Pop Quiz: What is the formula for creating a world class swimming champion that is expected to sweep the Olympics this summer?
If you said something like train really, really hard (like six hours, six days a week), work with a world class coach at a great facility and be blessed with good genes you would be right. In fact, this is the training formula followed by the swimming champion Micheal Phelps who won a whopping 8 gold medals in Beijing in 2008.
But there is always more than one path to success. One of the most effective ways to solve a difficult problem, reach a goal or launch a successful new product is to assume the opposite is true. The key is to challenge conventional wisdom. The same is true with sports. As a case in point, look at Missy “the Missile’ Franklin.
Accordingly to the WSJ Missy swims just two hours a day, ”less than half the yardage logged by top college swimmers.” Her coach, Todd Schmitz defies Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 rule believing too much training can produce burnout. Balance is as ‘as important to (Missy’s) success as stroke improvement.” Yet Missy could win up to seven medals at the London Olympics this August.
Speaking of coaches, Schmitz isn’t a world class sports authority training his prodigy at a state of the art facility. Schmitz started coaching the 8-and-under group at a Colorado youth club in 2002. The youth club costs just $2 an hour. Less than most public swimming pools or baby sitting services. Schmitz is passionate about the sport but he also values fun and play and believes it is a key ingredient to creating a successful, well-rounded champion.
This is good news for every well-meaning parent across America who is pushing their child to excel in sports. Swimming endless miles, paying for pricey coaches at expensive facilities is one way to succeed. The story of Missy Franklin, a teenager who loves swimming, skipped practice to attend her prom, studied for her drivers license and is expected to win gold this summer, offers another.
Missy Franklin and her coach Todd Schmitz is this week’s Gobsmack Moment of the week.
What is Gobsmack?
What is a ‘Gobsmack?’ The word means to be dumbfounded, surprised, amazed. What is amazing? There are the obvious examples: solar eclipses, fireworks and the one time my 8 year old volunteered to do the dishes. But what is truly amazing in my view is someone who looks at the world in a different way and thru that lens finds a unique-yet-dead-simple approach to solving a complex problem or achieving a difficult goal. These people see the world differently. They challenge conventional wisdom who unleash their creative potential. They are dot connectors, not pencil pushers.
Gobsmack Moment of the week: Cancer Detector (invented by a 15year old), an ocean-blue tarantula and a monkey that sneezes when it rains
One of my favorite words in the English language is ‘Gobsmack.” What is a ‘Gobsmack?’ The word means to be dumbfounded, surprised, amazed. What is amazing? There are the obvious examples: solar eclipses, fireworks and the one time my 8 year old volunteered to do the dishes. But what is truly amazing in my view is someone who looks at the world in a different way and thru that lens finds a super-unique-yet-dead-simple approach to solving a complex problem. These people see the world differently. They are dot connectors, not pencil pushers. They know how to unleash their creative potential. The good news is that creativity is not the same thing as intelligence. And fortunately, creativity is not a trait acquired solely thru good genes at birth. We all have the potential to create more amazing, more creative, and well, more Gobsmack moments.
My favorite Gobsmack moment of the week is the story of a 15 year old who build a better mousetrap for detecting cancer:
Jack Andraka, 15, developed a paper sensor that detects pancreatic cancer 168 times faster than current tests and is 90% accurate. Even more importantly, the new method is a whopping 26,000 times less expensive than today’s most popular method. How does someone who has no formal medical or research training and is not even old enough to drive develop such an incredible product? Three reasons: passion, hard work and curiosity: Andraka was inspired to focus on pancreatic cancer because a friend’s relative was killed by the disease. He become interested in the subject and spent endless hours trying to solve the problem. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Andraka is curious. He has attended many science fairs and seems to love figuring out how things work. Read the entire article at co.exist.com.
Gobsmackers of the week.
Every now and then I come across a cool product-concept-service that reminds me that creativity and innovation can be found everywhere.
The inventor of these Gobsmackers are mother nature. The Week published the 10 weirdest new species of 2012. These Gobsmackers challenge our conventional thinking and remind us that the world is truly a weird and wonderful place.
