Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 29, 2014 5:13 PM

Emotion Is The Fast Lane To The Brain

We talk a lot about storytelling and brands, don't we?

Let's reverse that thought: how many brands are actually great storytellers? Dig a little deeper how many marketers do you know that are great storytellers? I see a lot of marketing and communications professionals who are able to create and transmit a message, but professional marketers who have studied and labored over creating stories? Marketers who have published stories (fiction or non-fiction) with success? They're probably few and far between. This recent Google Talk took me by surprise. I went in suspecting to hear the usual presentation on how a story is created, crafted and manipulated. I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. Doug Stevenson is not someone who was on my radar, and I'm usually skeptical of former actors who are now trying to give leadership lessons on persuasion and presentation skills. I like being proven wrong. Doug has a book titled, The Story Theater Method for Strategic Storytelling in Business, that makes no attempt to turn you into a great actor, but does want to make you a "star" in whatever the room that you have to sell an idea happens to be. What's most interesting is how he takes stories and helps turn the teller into a better storyteller.

Want to be more interesting, convincing and passionate in a room? Watch this: Doug Stevenson: "The Power to Persuade - The Magic of Story"

By Mitch Joel


August 28, 201411:53 PM

Be A Designer Of Something

Some people don't think that they are creative.

I don't agree. I believe that everyone is creative in their own way. Some people don't think that they're job is all that creative. I don't agree. I believe that every job requires different layers of creativity. When this point of conversation and contention comes up (and trust me, it's a conversation that I find myself having more often than you might suspect), it can be hard to convince someone that what they do, in their work hours, demands some level of creativity. The challenge, of course, is that creativity is the output. The output of anything can be hard to see. Even if it's the work that one does, day in and day out.

Maybe it's time to forget about the output.

If you're struggling to find the creativity in the work that you do, why not forget about the output and start focusing more on where the work is coming from. Work from the origins of ideas and not the output of them to understand your own layers of creativity.

Be a designer.

This is going to make my designer friend's skin crawl (apologies in advance), but maybe everyone needs to think and act like a designer. Designers rule. What kinds of things will you design today? What designs will you manifest to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow?

Grab a notepad.

I've decided to take my words a little bit more seriously and deliberately with every passing year. Call it a personal challenge to keep myself learning and motivated. It's not that the words weren't being taken seriously before, it's that I want to constantly up my game. I carry a notebook and a pen everywhere now. I used to rely on apps or just emailing notes to myself. I'm back to paper and ink. I'm going paleo on my writing. I want to see how my hands handle the thoughts as they tumble out from between my earholes. I want to hesitate with that pen. Think about the words. Tinker with those words and design a better way to write something. To say anything. To literally and figuratively scratch at the words.

Design a deck.

Maybe it's a deck in your backyard, maybe it's a PowerPoint deck. When I think about client work at Twist Image, I think about designing a PowerPoint deck. How can I take this idea and twist it into an understandable presentation? How will the idea be designed? What images and story will support the brand narrative? Designing a deck isn't about the slides, it's about designing a story.

Become a designer.

It's not just for people in creative positions who get to wear shorts and sandals to work. Start with a pen and paper and write down some ideas. I love how my friend, James Altucher, carries around a waiter's pad and doesn't start his day unless he's written down ten new ideas. He's designing! What's he designing? Who knows. The point is that he's planning, thinking, researching and designing his ideas. That notepad and paper are blueprints and he's constantly designing something with them.

Being a designer gives you freedom.

It's true. Think about it. If you fashion yourself as a designer of the work that you're doing, you are also giving yourself some real and serious freedom to think before doing, to plan things in a more methodical way, to no longer worry about going to a physical location to get something done. Be a designer. I'll find myself pulling the car over to the side of the road to get something down. I'll find myself staring off into the landscape to see what rolls back in on to that pad (instead of watching another episode of American Pickers). Allowing yourself to be a designer is a great and simple way to give yourself the freedom to explore the work that you do, and what you bring to it. Not only the job that you're doing, but the industry that you serve. You don't need the title on your business card for it to be real. You just have to choose to become a designer.

Choose it. Become a designer. What's the worst thing that could happen?

By Mitch Joel


August 27, 201411:45 PM

Breaking Through To The YouTube Culture

Brands are struggling to understand YouTube.

