What kind of marketing is the most effective?

sneezr.ca Have you ever asked yourself that question? I did. In fact, many years ago I spent countless hours trying to figure it out.
The answer turned out to be quite simple: word of mouth marketing. Or as I call it: the art of cultivating recommendations.

Surprised? Probably not. With recommendations, there is no sales pressure and no credibility issues. When your friends, family members or trusted co-workers recommend something or someone to you, they are genuinely trying to help you. That means a lot, which is why you usually remember it for a long time. But here is the catch: recommendations must be earned. How do you do that? Where do you start? How do you give people a reason to talk about your products/services? How do you nudge your story into every day conversations? I launched sneezr.ca to help you answer those questions.

Let me tell you a story.


Dirk Nowitzki is an awesome contributor. He’s been showing up on time and turning in world-class, quality work for years now. (See p.s. for a more detailed bio.)

You’d be stoked if Dirk were on your team. But he’s not: he’s the go-to guy on an NBA team based in the US called the Dallas Mavericks.

Even though he’s the team’s go-to guy, Dirk is not what you’d call the leader of his team. No one knows who the leader of that team is, actually. And that’s a big problem.

“How can you be so sure that Dirk isn’t the leader there?”

Fair question. Here’s one piece of evidence: He did not seem to act like a leader in one fundamental area for his organization: the recruitment of new players. In those matters, Dirk chose to react, not lead. And his organization is hurting because of that. Badly.

“How can you know all of that for sure?”

You’re right, I don’t.

Here’s what I know based on the publicly available information. Every summer, NBA teams get a chance to fine-tune their on-court players by attracting and signing promising free agents (that is, players whose contracts, at the time, allow them to switch teams).

While many teams generally improve their fortunes during summer signings, for a few long years now the Mavericks have not. They could not land any big-name free agents if their lives depended on it. And this summer was no exception.

Except for one detail: for the fist time ever, this summer, Dirk Nowitzki was publicly peeved that no big-name free agent was interested in signing with the Mavericks.

Maybe I’m understating it. Dirk actually seemed upset about the direction of the organization. Here’s what he said a few days ago:

“We, as an organization, really have to begin to question everything. Is it me people don’t want to play with? Is it Rick (Carlisle)? Is it Mark (Cuban) and some agents and players hold a grudge because he blew up the 2011 champions? Nobody truly knows. Over the last five years, we have been continuously in for the truly big names in free agency, but all we achieved in the end was that we got them more money and a better contract elsewhere,” Dirk told a German newspaper recently. “As for me personally, I don’t truly care how much I make these days, my main focus is on playing for a winner.”

// Rick Carlisle is the head coach, and Mark Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. //

So, what can we learn from the above? My 2¢:

If you’re a leader in your organization and you notice that it may not be getting the direction, momentum, and attention it needs in its fundamental areas, don’t assume that ‘some other folks’ are working on ‘it.’

What’s more, don’t assume malice when incompetence could be the reason.

You don’t become a leader by wishing your life were easier, but by focusing on making yourself better and more accountable. If not you, who? If not now, when?

p.s. A quick bio for those less familiar with the hero of our story, Dirk Nowitzki. He’s a German professional basketball player who has been the engine of the Dallas Mavericks.

He led the Mavericks to 15 NBA Playoffs (2001–2012; 2014–2016), including the franchise’s first Finals appearance in 2006 and only championship in 2011. He is a 13-time All-Star, a 12-time All-NBA Team member, and the first European player to start in an All-Star Game as well as the first to receive the NBA Most Valuable Player Award (2007).

I said that he’s been showing up on time and turning in world-class, quality work for years now, didn’t I? :)


Is one of the keys to success hidden behind the word ‘design?’

After I finished reading Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior by Jonah Berger (in it, he explores the subtle influences which affect the decisions we make re shopping, careers, etc.), I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with Jonah.

What’s more, I’m happy to tell you that he graciously agreed to conduct a quick interview for sneezr.ca focused around a single question. (Image via jonahberger.com.)Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.22.25 PM

Jenan: You underline the importance of design as an influencer, in life and business, in a number of stories throughout your new book. When done right, design can and does encourage people to purchase a product and/or change their behaviour.

Can you suggest some simple ways for companies to poke holes in the design of their thingamajigs in an effort to make the design stronger?