The picture at the top of this post shows a sweet looking money with black fur and white beard. Notice his nose is turned upwards. The angle of his nose causes him to sneeze whenever it’s raining. According to the article, ‘to avoid inhaling water, the monkeys supposedly sit with their heads tucked between their knees on drizzly days.”
Late Night Blooming Orchird:
Below is picture of an orchid that comes alive at bedtime. It opens at 10 p.m. and closes early the next morning. It is the believed to be the only nocturnal blooming orchard on the planet.
And finally, this 8-legged-furry friend may seem like your every-day-garden-variety poisonous spider. What makes it unique is its color. It is blue: iridescent sapphire colored blue to be specific. Amazing!
This has been the week of Madge. First, Madonna performs at the Superbowl. Next, her performance is hotly debated by family and friends (she rocked by the way). And today, her team announced she was performing in my home town.
On FB a friend on mine said she wanted to go see Madonna in concert because it was on her bucket list. My son Spencer, saw the post and asked what was a bucket list anyway? I explained it to him and he decided to make his own. This is what a 7 year old’s bucket list looks like:
Spencer’s list got me thinking. Maybe a bucket list isn’t just for those approaching AARP membership status. Perhaps creating this kind of a list is not about kicking the bucket before you die, but rather, filling the bucket while you are still alive and kicking.
A good lesson from a second grader.
I told Spencer his list was great. He said thanks and then said he would be happy to help redo my list (he apparently thought it was a bit boring). But first, he wanted to know who was Madonna?
Aaah Perspective. Cue the 1980′s soundtrack.
While the Superbowl ads are hotly debated this week (I am partial to Volkswagon’s Dog Strikes Back and Chrysler’s Half Time In America), my favorite spot was the one that less than one percent of the beer drinkers in America saw during the game. Specifically, the fine folks living in North Platte, Nebraska were the only ones to view this spot live.
I am speaking of none other than the Old Milwaukee ad featuring Will Ferrell. In this ad Will saunters through a wheat field in slow motion as an Olympic anthem plays in the background. Ferrell then stops, pauses, catches a beer, opens it and as he prepares to speak, the ad abruptly cuts off before the sales pitch.
Moreover, there isn’t a good version of the ad anywhere. The Blair Witch Project has better resolution than these low quality ads
Yet I still loved the ad. And here is why:
1) The spot zigs while others zag: This commercial is devoid of talking babies, burping animals, car chases or scantily clad girls with low-self esteem … essentially none of the usual trappings of a traditional Superbowl spot. The ad works because it is different, unexpected and leaves us wanting to know more.
2. In advertising – Superbowl ads are not won during the game but after, in the digital court of public opinion. In this case, Milwaukee scored a game winning touchdown. Business Week citing a study by the ad shop Mullen, indicating the Old Milwaukee ad generated 1,640 mentions on Twitter. That’s more buzz than most Super Bowl spots, including ones for Cadillac (which generated 345 Tweets), Century 21 (520 Tweets), Lexus (922 Tweets), CareerBuilder (1,001 tweets), and Hulu (1,191 Tweets).
3) The new ROI is ROA: The new return on investment is return on attention. A Superbowl spot costs nearly 3.5M for 30 seconds. The cost of Old Milwaukee ad cost a fraction of that, roughly the same amount as the craft service offered on the set of these pricey SB commercials. Old Milwaukee delivered a low cost ad that had higher engagement and increased return on attention. Whats even more noteworthy, these ads were Will Ferrell’s idea and he is doing them for free (though I suspect he may be being paid in Old Milwaukee beer over the course of his lifetime).
See the awesomely low quality ad for yourself.
Exciting things are happening in 2012. And I am not just talking about this weekend’s Superbowl game, the VW adsequel to The Force, or unseasonably warm weather. I am referring to the awesome marriage between image sharing aps and social networks. And no other social platform exemplifies this more than Pinterest.
In 2012, Pinterest will be the proverbial social belle of the ball.
For the uninitiated, Pinterest allows users to create boards that are interesting to them. Users can find, organize and share images (pictures, videos, gifts, recipies) using a ‘pin it’ button. Friends can comment on your ‘pin’ and if they like it, can repin the image to their own board. Users have different boards for different areas that interest them. Suggestions include: products I love, favorite places, books worth reading, food and my style.
