Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 18, 201811:20 PM

The New Retail Economy

Retail is in more trouble than they care to admit.

This will come as no surprise to you, but it's way easier to buy stuff online than go to a physical store. Nothing revolutionary there... or is there some innovation that retailers are missing? Just this week, I was reminded of how far the arena of shopping has changed.

Instance #1: I've rekindled (pardon the pun) my passion for my Kindle device. I used to read books exclusively on my iPhone using the Kindle app. I've shifted back to using the physical Kindle Paperwhite. And, because it's summer and all, I'm reading like a fiend. My Kindle needed a case. I happened to be strolling through the local mall one day, and none of the stores had anything. I found myself in the downtown area later that same week. Same challenge. Nada. On Amazon? A million different choices. One, which was not a Amazon "official" had the magnetic latch (so it opens and closes without needing to hit the power button) and was able to turn into a stand (which makes for great reading while chomping on my morning oats). Fifteen bucks and it showed up in less than 24 hours (thanks, Amazon Prime).

Instance #2: I fly. A lot. I found myself needing a strange contraption/adapter for my my iPhone X. Because there is no headphone jack (it's lightning bolt only) and because on certain airlines you're not allowed to use Bluetooth headphones (what's up with that?!?!), I wanted an adapter that would enable me to listen to my music with a wired lighting bolt jack and - at the same time - allow me to charge the iPhone. These adapters are plentiful for those with the traditional wired headphones, but for those with lightning bolt only? Not so much. If you're confused, here's what I am talking about. Same scenario as above. Same mall. Same downtown core. No retailers carried anything remotely close to it. Under fifteen bucks and it also showed up in less than 24 hours.

Retailers can't beat Amazon.

That would be the obvious message. It's not. Retailers may not be able to beat Amazon, but to be clueless about these products or pretend like they don't even exist, is what creates the most friction. It's hard (very, very hard) to have a fully-engaged and knowledgable staff. We all need more empathy for these retailers. Still, instead of "that doesn't exist"... "I've never heard of it"... and on and on... why don't retailers train their staff to say these seven simple words: "let me look that up for you!"

Engagement is better than disappointment.

This is a moment of power at the retail level. Imagine if the retailer said, "I can get it for you. It will be $15 and I'll have it here tomorrow." Even if all the retailer is doing is buying it on Amazon and reselling it to the customer (and, even if the customer knows that the retailer is doing that), what's wrong with that experience? Sure, it's easier for the consumer to do it on their own, at that point. But the effort is what counts. The effort creates an engagement. That engagement furthers the brand experience. The brand experience goes from "this retailer doesn't get it" to "at least they did everything in their power to make me a customer." There's a brand chasm that exists between those two retail experiences (whether it ends in a sale or not). So, Amazon can be the enemy of retail or it can be used as a tool to keep the retailer's staff more informed... more engaged... and out in front.

Amazon solves all retail problems.

This is a major problem for retailers. Still, retailers can make this work. A few months back, I was in the market for a backgammon set. It became a mini-adventure of checking out game, hobby, toy and gift shops in the area. Nobody had what we were looking for. Amazon had multiple choices. I would prefer to support to local merchants, but they were unwilling to help me solve the problem. This pushed me to Amazon. Of course, every shopping scenario is different and some people prefer the personal touch to one-click shopping, while others prefer the speed and comfort of online over the parking lots and lines at the cash register. This isn't a one size fits all solution. It's more about the mindset of retailers. You can be mad at what Amazon has done to fundamentally change consumer's buying behaviours or you can empower your staff to embrace it, use it for knowledge, offer it as a service and augment your retail experience.

Sometimes using the competition is the best way to discover better innovations for yourself and keep the customers flowing in.

By Mitch Joel


July 16, 2018 8:32 AM

The Most Important Questions About Your Brand

"The Scientific Revolution has not been a revolution of knowledge. It has been above all a revolution of ignorance. The great discovery that launched the Scientific Revolution was the discovery that humans do not know the answers to their most important questions." - Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

It's true, isn't it? It's like science suddenly screeched up on to the sidewalk and dumped knowledge all over our front lawn like some scene out of Goodfellas with a rat squealer rolled up into a old carpet. But that's not the case, is it? And, in this case, science is much like business... but nobody wants to act this way. We should. People in business (especially executives) want us to believe that they have all the answers and have BTDT (been there/done that). 

If it's good enough for science, it should be good enough for brands?

Let's come at business problems with more ignorance, shall we? We don't have all of the answers. Technology does not answer all (or any) of the real questions. If both of those statements were not true, every act of marketing that brands put into the marketplace would perform beyond our wildest expectations. So, let's paraphrase that excellent line above from the book Sapiens, and turn it into our brand mantra:

"To revolutionize our brands, we must accept that we are ignorant. Our greatest discovery is that we don't know the answers to the most important questions." Great... now what?