It's a mystery to most brands why some videos work and other don't. There are videos that breakthrough and achieve viral success (the kind of action that then gets picked up and amplified by traditional media) and then there's everyone else. For the most part, brands participate in YouTube by creating pre-roll and post-roll ads (essentially TV commercials that are played before or after a YouTube video is viewed). The introduction of this ad format was met with mixed emotions by YouTube viewers. Since then, YouTube has introduced TrueView (that little button that enables viewers to skip an ad after five seconds). This works, because it gives the viewers control and - more importantly - it's a signal back to advertisers that their message is either working... or not. The cumulative data that YouTube is gathering around TrueView will also enable them to teach advertisers how to create messages that YouTube viewers might actually care to watch. If done well (and, I'm betting that YouTube will do this exceedingly well), it could usher in a new era of commercials: one where the ads being created actually have the viewer in mind. Heaven forbid.

But, YouTube should mean much more to brands.

Have you seen the latest issue of Fast Company magazine? Bethany Mota is on the cover. I've been talking up Bethany Mota for a long while (more here: Is Bethany Mota The Future Of The NewFronts?). I was first introduced to her by my teenage niece, and it led me down a deep rabbit hole of YouTube viewing. It's nothing new that YouTube is creating celebrities who have millions of subscribers on their own YouTube channels, but it's becoming so big and important that if you want to know about how to connect with specific segments, you may be better off finding out who the YouTubers are, instead of splashing your spend at specialty TV channels. The pulse of YouTube beats in a very different way.

That very different way.

This is the true struggle with brands and YouTube today. Sadly, most brands are simply trying to sell their wares to people who are watching YouTube. The real opportunity (and the one that most brands aren't focused nearly enough on) is trying to become a part of the YouTube culture. It's a slight, but important, nuance. If you were looking at getting your brand more involved on YouTube, I would be asking this one, very important question: are we trying to sell to the people on YouTube, or are we trying to become a part of the YouTube culture?

How does a brand become a part of a culture?

This can be answered in two words: not easily. This is why the vast majority of brands give up the dream of creating content and opt into a buying media mindset. It's almost easier to burn through the cash than to try and be relevant to an audience. Scary? Yes. True? Probably. Becoming a part of the culture is partnering into it. It means doing things that add value to the community - not to your bottom line. I wrote about this concept in my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete. All too often, brands focus on creating a message that shouts loudest, when they could have spent the same amount of time and effort doing something that the audience might actually like, care about, share with others and have a desire to connect back to. Brands shun this, because they feel like they are limiting the message to a much smaller audience (it is, after all, easier to just pay for as many eyeballs as possible). But, there's a new nuance to this: YouTube has become so massive - and these YouTubers have built up such strong followings - that brands can now connect and add value to these niche audiences that still have a mass following.

Don't believe me? 

Go and pull up the viewership on a TV show that you feel could reach your target audience. Now, go and look at how many subscribers Tyler Oakley has on his YouTube channel. It may not be the same kind of viewers, but the point is that his numbers (and there are many others like him) typically trump the kind of mass media numbers that traditional brands look at. And, that's the point: it's not just that YouTube has its own culture anymore (it kinda always did). It's that now - right now - it has scale. Mass... mass scale and, sadly, most brands think that the best opportunity to capitalize on YouTube comes from posting a commercial and crossing their fingers that the viewers don't simply skip it.

YouTube's culture. It's real. It's growing. What's your play? 

By Mitch Joel


August 26, 201411:36 PM

A Twitch In Time

Admit it, you had no idea what Twitch was until Amazon bought it for one billion dollars, right?

And suddenly, I'm watching two guys do something in Minecraft, and I have no idea what they're doing because they're speaking Norwegian (and, I wouldn't have even known what language they were speaking, if it weren't for Google Translate). People are into it. I can't even follow the chat box on the right side of the screen, because it's moving too fast. That's it, I am officially out of loop. I have suddenly traipsed into the world of the uncool... those who simply don't know what's happening. It's hard to feel like this when digital marketing is everything that I do. It is my being. Helping brands and individuals better navigate and understand how all of this connected technology can make us better at business. Then, something like this happens. On a rare occasion, I will blog or speak about the power of gaming, and it's shifting landscape from game consoles to mobile devices and cloud-based platforms. Like everything else, the video game industry is as exposed to disruption as the most traditional of industries.

What, exactly, did Amazon buy?