Jonah: One simple way for companies to poke holes in their designs is to see things through the eyes of the customer. Too often companies build things that look great, or have great technology, but don’t actually meet the customer needs.

Always be customer focused rather than product focused. Don’t just sell what you can make, make what you can sell. Start form the customer insight and a deep understanding of their needs and use that to build and design your offering.

Jenan: Thank you, Jonah, and all the best until next time!

Jul 6, 2016


What happens when facts meet a story?


Image via http://bit.ly/293C9Mh

You know that when scissors meet paper, paper loses.
But do you know what happens when facts meet a story?

More often than not, when facts meet a story, facts lose. Case in point: the Brexit hullabaloo, or how Britain recently divorced the European Union (EU).

It all began with the fine people of Britain hearing a story about how their 43-year-long marriage with the EU was a bad one. How bad? Practically deadly.

Was the story factual? Heck no.

That’s not me talking. That’s countless prominent British citizens talking. Their famous athletes (e.g. David Beckham), business leaders (e.g. Michael Kevin O’Leary, the CEO of Ryanair, aka Europe’s largest airline), entertainers (e.g. Daniel Craig, aka the current James Bond), writers (e.g. John le Carré), etc. all argued that Britain’s marriage with the EU was a good one. (See an article about this in the Telegraph.)

What’s more, the same folks (that is, those in favour of Britain staying in the EU) actually had facts to prove it. For example, the British-based EasyJet airline is the second largest airline in France. And the only reason why EasyJet was granted the privilege to serve the French market was because Britain was in the EU.

There was only one problem that those forward-thinking folks in favour of Britain staying in a marriage with the EU overlooked. And it was a big one. The problem: in life and in politics, facts can’t replace a story. Only a story can replace a story.

We all know what happened next. However slight, the majority of the Brits believed the story that their 43-year-long marriage with the EU was not just repetitive, but actually very bad. So they decided to divorce the EU. :(

Let’s wrap this up.

What can we learn from the above? Whether you seek to inform, persuade, or delight, you will get better results if you start your quest with one simple question. The question? Ask: What would people love? Would they love to hear more facts, or would they love to hear a good story?

Jun 26, 2016

p.s. The NY Times posted a follow-up story on the above topic on Jun 28. See http://nyti.ms/292VgXJ. It’s all about how Brexit proponents’ false promises (that’s NY Times’ phrase, not mine) keep on crumbling.


How hard & how important is it to be interesting on a page?


Incredibly hard and incredibly important. 

By being interesting on a page, you create a context that helps others do some of the most important things on Earth: think, act, laugh, dream, and love, to name a few. That’s why, I feel, being interesting on a page is the best vehicle of progress in our civilization. And the basis of all its wealth.

Not convinced? Let me show you. Let’s take one of the tiniest examples of what being interesting on a page looks like in action. Let’s look at a good joke and see how it fuelled culture and created wealth. Here is that joke: “The other night, I bought a movie on iTunes that I own on DVD. Just so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed.” — Garry Gulman, comedian

Fun, no? Your life is richer for it, isn’t it? You’re not the only one who’s richer for it. Garry is, too. The above joke, along with a few others, was recently purchased by Netflix. They, then, turned it into a Netflix special to make even more people entertained. And to make even more money.

And all of that started as a collection of words on a page that Garry wrote.

You know what’s funny? Most folks think that being interesting on a page is confined only to mediums such as books, sheets of music, or movies and TV shows.

And that’s where most folks are wrong. Today, being interesting on a page matters in so many other areas in life. For example, those who know how to be interesting on a special, digital kind of page run the Internet. (Maybe even the world?)

I’m talking about folks who write software. Surprised? Software is a form of writing on a page, not some alien thingamajig. And those who are good at it are driving progress, usually enriching both the world and themselves.

Case in point: Mark Zuckerberg. He knows how to be interesting on a page. Mark is so good at it that he even got all of our grandmas hooked on Facebook.

Whether it’s helping people find people, find love, raise funds, or be reunited with their pets after natural disasters (it’s a thing, Google it), Facebook is driving progress in the world. It has enriched it. Mark, too. Which is OK. As the old saying goes, you can get everything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.

The takeaway: Being interesting on a page is incredibly hard and incredibly important. Because writing that’s interesting on a page motivates thinking, feeling, and acting, which are the things that fuel culture. And culture shapes values. And values determine the future. And the future is important, no? :)


No one is too old to make history online.

May 2, 2016.