How to View Constraints as Blessings in Disguise

By Rajesh Setty

“What we need is to tell a powerful story on our thank you card,” I said.

The team unanimously agreed to the concept and in minutes volunteered me to lead that storytelling project. This happened in the volunteer marketing team meeting at Sankara Eye Foundation, which has helped perform one million free eye surgeries in India.

Sending a thank you card is an annual project at the non-profit. We send out tens of thousands of thank you cards to all the donors and, of course, ask for more donations in the same outreach.

The task was clear and the constraints were set: a powerful and engaging story had to be told on a single thank you card.

Constraints generally denote problems. There is a negative connotation to the word itself.

But that is not the only way to look at constraints.

They can be positives too. It just depends on how you look at them.

Touching (in more ways than one)

It took several days and at least a dozen iterations before I was happy with the copy and the design.

Here is how the final card looked:

The recipient could clearly feel the emotional appeal. The entire story was encapsulated in one single sentence:

YOU know the JOY of taking someone from

T H A N K Y O U (in Braille)


T H A N K Y O U (in English)

The Braille section was embossed to create the “touching” part, both literally and figuratively. We had to tell a story in line with the theme of eradicating curable blindness. The design above achieved that while acknowledging the past and future contributions from the recipients (donors).

The verdict? The card was a hit.

Not only did donations pour in, but there were requests for more cards to be printed because people wanted to keep them as souvenirs.

Mission accomplished.

Constraint turned into positive.

Constraints lead to growth

A few years ago, I realized that constraints were really blessings in disguise.

Embracing and internalizing this changed the way I look at writing and the way I look at life.

My biggest learning and growth came when I worked through the constraints along the way. Whether the outcome was a failure or a success, one thing was common: there was huge personal growth as a side effect.

I have dozens of examples, and I have chosen from the world of writing to make my point:

Writing a 50,000-word book … in 30 days

The first four books I wrote were based on fiction. A story of how my first book got published (and the constraints involved in the journey) is here.

My recent books are all related to some aspects of business. I always wanted to write another fiction book one day. Since a wish alone is not good enough to move the needle, no real progress was made.

In 2009, I heard about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) — a movement to help aspiring and veteran authors start and finish at least a 50,000-word book in the month of November. The 30-day constraint and 50,000-word limit were intriguing.

I signed up right away and made a plan based on daily word counts. The math was simple: if I wrote 2,000 words a day, I would be well ahead of the schedule. I stuck to the plan for the first few days and was happy about it.

A group of us met at a fellow author’s residence for a writing blitz. The first few minutes went by discussing where each of us stood on the word count. Most of us were in the same range, but the host said she was at 2,500 words.

There was silence for a moment.

Everyone felt she was running way behind, but before someone spoke the host continued, “But not to worry as this is my third book this month.”

Now total disbelief filled the room.

The host explained that she has a different approach to writing in November. Her trick was to set an even more aggressive constraint (say eight days to complete writing the book), then all of a sudden the earlier constraint (30 days) seemed like nothing big.

This incident reset my outlook on constraints, reminding me that constraints are relative. It was a big lesson to learn.

Long story short: I completed 55,000 words on November 19. As you can see, this was well in advance of the November 30 deadline.

Provoking thought … in 140 characters

I resisted using Twitter for a long time, thinking it was a total waste of time. I even told several of my friends that they were wasting time on Twitter.

“After all, what can you really say in 140 characters?” was my explanation.

In one such conversation, my classmate Navin Nagiah (currently the CEO of DNN Software) asked me a question back: “Raj, is it that Twitter is a waste of time or that you don’t have what it takes to make the most of what the platform provides?”

It made me think. A lot.

The constraint immediately seemed like a challenge — an open invitation to test my creativity.

After a few days, I started writing a book using Twitter. It was my own collection of tweets to make people think, each with the hashtag #ThinkTweet.

It took longer than I thought to come up with 140 ThinkTweets, but it was worth the effort. It made me think about and rewrite the same idea multiple times before I posted it on Twitter. It was a lesson in learning how to say a lot in a very few words.

The book, titled ThinkTweet (foreword by Guy Kawasaki), was published in partnership with my friend Mitchell Levy.

Today, we have more than 75 books in the series, all in the format …read more

Source: Copy Blogger


Your TV is Just Another Screen

By Will Critchlow

Superbowl fans

With the Superbowl just around the corner, we thought it was a great time to start talking about the role TV advertising plays in our vision of the future of marketing.

Over the next month, Distilled is publishing a series of articles on this topic along with a detailed report on the impact we believe it will have on digital. Be the first to receive our forthcoming report by signing up here (and get a chance to win one of 10 Google Chromecasts).

I’d be shocked if there is a marketer on the planet who hasn’t been following the growth in mobile but over the last 6 months I’ve been starting to think that the battle for the biggest screens in our homes may be more disruptive to marketing than the battle for the smallest screens.