Twitch is another fascinating corner of the Internet. We all know that video games are a multi-billion dollar industry that has rivaled the movie and music business for some time, but who knew that people watching video games online is also a billion-dollar business? Like you, I come from the era when we played video games. In the past half-decade, massive online communities have been created for people who like to sit back and simply watch others play and comment on their games. It's millions of people spending billions of minutes every month. That's what Twitch does. Twitch is live videos (think YouTube) of people playing video games. Twitch viewers usually see the screen of the person (or people) playing the game along with a Skype-like video of the player's face alongside a chat window to facilitate communication with the player. And Twitch is the eight-hundred pound gorilla of the video game watching and streaming community.

So, again, why did Amazon do this?    

There were murmurs that Google was trying to acquire the popular game streaming service a few weeks back. Then, it was announced yesterday that Amazon had won the bid for close to one billion dollars. Amazon has a history of acquiring different kinds of businesses. Some may not be able to see the direct correlation between what the world's largest online retailer is hunting for, but deals like this make perfect sense. All you have to do is go back in time. If you were selling anything prior to the Internet, the only way to let people know that you existed was through advertising and word of mouth. At the time, advertising helped brands to scale and word of mouth was important, but it was very tribal (meaning the ability for it to truly extend was laborious and complex from a geographical standpoint). Brands were never in any position to really buy the networks or the publishers. That's really what's going on here.

Step one: create content.

Step one for brands like Amazon and Netflix was to create original content, that could be used on their platform to add an aspect of originality. Amazon has devices (Kindles, tablets, Fire phones, Amazon Fire TV and more to come). Amazon has Amazon Web Services (cloud computing and servers to stores and deliver content). Amazon is building channels to push this content through (think about the movies, TV and music that you can stream or buy via Amazon). How does Amazon move further up the food chain?

Step two: buy the network. These big businesses need to report big numbers to Wall Street. Buying one new TV show, creating one new channel of distribution is not the same as buying the entire network. That's what Amazon is doing with Twitch. It's not buying a show. It's not buying a channel. It's buying the whole network. Yes, this would be like Kmart buying ABC.

What this doesn't mean.

Amazon isn't stupid. They're not going to suddenly turn Twitch into one, big affiliate link to bolster their own video game sales, but they are going to have a currently popular network to use. They will use this to augment their ever-growing media empire (Amazon Media is expected to rocket past a billion dollars in revenue this year with hints of massive growth to come on the media front), and they will use it as another asset of growth, if you consider these three staggering stats about Twitch:

  1. In one week of April, Twitch accounted for close to 44% of live video streaming traffic by volume.
  2. In February, Twitch was the fourth in peak Internet traffic in the U.S. (after Netflix, Google and Apple). Yes, it was bigger than Hulu, Amazon and Facebook.
  3. In one week in August, Twitch's viewership rivaled some cable networks during prime-time. 

Is it worth a billion?

That is the billion dollar question. Is it smart for Amazon to buy networks that have this kind of usage, attention and potential to still grow? It's hard to argue with that rationale... and it's something that many marketers who are toiling around with content marketing need to consider as well. Once the content gets good and gets credible, how do you start moving up-stream to owning the entire network. Maybe - in the not-too-distant future - brands won't be thinking about building newsrooms, as much as they will be thinking about building a true brand network.

Don't be too surprised, it's a strategy Disney has been working on for decades.

By Mitch Joel


August 25, 201410:01 AM

Amazon Plus Advertising Equals A Danger To Google

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you're interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I'm really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

Listen here...

By Mitch Joel


August 24, 2014 8:58 AM

The Efficiency Of Brands

 Episode #424 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. Welcome to episode #424 of Six Pixels Of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast. I was in Silicon... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 23, 2014 8:03 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #218

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 22, 2014 8:15 PM

Cheap. Efficient. Elegant.

How good is Hollywood at showing us the Internet on screen? Not The Matrix, but reality. Whether it's text messages or the Internet, have you ever wondered why text messaging and web browsing is so poorly done in movies and... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 21, 2014 4:23 PM

How Social Technology Will Save Lives

We're not going to talk about ice buckets or YouTube challenges, don't worry. I was at a barbeque this past weekend, and a friend asked me why Google's self-driving cars matter, and why a search engine would even care about... Read more

By Mitch Joel


August 20, 201410:06 PM

When Will Marketers Be More Business Focused?

It's laughable that the vast majority of marketing professionals are still seen as those who spend the money on the TV commercials. Here's what's really happening: The c-suite is pushing back (and hard). They're asking marketers to do more than... Read more

By Mitch Joel