Resurrecting An Idea

Leaders do not live forever. Therefore, every follower has the opportunity to lead. By the hands of those who follow, the messages and teachings of a leader can live on. Apprentices, disciples and true believers are responsible for standing up for and keeping an idea alive. Traditions, trades, crafts and stories all pass away if not nurtured.

Fable or history, the story of Christ survives. No matter what you believe, you can admire the staying power of the brand and message. If the Disciples of Christ broke into the tomb to exhume Jesus’s body, give him a proper burial and cover their trail by haunting the authorities with his resurrection, the story bears no less weight. These followers loved a man and his teachings so much that they risked everything against one of the harshest regimes in history to help the memory and message never die. The power of that rebellion lasted two millennia and continues to live on. Even if the man never existed, cultural outcasts stood for, developed and passed on the message until it flourished throughout the world. Followers became leaders to resurrect an idea and keep the light alive. That’s worth celebrating, no matter what you believe.

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Culture Is More Important Than Product

People want to be a part of something and have a good time. That’s why fancy restaurants make the big bucks. Product is important and the focal point of a solid business foundation. But the atmosphere around a product is the key differentiator. If you can build culture around a product, it’s like having an open front door to a raging house party. Something people want to be a part of. The most successful restaurants on a block are packed with people having a good time. Music helps. Alcohol helps. Great service helps. But without those things, great food means very little next to the fun house party. The aura you build around your brand makes a huge difference. Spend as much time developing your cultural recipes as you spend on your product recipes.

Woah There, Hot Shot! Take It Easy On Self-Promotion

You walk a fine line to promote yourself. How do you share your value with the world without boasting about it? How can you exude confidence without coming off as haughty? Blowing your own horn turns people off. I know I prefer to follow brands and artists that spend little time praising themselves and provide value to my life. Who wouldn’t? If Ramit Sethi spent less time praising his own accomplishments, I would spend more money on his content.

The key to building a great brand? Consistently providing great value. Without question, a brand like the one Ramit built will grow if you continue to deliver on your promise. People are thirsty for good content and will follow. However, the distance between a strong brand and a sustainable one can be measured by humility. Without too much self-deprecation, a brand must genuinely acknowledge weaknesses, listen to all parties invested and restrain bragging rights as much as possible. Celebrate success with your fans, defend your gifts to the world – and hold back the rest.

I have learned through nearly a year of writing this blog that headlines, tweets and content centered around myself or plugging my writing perform far worse than direct content. I beg you, dear readers – call me out any time my writing is sullied with boasting. No one likes content adulterated by too much Craig Ormiston.

Early Bird Gets the Attention

If you are first in line, there will be more water in the pool to make a bigger splash. If you hit the market first, it will be much easier to make some noise. Get in people’s queues first, and you will be read before the next guy. I have seen a direct correlation to the number of people who read my blog per day and the time of day I post – the earlier, the better. The early bird gets the worm. Or in this case, the attention.

There is a flip side to being first: a responsibility to quality. While you may secure for yourself a smash hit opening weekend by launching first, sustaining that hit overtime is a completely different story. In journalism, it’s always a race to publish first. But if the accuracy of an article doesn’t check out, the premature launch could adversely effect the organization’s credibility. To build a sustainable hit, you must keep quality high and consistently beat everyone else to the punch.

While my blog has little at stake to post “first,” I doubt I could have earned your readership if I published daily nonsensical poop jokes. Without question, quality counts in the long term. But if all you want is attention and immediate gratification, you better cross the finish line in first place.

Service Beats the Hunt

We now live in a world where we can expect things to come to us directly. News, messages, deals, and ideas push their way to us instantaneously. To compete in today’s innovative world, you must play this game. You can no longer expect customers or users to come to you; you must find ways to reach them directly. In many ways, this has always been an issue for businesses. The challenge is not just getting people to come through your door, but to keep them coming back. In an era where infinite options compete for our attention, you must fight harder to stay relevant. The 24-hour news cycle is shriveling up. Windows for theatrical film releases are collapsing. Tweet trends often last less than an hour. Before long, consumers will miss you entirely.

If you want your brand or product to have a presence in your audience’s lives, you must find a way to remind them you exist. You must continuously roll out useful content to keep things fresh. And you must go out of your way to deliver it to them directly as soon as it becomes available. From here on out, most people will prefer services that bring to them what other services would expect them to hunt. If you want to stay alive in this feeding frenzy of a world, you must become your own paper boy.

The Ugly Path to Beautiful Design

Design is difficult. Perfectionists want to nitpick until they are blue in the face. Most never finish satisfied. The few who feel they got it just right invariably get torn apart by the public or by passing time. Burdened by stress herein, many never finish at all.

Beautiful design seldom comes from a single stroke or first draft. It takes iteration upon iteration to arrive at success. The path to creating widely accepted design depends entirely on feedback. No single designer wields a universal sensibility, so each design must be put to the test.

No matter how focused or specific your target audience is, you have no way to inherently know how to approach the look and feel of your creation until you drop your pants and present it.

Put out something ugly first so people can call it ugly and help you define what pretty is. Listen to the criticism carefully and identify the common taste denominator woven throughout your core audience. Without compromising your vision, steer work in that direction. Before long, your audience, you, and your design may find common ground.

Two Options? Or Just One?

While people do not enjoy an overwhelming number of choices, they enjoy even less not having a choice at all. Pretty obvious day to day, but how does that apply to business, entertainment, and marketing beyond? When you give customers or audiences only one choice, they are quicker to create another one of their own: “No thanks.” By providing more than one option, you expand your chances at inspiring them to consider the options first before considering their exit. That contemplation period is irrefutably valuable to marketers looking to convert users or customers. Depending on how you position the product and alert everyone to his or her options, you at least stand a chance at starting a conversation. That’s half the battle.