitting in the dark at night, and that we wouldn’t be flying in metal tubes over oceans to other continents and countries at over 30,000 feet.

We have an obligation to dream.

More importantly, we have an obligation to get rid off the ball & chain.


I know, this question was asked a gazillion times before. And answered by much more profound minds than I could ever aspire to be.

Let’s look at the question from a different angle.

Let’s not focus on how we are going to consume media (tools, platforms). Let’s forget about the location where we will consume media (home, public place, office, etc.) And let’s not bother discussing what we will do with media (lease it, share it, own, co-own it, etc.)

Let’s answer a different question:

How are businesses are going to manage this new media world?

Sure, we have amazing examples of companies utilizing new media to their advantage: Zappos, Virgin America, Starbucks.

But, let’s be honest here: the majority of businesses are completely lost in this new world. They are acting like a 13-year old trying to score a date. They understand the world of media is moving faster and faster while they stand still and fall behind. They desperately hold on to tactics and processes that used to work 20 years ago. Just like the 60-year old who tries to squeeze himself into the wedding suit from 30 years ago. They are more care-takers of media than real managers or leaders of their destiny. This applies to paid, earned and owned media.

But, let’s focus on earned media.

Most brands claim to be engaged in social media. Frankly, they are lying to themselves. A daily tweet or Facebook post doesn’t mean engagement.

It’s checkbox engagement.

Most businesses are barely engaged in the real world. They shield themselves from customers by deploying phone trees, arduous forms and bureaucratic processes. Why would a narcissistic brand believe they can suddenly communicate with their customer base just because there is a new tool or platform?

Time Warner Cable is a great example.

I drop around $200 monthly for cable and Internet service. And I’ve done it for 15 years. That’s around $40,000 in 15 years. Did they ever thank me, offered free on-demand movies for a month, gave me something that says: “Thank you, Mr. Hook, for being such a great customer!” Of course not.

My brand experience is extremely low, if Dish or DirecTV offer me a special deal: I’m gone. I’m just too lazy to research this further and plan on returning their remotes and cable-boxes. And, I’m not alone. Just check out their Facebook page: It’s a great example of brand misery. They post content once a day, never to listen to anyone. People are bitching, complaining, expressing their deep hate towards the brand. Time Warner Cable’s answer: Push another message. It’s all about them, narcissistic, deeply dysfunctional.

They do on Facebook what they do on TV: push a message, push another message, push more messages. This push mentality translates how to engage with customers and treat them. Time Warner Cable has no clue how to navigate and manage new media in positive ways.

They are just one example. As I said before, the majority of brands act that way. They need to take a hard, long look at the mirror and ask: “How are we going to manage the future of media to be successful?” Zappos, Virgin America and Starbucks can answer the question honestly and don’t need to worry about their media future.

The other brands will continue to lie to themselves or finally wake up.

If you don’t engage and communicate with your customers in the new media world, you’ll be talking to yourself very soon.

And you well deserve it.

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What is Instagram? A social network? An app? A community? Sure.

Actually, Instagram is a site built around a social object that connects people with shared interests. In Instagram’s case, it’s the opportunity for people to shoot mediocre pictures and make them look beautiful. On music sites like Spotify or it’s a song or an artist. On GetGlue, it’s a TV show or a movie.

Facebook has such a huge audience because it allows people to connect over various social objects: Pictures, shared passions, music, video, books – almost anything that defines you as a human being.

Products can be social objects: iPhone, your new car, interesting clothing, a bracelet, the wedding ring.

What are social objects?

Social objects are the reason why people socialize. We’re social animals but we need to find a common ground to communicate with each other. That common ground is the social object.

Let’s say you’re at a party, you are shy and feel completely lost. You are not going to approach a stranger with “I really love Wilco’s new album and I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s latest book. So fascinating.” The other person will call 911 and hope you’ll end up in a mental institution. In the good old smoking days, your first conversation revolved around the brand of cigarettes both of you are smoking. (Remember the days when you sat in a smoky bar, your social object “cigarette box with logo” right in front of you communicating to the world some part of your personality?) Now, we are focusing on phones, drinks or tattoos. Some social object that connects me with you.

Your product needs to be a social object. Or pack it in.

No worries, I’m not going to talk about Apple, Zappos, Ferrari or some other amazing brands.

No, let’s talk about German turkey sausages.

If you ever come to Los Angeles, don’t bother with Hollywood or the beaches. Head out to Alpine Village, a pathetic replica of a German village. Go to the market and buy packs and packs of turkey sausage. The best sausage you’ll ever eat. 200 calories less than a beef sausage. Perfectly spiced. Highly recommended to put the sausage on the BBQ, the fat will just disappear and will leave you with the perfect sausage. Add red cabbage, dumplings and a beer. Heaven.

I’m geeking out on turkey sausage.

The sausage is a social object. I’ve talked to many people for hours about that sausage. Just like you might have talked hours about wine, an airline experience,  Yankees, amazing service, your barefoot running shoes – whatever. We all are geeking out on objects: I’ve overheard discussions about laundry detergent, toilet paper and shoe laces. Everything can be a social object.

If you feel your product can’t be a social object, drop me a line. I guarantee you it is already. (If it’s not, we’ll look together for a new job for you.)

Stop creating messages. Start creating social objects.

We’ve heard it all before: the Internet changed everything, the customer is in control, it’s about connections, engagement, blah blah blah.

Here’s the one fundamental change: Advertising used to be about creating messages. Advertising in the 21st century is about creating social objects.


Because social objects are the building stones of the Internet. Not Facebook. Not Twitter. These platforms only exist because people want to have conversations about social objects. In the best-case scenario, they’re woven into your product/service.

Some have to work harder and develop social objects surrounding the product/service. That’s where most brands get it wrong: They’re trying to have conversations with people about their product. Yawn.

Your job is to develop a social object people want to talk about. Once they start talking, get out of the way.

Powerful marketing is something that gets people talking.


In the best case scenario, a product gets people talking.


Or your remarkable service.


An incredible experience.


Or the cry for help from a Somali refugee.

When people talk about your cause/product/service, your marketing team has done its job.

Often, you need nothing more than an image to tell the story you want to tell.

Powerful marketing is something that gets people talking.

Keep it simple.

Develop a narrative.

And give people options to share your story.

That’s when marketing is most powerful.


You can partner with or hire the best people in the world. You can work on the greatest product/service idea ever. It all will go nowhere if you don’t have a great culture.

Your culture will determine how much energy people put into their work. Your culture will determine the attitudes of everyone in your company, how they interact with all stakeholders. The more you care about what you’re making and creating, the better your work will be. And you want all your employees to care about the company as much as you do.

This doesn’t happen by accident. It’s driven by your culture. Companies with a great culture attract people who have passion for what their employer is creating. And they are passionate about making their company’s brand their own.