Making Doing Good Fun

I noticed a story in Xconomy Seattle this morning that Bobber Interactive has raised $1.1M in Series A financing. I loved seeing that for two reasons. One, I like the concept of the business, which is determined to “make money management fun and social for kids,” as Xconomy reported. The lesson is that it’s rewarding to save for short- and long-term goals. That’s a lesson a lot of adults recently learned the hard way, although according to this Wall Street Journal blog post, we collectively are learning: “U.S. households socked away 5.8% of their after-tax income in February. That was the rate averaged for all of 2010, and a far better pace than right before the recession when consumers saved barely more than 2%.”

The second reason I’m happy to see this particular bit of funding news is because one of Bobber Interactive’s co-founders is Scott Dodson, who introduced me and a lot of other people to the concept of gamification and The Fun Theory. The essential idea behind it is that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better. Since we first met, Scott’s generously given his time to come speak to my UW classes. Every time, he’s inspires the students to get creative in how they think about trying to motivate people to do something.

Thinking about Scott, Bobber and gamification also got me thinking differently about an opinion piece I read Monday from Kurt Brown on called Preaching to the Green Choir: A Dead End, an article I’m bound to come back to and write more about later. The gist of the piece, for the time-pressed, is that environmental groups need to stop trying to scare people into action because it’s not working.

But, and what a surprise this in, making change fun obviously does work. CleanScapes, a Seattle solid waste collection company, has successfully used the gamification model (whether they knew it or not) to reduce all waste — garbage, recycling and yard waste — in Seattle and Shoreline, Wash., by getting neighborhoods to compete against each other in its Neighborhood Waste Reduction Rewards competition. The prize is a $50,000 community project, built in the winning neighborhood and maintained by CleanScapes.

The question for both nonprofits and for profits working to advance us all toward a sustainable future is how to apply this idea to the changes we all need to make. Figuring this out is going to take someone way smarter than me. Maybe that’s you! So for inspiration, here are links to two TheFunTheory videos that illustrate how gamification can change people’s behavior.

If turning the act of doing the right thing into fun can get people to recycle bottles and take the stairs instead of the escalator, what else can it do?

“People Will Vote for Washing Machines”

That was just one of several great little sound bites in Hans Rosling’s presentation at TED, which I discovered courtesy of a Grist twitter post yesterday.

Rosling, a professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinsjka Institute, is an amazing presenter. As his TED bio says, “in his hands, data sings.” He’s a compelling story teller and if you haven’t seen the video, go watch it! He informs, he teaches, he engages, he provides perspective and he entertains. What more could any fantastic presenter do?

He breaks down the world population into 4 groups:

  • 1 billion living above “the Air Line.” They own so many machines, Rosling says he can’t count them all. They travel by air. Their consumption rate exceeds $80/day. In confess: I live here.
  • 1 billion living above “the Wash Line,” because they can afford the miracle of washing machines. Their consumption rate is more than $40/day.
  • 3 billion with electricity, but not washing machines! Their consumption rate is between $2 and $40/day.
  • 2 billion who below the Poverty Line, living on less than $2/day. I saw a lot of that kind of living in Guatemala in 2008.

Discussing the two trends that will increase energy use to 2050 levels — population growth and economic growth — Rosling asks “What is to be done? Because the risk, the high probability of climate change is real.” By 2050, the growing global middle class will put 2 billion people above the Air Line and 4 billion above the Wash Line. While smarter use of energy will help — cutting back on our collective and individual energy use — Rosling shares the view that the real difference lies with developing green energy. Because, he said, if “you have democracy, people will vote for washing machines.” I know I would. And yes, I have a washing machine and I use it.

As I watched Rosling’s presentation, I kept thinking about Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas L. Friedman’s 2008 book, which was a clarion call to a whole new way of thinking about creating a green U.S. economy. He called it Code Green, a “means of making America the world’s leader in innovating clean power and energy-efficiency systems and inspiring an ethic of conservation toward the natural world.”

