The Engel Journal

Personal opinions of Eisaiah Engel, a product marketer in Dallas, TX.

Category: Imagination

0 Bad Reviews: Imitating Alcoa’s transformation in the information age

Picture of Paul O'Neill from Alcoa

Paul O’Neill transformed Alcoa by changing one keystone habit, safety. Credit: CNN.

Here is how Paul O’Neill introduced himself to a crowd of Wall Street investors when he became the CEO & Chairman of Alcoa in 1987:

“Today, I want to talk to you about worker safety… I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for 0 injuries,” he told the Manhattan ballroom.

– The Power of Habit

The investors were dumbfounded because he did not talk about profitability – only safety. A year later, Alcoa’s profits hit a record high. When O’Neill retired in 2000, Alcoa’s market capitalization had increased by $27B. Someone who invested $1M in Alcoa would have earned $1M in dividends, and the value of the shares would have been $5M when O’Neill left.2

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You’re not a consumer?

24-year-old me:
“This gold pixie dust face cleanser is great, but there’s just one problem.”

Skincare promoter at a mall outside of Vegas:
“What is that?”

24-year-old me:
“I am not a consumer. So, naturally I would not buy this.”

Skincare promoter at a mall outside of Vegas:
Animated GIF of a woman saying, "What the fuck?"

Dear Skincare Promoter, if you are reading this, I have had better quotes since then! Besides the emotional intelligence faux pas, the statement “I am not a consumer” is factually wrong. I am a consumer every time I make the simplest purchase like gas or a 1970s bamboo bracelet.

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Habit is tech

Golden hamster running in a wheel, depicting the concept of habit

Hamster Wheel” by sualk61 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In 2010, I started a company that forever impacted how I approach product marketing. The company sold data, specifically sales prospecting lists for B2B marketing technology companies. Instead of simply delivering CSV files, our data was packaged in a web app that customers could use to interact with the data. The interface was original. Early feedback from customers indicated they were eager to use it. But, the heat was about to rise.

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Thought experiment: What is marketing?

Cow pasture with sunlight pouring over the mountains like in a dream

Credit: “dream” by Luigi Alesi is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flikr.

Poof! The internet, TV, radio, cellphones, print and all other marketing tools have vanished in a flash. No modern media exists. How then does a company get the word out about its products?

I suppose that in our imaginary world a company would have to get people to share its products–at least verbally through conversation with another. The more target customers who receive word about a company’s products, the more sales a company receives.

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What do successful marketing campaigns have in common? 

thumb

“There has to be a way to ensure the success of a marketing campaign,” I thought in the summer of 2015. While many effective marketing, advertising and public relations campaigns were created by people just winging it, I suspected there was a known set of footholds in the human psyche which marketers could target to increase their response rates. What were they?

The question led down on a path of intellectual inquiry that began on Penny Lane and wound half way across the globe to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 1991 when the book Human Universals was published by Dr. Donald Brown. The book presents a big idea that flew in the face of the prevailing assumption in anthropology that humans were different.

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1 Thing Great Inventions Have in Common

I was just reading this list of the world’s most famous inventions, and I found a common thread between them. Here it is: Great inventions bring the world together.

When you’re thinking about creating your next invention, ask, “How can I make it easier to bring people / resources together?” The more people / resources you connect, the bigger your potential market.

One way to remember this is to package the concept in a “trigger.” I recommend the word: CONNECT. When you’re brainstorming think about what to CONNECT, who to CONNECT, where to CONNECT, etc. This framework will help inventors save time and maximize their creative impact.

Creativity tip: write your ideas down

In order to have great success with creativity, I’ve learned to write everything down and imagine it being done in vivid detail.

The process of writing ideas down in a notebook help to you solidify what the ideas actually are. For example in software design, you may say let’s connect this screen with that screen. While the general idea is there to connect to screens, there are so many other factors that need to be decided like how do we render the contents of this view with that view if we merge them together? What technology changes are needed? What is the best order to do things in?

Writing this all down in a notebook and visualizing the answers to these questions will help you clarify your thinking. That way when you present your idea to other people, you are presenting a coherent well-thought plan as opposed to a vague idea.

A notebook also helps you understand the priorities because you can look at the other ideas in your notebook and decide which one merits being worked on at this time.

It’s very easy to get excited when you get a new idea. The bottom line is that writing it down will help you clarify the idea to a point where it is ready to come to life.

What is Mastery?

Every so often, I like to take a late night walk on Moonlight Beach and get lost in thought.

Tonight, I asked, “What is mastery?”

I came up with an intellectual definition (as opposed to a spiritual, physical or emotional one). Mastery is being able to see the details within the big picture–not just the details or the big picture but both.

Van Gogh’s October 1888 painting, The Bedroom, has little pictures inside of the big picture. Here is one of them:

Painting on the wall of the Bedroom

Painting within a painting: On the wall of van Gogh’s the Bedroom.

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Open Ended Problem Solving with the Brain Organizer

A powerful technique for open ended, creative problem solving involves representing your goal as an object. Surround it with questions. Attach actions to the questions. You can also put a “delta” symbol in front of the questions, to stimulate change actions.

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Beginning

Two weekends ago, I woke up from a nap, switched on my iPad and started browsing through the work that I did at the beginning of this blog in 2009.

Then, a couple nights ago, I’m searching through Kinetic Typography portfolios on Vimeo and I run into this story from Ira Glass on “what nobody tells beginners.”

Painfully true! I wish I was the exception🙂

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