So why crown a 2012 winner when people are still writing “2011” on their memos and checks? At least three reasons:
1) Pinterest works because it is dead simple: We all have an intuitive understanding of pinning a picture, recipe, house idea on a bulletin board at home, school or work. This social platform simply makes that concept easier and more social. Pinterest isn’t a social tool reserved for folks in Silicon Valley, Alley or Prairie. In short, the social site is user friendly, accessible and appeals to a broader user base. Pinterest is Fun. Useful. And Dead Simple.
2) Pinterest understands how busy people live: So many social sites make it difficult for the user to sort or find anything. Pinterest enables a user to develop a board for every aspect of their lives: home (decorating ideas), vacation (get aways), food (favorite recipes), kids (valentine day crafts), hobbies (technology) and on and on. In short, Pinterest understands that busy people pay a premium for anyone or anything that can help them stay organized! As a working mom Pinterest is akin to having your kids put their dishes away, laundry folded and cap put back on the toothpaste.
3) Pinterest encourages discoverability. In addition to usability, Pinterest enables users to discover new ideas easily. This treasure trove of new ideas is made especially more relevant since users can peruse boards and repin ideas belonging to their stylish friends, craft-loving neighbors, and most admired brands.
Ultimately, the results for Pinterest are compelling. The site is now driving more referral traffic on the web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn – combined and Pinterest was just named Best New Startup of 2011 at the Crunchie awards (although I think the technical start up date was 2010).
There is of course a downside to early accolades and strong word of mouth. The biggest issue for Pinterest now will be its ability to scale: Pinterest’s growth rate has been simply phenomenal. According to Compete, Pinterest added a whopping 2.7M users in one month. It now has over 7.2M unique visits monthly. The critical question for Pinterest will be: Can they manage and sustain their growth? Keeping up with demand will be a huge issue for this rapidly growing site. I am certain there are a few case studies from the early days of Twitter that would benefit Pinterest right now. Also, expect a slew of copy cats that will imitate Pinterest and confuse fast followers who want to jump on the bandwagon.
But I still maintain that despite their challenges, Pinterest will be the runaway winner in the social space in 2012. I expect its user base to quadruple by the end of the year. Moreover, the social media darling will grace every cover of every major news and magazine this year.
So get ready for it.
And pin this image if you agree!
I think the idea of ‘leaking’ a superbowl spot prior to game day is incredibly smart. It is a far cry from the days when I worked on Superbowl spots. Five years ago, a Super Bowl ad was shrouded in secrecy, kept under lock and key until the big reveal on game day.
Last year a host of brands (Kia, Snickers, GoDaddy, Coca Cola to name a few) all used the power of social media to amplify their message. Activating social media before, during, and after the game broadens reach and can help break thru the clutter of ads. More importantly, when you are spending upwards of $3M Benjamins for one spot, social media can improve engagement creating a ‘halo effect’ while vastly improving ROI.
But the strategy isn’t without risk. Especially if the ad is polorizing. The Honda CRV is a good example. The brand released an extended version of their ’Game Day’ spot that essentially spoofs Ferris Bueller’s day off. The ad was directed by Todd Phillips (of Hangover fame) and there are over a dozen references to Bueller throughout the ad.
I liked the ad and thought it highly amusing. But then I watched the extended spot with a colleague of mine. As my colleague watched he shook his head in sadness, and disspointment. He said simply, ‘Ferris would never have sold out. It’s cheap.” To prove his point, he showed me a @DamonLindelof tweet that summed up his feelings: ’Ferris Bueller driving a Honda is like Tyler Durden joining Facebook.’ Ouch.
See the official Honda CR-V ad for yourself and decide.
So will the gamble be a touch down or fumble for Honda? Honda is hoping Joe six pack will nudge his friends and say ‘you gotta see this, a friend of mine sent it to me earlier this week and it is awesome!’ Or will Joe share my colleagues view and decide it is a better idea to get of the couch and refresh his six pack instead? Afterall, Joe may reckon that, like the movie, the car will end up in woods near Cameron’s house anyway.