Now comes the hard work. Like science, it becomes a process of questions... testing them vigorously and realizing that what seems like a solid hypothesis might be easily debunked next week, next month, next quarter, next year, next decade... or maybe hundreds of years later. In the early days of advertising, it became clear that if you make something sound much better than it is (... lie about it...), the sale is done, and who cares what comes post sale? That worked (but not for long). The era of television advertising brought with it the science of mass reach and repetition. It became clear that the louder your brand is, and the more times you can get that message in front of a potential consumer, the better your sales would be. That worked (and it worked for a long time). Today, that model may still work for some, but it won't for many.

What does this means for your brand today? 

Two choices:

  1. Do what everyone else is doing.
  2. Ask the important questions. Admit that you don't know the answers. Experiment until you hit on something that works.

The second choice is the hard one.

If your brand is feeling stuck, it's easy to just advertise your way out of the problem, without realizing that you're probably just creating more problems. We do this because we fallback on our knowledge and experience. We do this because we're afraid to admit our own ignorance (especially if there's a team that we're leading). We do this because we don't want to admit that we don't have the answers to our most important questions. Success comes from finding the answers to these questions. Success comes from trying to figure out what - exactly - the most important questions are. Here's a promise: when you uncover these most important questions, I'll bet that your current slew of tactics don't really answer the call. At all.

You know what you have to do. Forget your knowledge. Embrace your ignorance. Dig for those most important questions. We've all got your back.  

By Mitch Joel


July 15, 2018 8:35 AM

The Domain Name Game With Bill Sweetman - This Week's Six Pixels of Separation Podcast

Episode #627 of Six Pixels of Separation is now live and ready for you to listen to.

A strong brand and corporate name is critical to demonstrating your uniqueness in the marketplace. The competitive forces are at play. Many people believe that all of the good names are already taken. The problem, of course, is that even if you can secure a strong and original brand identity, getting the right domain name can be costly, time consuming and extremely frustrating. Thankfully, there are smart people like Bill Sweetman who love the domain game. I've been fortunate to know Bill for over a decade. He's a former digital agency professional (who was in the space almost twenty years ago), before switching to his true passion: domain names. His company is called, Name Ninja. He is focused solely on helping individuals and brands get the domain names that are best for them. He is a very successful and respected domain name industry business leader with extensive experience in the domain aftermarket (or secondary market) of premium domain names, including domain pricing, distribution, and sales. A self-confessed domain name fanatic, Bill registered his very first domain in 1994 (which he later sold) and has been perfecting his "Domain Karate" moves ever since. If you've ever wondered how the domain business has become so wild and hard to navigate, you do not want to miss this. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation #627.

By Mitch Joel


July 14, 2018 5:36 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #420

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 (Solve for InterestingTilt the WindmillHBS, chair of StrataStartupfestPandemonio, and ResolveTO, Author of Lean Analytics and some other books), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another: 

  • Radio host quits job over chronic dread, then decides to face her fears head-on - Out In The Open - CBC. "I wish I had the time to spend a year doing the things that frighten me. But first I'd have to figure out what those were, which sounds pretty terrifying in itself." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Ethical Algorithms - Bias and Explainability in Machine Learning Systems - New York Artificial Intelligence - YouTube. "Kathryn Hume is a national treasure. One of the most eloquent, poetic thinkers I've ever met on the subjects of technology and society. Here's a video of her talking about explainability and bias in artificial intelligence. It's dense, but fascinating." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • David Harvey on Capital. Interview with The Dig Podcast - Reading Marx's Capital With David Harvey. "Did you know I'm a bit of an idealist/socialist/marxist-ish kind of guy? I'm not sure what the solutions are, and I don't much trust Marxists to find them, but I've always liked the Marxist analysis of the problems of capitalism. David Harvey is one of the great scholars of Marx, and everything I've heard and read from him is insightful. In this podcast, he muses on some of the current problems we find ourselves in, the difference between insane people and an insane system, the reason the left should embrace AI and not fight it, and he makes the case that the 'market' is anything but 'rational' ... if it were rational, why is it that we see, side buy side, a surplus of capital accumulation, needing ever more complex mechanisms to deploy it (eg building empty cities in China), and a surplus of labour, with little ability to put these two together for productive uses?" (Hugh for Alistair).
  • The horror and the wonder of jellyfish - New Statesman. "Jellyfish are strange things!" (Hugh for Mitch). 
  • Billionaire Ray Dalio: A.I. is widening the wealth gap, 'national emergency should be declared' - CNBC. "Artificial intelligence is going to cause a much deeper wealth gap. That's not just the words of a famed billionaire talking. I believe it too. I'm sure that do as well? If we think about the impact of AI today, instead of worrying about when it really happens tomorrow, perhaps this headline is then not as outlandish as it may seem at first blush. Are we in the need to treat massive technological disruptions (like AI) as 'national emergencies'? You be the judge." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • The comic book artists that fuelled a century of science innovation - Quartz. "Last weekend, I spent a lot of time (and money) at Montreal ComicCon (along with 60,000 other people!). I've been a comic book nerd since I was a very little kid. OG. I can't remember not having comic books in my life. I liked the stories. I liked the characters. What really captured my imagination was the art. To this day, it's still the artwork that gets me every time. Here's the story of how comic books impact culture and innovation and science. Hint: it's not just big budget action adventure movies!" (Mitch for Hugh).