Friedman wrote about people all over the world wanting to live American lifestyles. And why shouldn’t they? But if they get there the same way we did — on the backs of deforestation, fossil fuel consumption and poor water management — we’re all sunk. Friedman writes:

“Does that mean we don’t want people to live like us anymore? No. It means that we have to take the lead in redesigning and reinventing what living like us means — what constitutes the ‘American way’ in energy and resource consumption terms. Because if the spread of freedom and free markets is not accompanied by a new approach to how we product energy and treat the environment — (what Friedman calls) Code Green — then Mother Nature and planet earth will impose their own constraints and limits on our way of life …”

This is a hot topic today and deserves to stay hot. The world is riveted, in part by fear, to Japan’s battle to get their nuclear facilities under control. Today’s Seattle Times has a story reporting on a study questioning the genuine greenness of biomass power plants. Maybe that’s not such a great solution. But the solution has to be out there.

Friedman’s book sort of depressed me because I didn’t get around to reading it until after I’d read Eric Pooley’s The Climate War and after the Copenhagen Climate Summit, so I knew the end of that particular story. America didn’t rise to the leadership challenge. Yet the essence of Friedman’s Code Green proposal gave me hope. I could see a path. I believe in the potential of entrepreneurs and inventors to turn industries on their heads if given a chance. In reality, we’re all betting on them.

I hope I live to see the day when there’s no such thing as “green marketing” because that’s everything we’re marketing is green. Meanwhile, I better get back to work.

Eight Minutes To Be Remembered

Eight minutes. That’s how long I gave each of my MBA teams to present their final project last week. I’m grading their plans, but I keep thinking about their presentations. Only one in 10 teams finished before my iPhone timer cut them off.

You’re thinking “Eight minutes. Gee, that’s not very long. Tough teacher.” Hey! Companies that presented at DEMO recently got, what? six minutes? In about an hour, I’m headed to the Northwest Entrepreneur Network’s Pub Night event where one entrepreneur after another will get just three minutes at the mic to pitch their business before they’re judged!

Eight minutes can be plenty of time if you use it right.

In her clever little book, Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift, Lorraine Howell of Media Skills Training says you’ve got 30 seconds or less to capture someone’s attention. Then she goes on to tell you exactly how to accomplish that.

I was going to pay attention no matter how my students opened. It’s my job. And more important they’re my people. I want them to do really well. But a classroom is pretty much the only setting where your audience is cheering for you no matter what.

None of my student teams did what I would have done with that eight minutes. Roughly I would have divided up the time like this:

  • 2 minutes — max! Set the stage. Share the most pertinent research results that provided unique insight into why I was taking the tact I was about to take. If I’d found out something surprising, or better yet startling, I’d have opened with that. Short, simple declarative sentence. Then I might have waited a beat to let it sink in. Even a full second of silence is an attention grabber.
  • 5 minutes — SELL my strongest ideas. Flesh ‘em out. Let ‘em shine. Make my audience believe.
  • 1 minute — Wrap it up. Tie those strongest ideas back to the research to prove they were spot on and will make a difference.

I’m cheating of course. I spent decades pitching competitively for new business. In my agency days, some of those were highly polished, high pressure pitches with millions of dollars in potential billings at stake. We needed them to totally rock. So they did. They were fun!

But shouldn’t every opportunity to sell yourself totally rock? Stand out? Make your brand shine bright?

You want someone to buy your idea? Go sell it! You’ve got eight minutes.

Marketing and Sports Lingos Overlap

Today in a meeting with Margo Myers and Kristi Waite of GoGirl Academy team, we were talking about the Talk Sporty workshop GGA’s doing next Wed. evening with FSN’s Jen Mueller and the fact that we all talk sports naturally.

As a teenager, I ran track and played a bit of basketball, which looks pretty wimpy stacked up against GGA Co-Founder Jenni Hogan’s UW rowing scholarship. But, still, I like sports. I consider a sunny day at the ballpark time well spent no matter who wins. I’ve been to World Series games twice. So very, very much fun since my team won. Got to go a Super Bowl one year, sadly a horribly boring game that year. I’ve taken clients to baseball, basketball and football games. I have absolutely no talent for golf and am new to soccer, but otherwise, I’m pretty comfortable talking sports.

