Ben Perreira

My head's dropbox.

Month: May, 2013

Priceless

Remember the first time you saw a MasterCard “Priceless” commercial? Here is the first one, which aired during the 1997 World Series.

Almost seventeen years later people remember and emulate the construct in everyday conversation and on social media: “Item 1: price, Item 2: price, Experience: priceless.” It is such a powerful construct because of its simplicity.

I wonder if “Priceless” would experience the same longevity had it launched during the 2012 World Series instead. It would have had an accompanying hashtag and microsite where fans could “share priceless experiences.” The output of this would be metrics that marketers could tell their clients or bosses were indications that consumers had increased their affinity for the brand. Raises abound!

It is no secret that I am a proponent of advertising in general because I think it makes brands more enjoyable, and the reality is that we would rather purchase products from brands with which we identify. The question is whether we are burning consumers out by reaching them throughout their days. Would it be wrong to allow a campaign to marinade in the minds of consumers? To let them think, discuss in person, watch again, and reflect?

Social and digital media advertising have their places without a shadow of a doubt. I just think that if we develop the right creative we can afford to give our consumers more credit to remember our brands without shouting the message at every level of the funnel. That way each execution on each medium achieves maximum impact. And that should be the goal.

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On Hold

Americans spend a decent amount of our time with customer service people on the phone rather than by finding information online because the phone is still the most efficient way to get answers.

Usually.

I present a tale of two companies: Wells Fargo and Time Warner Cable.

In the blue corner we have TWC, my cable and internet provider and the only cable option in my neighborhood. Their customer service over the phone is terrible. They require my life story to be entered digitally before I can talk to a rep then I must repeat said life story for each subsequent rep.

In the red corner we have Wells Fargo, my bank since I first made a deposit and far from the only option in my neighborhood. On the contrary, I can walk to a Chase branch. Wells Fargo’s customer service over the phone is exemplary for a few reasons:

  • Dialing “0” then stating my problem gets me to a live representative.
  • Their reps are generally friendly and use my first name, rather than butchering my last name or calling me “sir” repeatedly.
  • I don’t have to repeat my address, social security number, phone number or account number. Once I’m on the call it’s all there.
  • If I have an issue that requires a specialist, my rep will connect me to that person via 3-way.

Both companies seem somewhat committed to solving my problems. I tend to get what I need more often from Time Warner Cable; they are more likely to make billing concessions to allay my doubts in their services. But my satisfaction is much higher with Wells Fargo.

What this means for the business is that Time Warner Cable is squeezing its margins (at least on my business) because of its poor customer service. What a price to pay for something that can only bear the slightest incremental cost increase, if any.

Max and I

My friend Max is a traveler at heart and seemingly by profession. His dad retired in Guatemala and Max has spent the past several years traveling through Latin America for about six months every year. He didn’t know much Spanish before going down there and has since learned to speak the language very well.

I started learning Spanish when I was in 7th grade. I took countless tests over five years of classes and did pretty well. I learned every verb tense and the intricacies of the language that can most efficiently be learned in a formal setting.

Max and I both speak Spanish but in different ways. His vocabulary is much richer than mine, while my grammar is probably better and I can probably read and write the language better. 

Who cares? I hear you.

Certain industries favor education over experience; others favor experience over education. I hold that one needs both to gain full understanding. Education teaches us the rules of the game and experience teaches us when to break the rules. Without education we lack finesse. Without experience we lack context.

And that is why I continue to develop both as much as possible.

Income and Chance

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Income distribution has been a hot button issue over the last couple years, with events like Occupy Wall Street prompting people to take political stances on how the United States deals with income inequality. This post is about practicality of earning rather than political posturing.

This chart shows a median household income of $50,000, meaning half of all US households make more and half make less. Those of us in big cities likely find this pretty astounding, but it is the truth.

I am much more interested in the right side of the distribution because that is the part that some people find to be a mystery or at the very least elusive. I find that to be the case because of how frequently business publications focus on how to “get rich” and the volume of TV documentaries about how billionaires made their money.

The reality, as I humbly see it, is that trying to be a billionaire is like trying to be a professional basketball player; it can definitely happen, but unless you’re born within a very narrow set of parameters it is pretty unlikely.