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on TwitterFacebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


July 13, 2018 6:32 AM

Business Growth And A Better Mindset For Success

How do you define "success" in the work that you do?

Better still, how does your business truly define success? Of course, money, profit and margins are huge barometers, but what about success from an attitudinal standpoint? I recently finished reading the book, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. It had been on my Wishlist for far too long. It seems like her concept of fixed mindset vs. growth mindset have become a part of the business zeitgeist over the years (I had heard those terms, but was unaware that they were developed from her book). It was hard to not recognize when I'm playing in the fixed mindset, and when I'm able to push through with a growth mindset. Even more powerfully, it got me thinking about certain professionals that I know and... more importantly... many brands that I have worked with.

What's a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?

Here's the definition from Dweck's website

"In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success--without effort. They're wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work--brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities."

In the business world, many brands are scrambling. Many brands live in a fixed mindset.

Look no further than the industry publications. From massive agency reviews to issues of transparency to data breaches to trying to figure out how a brand can best find an audience. There's an air of uncertainty (make that fear) out there. What brands used to do isn't as effective. What everyone is telling us to do is deeply challenging. Where everybody wants us to go forces us to amp up our skills, technology and more. It is confusing. Blockchain, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, smart audio skills, direct to consumer brands and so much more. 

Then comes the posturing.

Perhaps I get more exposure than the average business professional, but every presentation, briefing and pitch that I have sat through has had an unyielding sense of posturing (very fixed mindsets). From individuals who think they have all the brand's answers to organizations posturing that they've already mastered and are engaged in everything that is new with technology. This is not a criticism of those brands (and people) who seem to be inflating their own tires. It's just hard not to see this happening so much out in the wild and, at the same time, understanding how a growth mindset is probably the one component that - when instilled in the company values and into its people - can truly set them free. 

Think deeply about what kind of business professional you can be... and want to be.

I'm not innocent here. I've sat in a many a room and acted in a fixed mindset. I figured this was the expectation. It's not. Poking, prodding, being motivated to learn and grow is what those who become great have done. Even when things go sideways. Applying a growth mindset when the job is tough, when you feel like your personal growth may be inhibited, etc... is paramount to uncovering your own path to success. Not being judgy here... or pointing any fingers. It just became abundantly clear to me, while reading Mindset, that so many brands today live in a fixed mindset... and not one of growth. They're scared, but they're acting like they've "got it." It's top down and it's for every individual in the organization to think about.

Want your business, your team (and yourself) to truly thrive in this market? Lose the fixed mindset, read Dweck's book and drive towards true growth.

By Mitch Joel


July 11, 2018 7:15 AM

The Future Never Comes When You Can't Nail The Present

It's all about the basics. You know this. Your business knows this. To build a brand... you must know this. But the present is often harder to nail down than the future.  Case in two points... Case One: One of the... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 9, 2018 7:53 AM

The One Thing About Content That Nobody Really Talks About

Does your content move? I could not be more excited that Jerry Seinfeld is back with a new season of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. Some people like sausage. Some people like knowing how the sausage gets made. If "sausage"... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 8, 2018 8:19 AM

Daniel Pink Puts The Science Into Timing - This Week's Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #626 of Six Pixels of Separation is now live and ready for you to listen to. It's hard not to be a fan of the work that Daniel Pink does. He is the author of six provocative books (Free... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 7, 2018 5:07 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #419

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 (Solve for Interesting, Tilt the Windmill, HBS, chair of Strata, Startupfest, Pandemonio, and ResolveTO, Author of Lean Analytics and some other books), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks,... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 6, 2018 9:48 AM

Marco Mendoza On This Month's Groove - The No Treble Podcast

Marco Mendoza is this month's conversation on Groove - The No Treble Podcast. You can listen the new episode right here: Groove - The No Treble Podcast - Episode #43 - Marco Mendoza. <a href="" data-mce-href="">Groove - Episode #43: Marco... Read more

By Mitch Joel