Powerful mobile devices with great screens and fast connections are leading us to use our phones and tablets more and more like our computers. Of course there will be disruptions to technology markets but for marketers, the changes are currently looking relatively tactical.

Disruption is coming to TV

Meanwhile, the battle for control of our TVs and to deliver our video content has the potential to uproot established players. Although I believe that digital marketers (myself included) have missed a trick by focussing so much on the measurability of digital direct response to the exclusion of brand building, I think we may be about to get another shot at those brand budgets.

The disruption that’s coming to TV is largely driven by the rapid growth of so-called Over The Top (OTT) content. This content, which includes Netflix, YouTube, many on-demand services and certain forms of timeshifting, is delivered via “dumb pipes” over IP networks (in other words via your broadband connection) rather than through your proprietary broadcast, cable or satellite TV connections. The decoupling of delivery mechanism and content provider is great for consumers who get a wealth of choice and new services but it is highly disruptive for the broadcasting industry.

Much like the “year of the mobile” which was forecast for a decade before it quietly snuck past us, the technical side of this revolution has been possible for some time. Many people have been streaming video for years. The disconnect between the growth in sales of Smart TVs and their actual use highlights how frustrating this has been for analysts who have been predicting the revolution [source: Analysys Mason]:

Percentage of smart TVs in use

Anyone who has a Smart TV will understand how this has happened. I can personally get OTT content in at least five ways (Smart TV, set top box, Google Chromecast, Apple TV and regular laptop via HDMI) and the user experience of the Smart TV is so bad that I’d choose setting up any of the others from scratch over using the built-in TV interface.

Much like how the first iPhone finally broke the “good enough” barrier that unleashed mobile data usage, I believe the hardware, software and connection speeds are finally there to do the same for OTT.

The Chromecast is significant

Google Chromecast

Image credit: @iannnnn

I don’t know how many of you have used a Chromecast, but at $35 (or free to lucky email list subscribers), it’s the device that convinces me about something I’ve believed for a while now – that this revolution is coming to the masses.

Google hasn’t published exact statistics on the sales performance of the Chromecast yet, but I think they’re going to be pretty mind blowing when we finally get to see them. On their January earnings call, Google CFO Patrick Pichette said:

Nexus 5 was very strong for us, and the Chromecast was a best seller all quarter

(It’s been one of Amazon’s bestsellers in Electronics for 16 consecutive weeks as at Jan 2014).

Not only that, but there’s a huge knock-on “kindle-effect” on Google Play store revenue from all those Chromecasts streaming movies and TV shows. Pichette said:

Revenue growth was driven by content and app sales in the play store

Could YouTube be a significant “broadcast” player?

YouTube is in some senses the “native” Chromecast app and the experience of streaming YouTube to your TV in this way is exceptional. Right now, it’s a slightly weird experience because there is relatively little high-quality full-length content on YouTube, but I expect that to change.

There were rumours late last year that Google was in negotiations over the streaming rights to NFL content. Although that deal has reportedly fallen through and the other major US sports deals aren’t up for renegotiation any time soon, I fully expect to see deals like this one become a reality sooner rather than later. The Chromecast + YouTube experience is so good for the consumer (and the Chromecast so cheap) that content producers should be all over it – assuming Google can put together a decent commercial package around the advertising.

We desperately need an effective self-service brand advertising platform

Much like the way AdWords evolved from individually negotiated deals with major advertisers to self-service market-priced auctions, I think the next logical step from here is the release of a platform that makes TV-like brand advertising available to the next tier of challenger brands.

Yes, Google has tried this before with the failed venture into TV advertising. But just like I believe the Chromecast will succeed where the Google TV failed, I think YouTube has a real shot at being a huge part of the future of TV.

If you’re interested in the future of marketing, you can sign up here to be the first to receive our Future of TV report (and get a chance to win one of 10 Chromecasts).

…read more

Source: Distilled


Why China Could Be the Most Social Media-Savvy Country

By LaurentFrancois WeChat has just released a new feature allowing users to send money to each other for the New Year. There’s a sweet spot between design (it’s easy and convenient to send Hong Bao), socialized context (we are really preparing this transfer for New Year) and technology (I can directly and easily send the money to my personal contacts).

read more

…read more

Source: Social Media Today


Preparing to Graduate? Put a Suit and Tie on Your Social Presence

By Elliot Volkman As college students prepare to graduate and enter the professional world, they have a challenging and competitive journey to embark on. As with most things in life we must crawl before we walk, which in this case means students should consider putting a metaphoric suit and tie on their social presence prior to sending out resumes.

read more

…read more

Source: Social Media Today


Social Media Sharing: New 2013 Q4 Data Reveals Americans’ Habits [INFOGRAPHIC]

By Bob Hutchins As you may know, Pew Internet has been releasing a “Social Media Update” over the last few years. The Pew research is essential reading for anyone doing social media marketing. But if you want to get into some really cool stuff, I’d like to introduce you to the Consumer Sharing Trends Report from Q4 2013 (released by ShareThis).

read more

…read more

Source: Social Media Today