I warn my UW students every quarter, usually when referring to a fine little book called The Marketing Playbook by Ignition Partners’ Richard Tong and John Zagula, that we use a lot of sports terms in marketing. The book’s called a Playbook, after all. You map a playing field. Position to win. Develop strategies. Run plays.

Marketing is ultimately about beating the competition. When you’re talking about competition and developing strategies to beat them, what lexicon are you supposed to use? Biology’s? Finance’s? Using sports terminology is almost unavoidable.

My students who don’t like sports would, I’m sure, vehemently disagree. I could, in truth, skip the sports speak. But how is that doing them a favor? They’re in the Business School. I’ve never sat through a decent sales meeting that didn’t remind me of a pep rally. We create war rooms when facing a business crisis. It’s the lingua franca of marketing if not of business. My students are going to have to grasp sports speak enough to get by in business, so why should they get a bye in my class? Oops, there’s another sports term.

I honestly believe an inability to participate in sports conversations is a business handicap. And that’s not a handicap of the golf variety. It’s also one that’s just not necessary.

A few weeks ago, at a GGA Meet Up at the Four Seasons, I got a chance to meet Jen Mueller, the woman entrepreneur who can help anybody with that handicap. Since she founded her Talk Sporty to Me training business in 2008, she’s been inspiring conversation and confidence by teaching women to talk sports.

Her small group GGA workshop March 23rd runs a full three hours and will be jam packed with tips and training. You can get more details under Events or email for more information at

The Huskies next playoff game is Friday night, by the way. Go Dawgs!

Thanks to PhotoRocket and GPL Tax Accounting

This isn’t so much a blog post as a public thank you note to Lara McGowan, senior director of marketing, PhotoRocket, which offers a radically simple, radically different photo sharing experience at; and Shahar Plinner, senior tax and business consultant, GPL Tax Accounting, which utilizes the most advanced technologies available to meet its clients tax and accounting needs at

They graciously worked with the MBAs enrolled in my Entrepreneurial Marketing class at UW this past quarter, providing a real world example for the class assignment to develop full-blown marketing plans as their final team project.

Every quarter, I invite two local entrepreneurships to work with my UW students as the subject for their final project. Copies of the plans go straight to the participating companies with no strings attached. The results always fascinate me.

I’m a big believer in the value of getting some real world experience while still in school. I require my students to do primary research, but give them no money to fund it. Some times the students get a little more real world experience than they want as the entrepreneurs they’re working with sort out their business model as the quarter progresses. Some times the businesses make huge leaps forward during the quarter, changing the marketing landscape dramatically while the students try to research and develop plans.

To me, all that is the point: new companies are dynamic, learning as they go, adapting to a rapidly changing environment. It’s great to be taught all the incredible things you can do with research but another entirely to have to make due when you can’t afford the big research guns. It’s great to understand how to integrate complex marketing programs and another entirely to have to figure out what handful of activities are not only going to generate that coveted awareness but make sales.

I’ve just started digging into the plans, but I’m already seeing some interesting — and more important implementable — ideas.

Lara and Shahar, thank you for working with us this quarter! I hope when you dig into the plans you’ll find lots of ideas you can use as well.

In just a few weeks, two new companies will come in to brief my undergraduate class and we’ll start the digging and learning all over. Meanwhile, I get to grade all those MBA plans. Yeah.

Need A Digital Media Playbook?

Advertising is very much not my expertise. I’ve dabbled, I follow developments, I get to judge commercials like everybody else. But when I need advertising work or even just advice, I go to the pros.  Fortunately, I know a fair number of them including my friend Marc Williams, owner of Seattle’s Williams-Helde Marketing Communications.

That’s how Steven Cough, Williams-Helde’s media director, wound up speaking to my MBAs last Wed. night.

