Category Archives: Innovations

Monsterlicious.

I’d never heard of Stefan Mumaw before last week, but in the span of about an hour he crystallized what marketing has become and what it has the potential to be.

An ad agency creative director, Stefan is the author of a book called, Chasing the Monster Idea. His presentation focused on the seven characteristics of monster ideas. So just exactly what is a monster idea? Here’s his definition:

“The truly monster idea is more than just good; it transcends the boundaries of the problem to solve it so simply and so powerfully that it almost sells itself. It’s the campaign idea that grows on its own, powered by those evangelists who first discover its true value, and it forces everyone else to catch up with it—if they can.”

I’m not going to share his seven characteristics — he shares them in his book. You can download the first chapter free here or get the whole schmere here. Instead, I’ll share my biggest takeaway from his presentation.

In the past, marketers have tended to throw everything inside the kitchen sink and then throw it at a consumer hoping something — anything — might stick. Now we weren’t always quite that ham-fisted. Sometimes we presented them with one unique selling proposition in the form of a creative execution or campaign. Regardless, we told them what we wanted them to know. The goal was to sell them on something.

While we were busy deciding what we wanted them to know, consumers were being rewired. The Product no longer holds weight with them. What does is the other stuff: how that product makes someone feel or the problems it solves. They are not being sold to; they are buyers. Most important of all is the acknowledgement that the marketing universe has shifted into new territory: consumers recognize and often filter out push-style messages.

Stefan’s answer to reach this new breed of consumers is to pique their curiosity and then reward their effort with a good experience.

Marketing with the goal of making people curious? That itself is a monster idea.

Global Pro Bono? CreateAthon Worldwide? Believe.

“YOU are CreateAthon?

            “Well, uh, yes, I guess I am.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s really you! I talk to people in India about CreateAthon all the time!

That is what greeted me within 10 minutes of stepping into an evening reception at the Global Pro Bono Summit, hosted recently by Taproot Foundation. It was a moment that took my breath away, and the start of a 24-hour experience that filled me with the promise of good in the world like never before.

Joining me at the event in NYC was none other than  CreateAthon Chief Evangelical Officer Peyton Rowe. That, in itself, is enough to get me pumped up on the matter of all things pro bono. Then there were our friends from Taproot Foundation, A Billion + Change, and other swell folks from socially minded corporations we’ve come to know. I expected to see these flag-bearers for pro bono, and to once again be inspired by their leadership.

What I encountered was something altogether different.

I was surrounded by people from about a dozen different countries who were part of Taproot’s global fellows program. Then there were “intermediaries,” people throughout the US who lead programs designed to mobilize pro bono efforts in their respective industries and/or communities. Like CreateAthon.

Before we intermediaries were introduced to the global fellows, Taproot Founder and event organizer Aaron Hurst provided some meaningful context to us on why these people had come to New York, and why we had been invited to meet them:

Understand that most of the people you’ll meet today come from countries in which pro bono is neither encouraged nor tolerated. In some cases, they are not only putting themselves at professional risk for advocating the practice of pro bono, but also personal. They can go to jail for this.

“You’re here to get to know them, encourage them, and connect with them from now on, so they can be prepared to carry out this work when they go home.

That got our attention.

Then here they came, 22 of the most delightful people I’ve ever met. Between their broken English and my heavy Southern accent, we often had to repeat ourselves or help interpret each other’s sentences. But what transcended that awkward dialogue was the immediate, shared spark of something between us: the belief in pro bono.

There’s so much to say about this experience — perhaps I shall come back here and unpack all of my takeaways — but for now, I hope you’ll be inspired by three things I now know to be true, thanks to this global gathering of good.

Pro bono is going to become an industry, not a nice to do.

We can capitalize on it and make a living giving it scale throughout the world. What some may have once considered a pipe dream is now quickly becoming a force.

People are different. Their hearts are the same.

The power of human connections around a central cause has never been more palpable to me than in the last two weeks. All it takes is one moment, and an extended hand.

The impact of CreateAthon has only just begun.

Our 24-hour marathon model is being noticed in places far from here, not just in India. In France: “We now have a marathon model in place inspired by CreateAthon.

In the Netherlands: “Oh yes, we’ve heard of you. What a great program!

In Germany: “We love CreateAthon, and I am going to get you to Berlin to teach us how to do it.

Where do we go from here? Global fellows, corporate leaders, and intermediaries like us will reassemble for Global Pro Bono Summit II a year from now. In the meantime, we’ll be connecting with each other, one by one, sharing ideas and offering encouragement. We’ll also be working together on a number of initiatives coming out of the summit that will help to move the global pro bono movement forward in the next 12 months.