As we get farther from the median the results are more about chance than will. No doubt people have worked hard to become billionaires and many more will do so in the future. LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are known for their work ethic in their fields as well. Their heights (6’8″ and 6’6″, respectively) are also quite literally off the chart, not to mention any other physical advantages they have that we are unaware of.

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If you’re 5’7″ would you learn how to play guard from Kobe? You could, but you may hit some roadblocks to becoming a star in the NBA. I advocate taking tips from any source one finds valuable, however it is probably best to beware that the source may have a hidden advantage that is not as clear (to you and them) as height.

Are there traits that are unique to those earning, say, between $150,000 and $300,000? I am interested. And it is the topic for a much deeper exploration.

That’s My Job

This morning I heard an interview with British record producer Steve Lillywhite on KROQ in LA. He was talking about his method of getting the best product out of artists when he said something to the effect of:

Some producers will say, “fire the drummer!” or “let’s change this guy!” But it isn’t about my ego and who I want in the band. My job is to come in and help the current band create a great album. Other producers may have success in firing people but that’s not my way of doing it.

This quandary is far from exclusive to music production. It’s easy to get caught up in how to use one’s power within an organization or industry to propel one’s own career. In almost all cases (by the definition of “unique”), this way of thinking is what social psychologists would call “false uniqueness” – thinking we are comparatively better at something than we actually are.

Are ego-driven decisions good for the company? And for those less concerned with that, are they good for one’s own career in the long run? One must doubt it.

Any Way You Want It

Any way you want it,

that’s the way you need it,

any way you want it,

na-na-na-na-na. – Journey.

As I often tell my friends, if you believe in statistical facts, I have a Power Balance bracelet to sell you and a friend in Nigeria who would has an financial transactional offer you can’t refuse.

Statistics don’t lie, but people do. Case in point:

An article on Mashable.com reports that 44% of people will buy less online an the internet sales tax passes. Well, go ahead and stop the bill right now, you may say. Let’s look a little deeper at the details they offer in their snazzy infographic.

– 61% of people disagree with the bill (that is, they think it’s a bad idea)

– 40% disagree because they are sick of tax hikes

– 46% blame congress

– 60% of people think the bill is bad for the economy

It’s hard to analyze any set of data, and it is especially hard to analyze without having all of the raw data and questions in front of oneself, but the picture here is becoming clearer – people who don’t like tax hikes say they will shop less if this particular tax hike is enacted. You would likely see similar results for any other tax hike. In fact, just calling it a “hike” rather than an “increase” in the questionnaire introduces bias. Further, this study was sponsored by “the leader in e-commerce shipping technologies”. We can all agree taxes are inconvenient, but some find them more odious and have vested interests to stop them.

Will they people actually shop less online  if this bill passes? And by how much? Who knows. I suspect that many of these people didn’t know about the tax increase to begin with and will continue their normal online shopping patterns because online shopping is convenient for many reasons that overshadow having to pay sales tax, something we have to pay at any brick-and-mortar store.

Am I saying that a full 44% of respondents in this survey are lying? No. As it turns out, as hard as it is to get people to assess they think, it is even more difficult to get them to assess what they think they’re going to think or do in the future.

So to quote my distant cousin, Stephen Ray Pereira (you may know him as Steve Perry), any way you want it, that’s the way you need it. Statistics, that is. Statistics will tell you just about anything you want them to tell you should you so desire. Fighting bias from the beginning is the first step to getting closer to what people actually think.

Double Emptiness

Body is nothing more than emptiness, 
emptiness is nothing more than body. 
The body is exactly empty, 
and emptiness is exactly body. – The Heart Sutra

We’re no different than they are. They’re all practice and no theory; we’re all theory and no practice. – Waking Life

I’ve mentioned that I’ve read a bit of Eastern philosophy. I love going back to it because of its seemingly endless applicability. The concept of double emptiness is my topic du jour.

Emptiness is the idea that things that happen are devoid of innate meaning. All meaning we perceive is ascribed. When we finally perceive emptiness, we approach Nirvana, a Buddhist would say.

The idea of double emptiness is that thinking and doing are inextricable. They duke it out until, like soul mates, they become one. In everything there exists everything else that has ever existed and the ingredients for all that will one day exist.

We can invert double emptiness to create meaning for brands. Rather than having everything the brand (“body”) does point to emptiness, it all points to a core idea. It all relates to a perspective on the world, a history that is unique from that of its competitors.

If everything around us is inherently empty anyway, why not have some fun with it?