“Technology has paved the way for advertising and technology drives the future of advertising,” said Steven. Showing a slide of cave paintings, Steven commented that we started out writing on walls. Advancing through the history of advertising to Facebook, he commented: “And now we’re back to writing on walls.”

Yes, we are. According to eMarketer, Facebook will reach the majority of US web users — 132.5 million — in 2011. (That’s more people than live in Japan, by the way.) By 2013, eMarketer says more than 47% of the overall US population will be on Facebook.

Even more millions writing on walls.

No fools, US marketers go where the masses congregate. They’re projected by eMarketer to spend $3.08B advertising on social networking sites this year with most of it, nearly $2.2B, going to Facebook.

While the future of newspapers as an industry gets debated almost daily, no one is suggesting abandoning traditional advertising tactics. On the contrary, the Merchant Circle Merchant Confidence Index Survey for Q1 ’11 reported mid Feb. found nearly 20% of respondents listed print newspaper as one of their 3 most effective marketing or advertising tactics. Print yellow page advertising was still up there with nearly 23%. Good old fashioned direct mail and coupons were still in the top 3 for nearly 24%. All three were among the top 10 most effective tactics.

The trick, Steven said, is determining what you really need your advertising to accomplish before you get wrapped up in any one ad idea. That’s particularly appropriate advice for budget-constrained entrepreneurs and small businesses. To set some objectives for your advertising and determine a strategy to maximize your spend, you first need a handle on what all the tools can do for you.

In the category of “handy resources that help things make sense” comes a great little Williams-Helde digital advertising tutorial ebook called the Digital Media Playbook. Snag a copy through the link.

Then go ahead and go right back to writing on walls.

Social Media Freebies from Social 3i’s Andy Boyer

Listening to Andy Boyer, an amazing social media marketer and co-founder of Social 3i Consulting, talk to my UW MBAs last week about social media marketing, had me simultaneously making notes of points to re-emphasize with students and auditing my own nascent social media efforts. His template editorial calendar planned daily activity. The headers reading “Twitter (In addition to replies and discussion)” and “Facebook (In addition to general discussion)” stood out.

Several of my students are in the process of starting companies and they sought validation from Andy that they shouldn’t jump into the social media pool until they were bigger, until they felt ready. They didn’t get that validation. One student asked if social media was just a fad. No, Andy assured him, backing it up with ample data.

It always surprises me when business people way younger than I are social network doubters, especially in class where 97% of the students have Facebook accounts and 94% are on LinkedIn (yes, I surveyed them).

The evidence that social media marketing works just keeps growing. blogged Feb. 28th on a report by BIA/Kelsey that almost half of small and medium sized businesses use Facebook to promote their business. Two weeks prior, they’d reported on the Q1 2011 Merchant Confidence Index Survey by Merchant Circle, the largest social network for local business owners. That survey showed 70% of local businesses now use Facebook for marketing, up 50% from the year before, and 40% use Twitter, up from 32% the previous year. Nearly one-third of these businesses (32%) use Facebook Places. FourSquare was used by less than 9%.

Online tactics dominated the responses when Merchant Circle asked survey takers to name their top 3 most effective marketing or advertising method. Search engine marketing was number 1 with 41%, creating a social media network profile page second with nearly 37% and email marketing (which Andy Boyer considers part of your social media marketing program) a close third with 35.8%. Couponing and direct mail came in 5th, print yellow page advertising 6th and print newspaper advertising 7th.

Andy’s obviously a big proponent of social media marketing. He and his two co-founders created Social3i last year to focus on online marketing exclusively and they have a really, really interesting — and smart — approach to the whole thing. In his one-hour guest spot, Andy could only hit the highlights of a full-blown workshop he does on this subject. You can see one version of it that he does for at Great stuff.

Andy also recommended my students snag Eloqua’s free Social Media Playbook. Check the right hand column for the download. The Tip Sheet: Using Social Media to Cultivate Leads is excellent — there’s even an Ideal Updating Frequency schedule for you. Put that in your social media editorial calendar!


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