The last thing I know for sure?

If you have a little idea, it can be big.

Peyton checks in at our mod venue, Steelcase

 

Telling our stories, one by one

P and T reunite with our global bestie, Armin from BMW Foundation.

Heated debate among the panel of judges for best global pro bono plan

Champion of pro bono and lover of all things CreateAthon: Taproot Foundation founder Aaron Hurst

Spotting the Social Entrepreneur

We’ve got to change the system.

We’ve got to address the root cause.

We’ve got to start doing things differently.

How many times have you heard it? Be it a nonprofit board meeting, a business gathering or a legislative assemblage, everyone’s talking about social change — real, quantifiable, exponential change. Meanwhile, lots of good people in nonprofit organizations work to provide relief and assistance to people who are caught in spirals of poverty, malnutrition, abuse and countless other forms of personal grief. Their work is grounded in social good, and there will always be a need for it.

But what of social change?

Enter social entrepreneurs. Highly creative, energetic and focused people who have a passion for stripping away symptomatic layers, assessing and articulating the truth behind an issue, and leading others to work together toward transformational change.

You may have met a social entrepreneur if you’ve met someone who:

  • Hungers relentlessly for the betterment of the world condition
  • Understands that no one nonprofit or group of people can solve the problem
  • Has the creative chops to develop a big social idea and build scale around it
  • Can bring public, private and nonprofit sector resources to bear
  • Has the ability to recruit and mobilize local change makers
  • Is disciplined enough to align strategy, financial management and pr/marketing
  • Embraces the use of fiscal metrics and performance benchmarks
  • Uses these social ROI standards as the basis for fundraising and development

These are the kind of people — those who think far and wide and without regard to personal or political agenda — who can bring about the change our world so desperately needs. Look for them. Aspire to be one of them. Most of all, believe.

 For more good stuff on social entrepreneurship, spend some time at Ashoka, then check out ForbesImpact 30 list of social entrepreneurs

 

 

 

 

 

See It Differently.

I will admit it. I have a bit of an obsession with Instagram. It’s a photo sharing app that allows you to snap a shot with your iPhone, add a cool filter, then share your image with the world via Facebook or Twitter, or via Instagram’s own publishing feed. The filters are cool, the square format is interesting, and the publishing is easy.

So much to love.

Still my commitment to Instagram goes deeper. This free little download has changed everything about the way I look at the world around me. Partly because it’s just fun to keep an eye out for an interesting something that might make a swell photo. But also because I am wildly inspired by the images that are delivered to me, right there in my Instagram feed. There is something fascinating about seeing ordinary, daily life transformed into magical crops, viewed through someone else’s life lens.

For example:

from Riggs Partners Design Director Ryon Edwards

from my friend, Karen Dukes

from my daughter, Eliza Ellis

What a gift it is to see the world differently; to be more aware simply because you are looking. 

Today is a great day to look around. Look for light and shapes and texture and color. Snap a shot or two and see if your view of the world doesn’t open up just a bit.

Beauty is all around us, every moment.

Just look.

B Corporation is Good Business

It’s not often I get overly excited about an op-ed. But this one on the B-Corp, in yesterday’s edition of The State, made my little do-gooder capitalist heart leap. Penned by South Carolina state senator Vincent Sheheen, the article makes the case for bipartisan support of a bill that would allow qualifying South Carolina companies to do business under a new model known as the B Corporation.

A company designated as a B-Corp operates in a legal structure that acknowledges and rewards an organization’s impact on societal issues as well as bottom-line performance. So a company doesn’t have to be all about making money. Nor does it have to be all about doing good, and never making any money. It can do both, peacefully coexisting in a way that gives companies, their stockholders and their employees the opportunity to do business in a way that upholds a set of shared values. All of which makes for a more productive and meaningful work experience.

Some folks believe this new corporate structure has the potential to create an entirely new sector on the economy that can use the power of business to solve critical issues in the world. Count me among them.

So it was with much delight that I read about South Carolina lawmakers coming together in a bipartisan manner to bring this new business model to our state. If passed, South Carolina would be recognized as an early adopter of B-Corp legislation (only seven states in the US have enacted B-Corp laws thus far), another great demonstration of the Palmetto State’s advanced, pro-business climate.

If you’re not familiar with the B-Corp movement, take a moment and watch this TED video from B-Corp founder Jay Coen Gilbert. It may just change the way you think about business, for good.

Jay Coen Gilbert on B-Corp and the Evolution of Capitalism