Political Genius.



I’ve used more Kleenex on this day than I have since my last cold.

Who knew that election results could make me shed tears of joy?


Rather than bore you with lame attempts to capture my thoughts & sentiments at this moment, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite Victory Day posts.

Enjoy. Keep the faith. Never say “impossible” again!

From Illustrator Patrick Moberg:

From a citizen in Turtle Creek, PA:

I have a confession to make.

I did not vote for Barack Obama today.

I’ve openly supported Obama since March.  But I didn’t vote for him today.

I wanted to vote for Ronald Woods. He was my algebra teacher at Clark Junior High in East St. Louis, IL.  He died 15 years ago when his truck skidded head-first into a utility pole.  He spent many a day teaching us many things besides the Pythagorean Theorem.  He taught us about Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis and many other civil rights figures who get lost in the shadow cast by Martin Luther King, Jr.

But I didn’t vote for Mr. Woods.

I wanted to vote for Willie Mae Cross. She owned and operated Crossroads Preparatory Academy for almost 30 years, educating and empowering thousands of kids before her death in 2003.  I was her first student.  She gave me my first job, teaching chess and math concepts to kids in grades K-4 in her summer program.  She was always there for advice, cheer and consolation.  Ms. Cross, in her own way, taught me more about walking in faith than anyone else I ever knew.

But I didn’t vote for Ms. Cross.

I wanted to vote for Arthur Mells Jackson, Sr. and Jr. Jackson Senior was a Latin professor.  He has a gifted school named for him in my hometown.  Jackson Junior was the pre-eminent physician in my hometown for over 30 years.  He has a heliport named for him at a hospital in my hometown.  They were my great-grandfather and great-uncle, respectively.

But I didn’t vote for Prof. Jackson or Dr. Jackson.

I wanted to vote for A.B. Palmer. She was a leading civil rights figure in Shreveport, Louisiana, where my mother grew up and where I still have dozens of family members.  She was a strong-willed woman who earned the grudging respect of the town’s leaders because she never, ever backed down from anyone and always gave better than she got.  She lived to the ripe old age of 99, and has a community center named for her in Shreveport.

But I didn’t vote for Mrs. Palmer.

I wanted to vote for these people, who did not live to see a day where a Black man would appear on their ballots on a crisp November morning.

In the end, though, I realized that I could not vote for them any more than I could vote for Obama himself.

So who did I vote for?

No one.

I didn’t vote.  Not for President, anyway.

Oh, I went to the voting booth.  I signed, was given my stub, and was walked over to a voting machine.  I cast votes for statewide races and a state referendum on water and sewer improvements.

I stood there, and I thought about all of these people, who influenced my life so greatly.  But I didn’t vote for who would be the 44th President of the United States.

When my ballot was complete, except for the top line, I finally decided who I was going to vote for – and then decided to let him vote for me.  I reached down, picked him up, and told him to find Obama’s name on the screen and touch it.

And so it came to pass that Alexander Reed, age 5, read the voting screen, found the right candidate, touched his name, and actually cast a vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Oh, the vote will be recorded as mine.  But I didn’t cast it.

Then again, the person who actually pressed the Obama box and the red “vote” button was the person I was really voting for all along.

It made the months of donating, phonebanking, canvassing, door hanger distributing, sign posting, blogging, arguing and persuading so much sweeter.

So, no, I didn’t vote for Barack Obama.  I voted for a boy who now has every reason to believe he, too, can grow up to be anything he wants…even President.

From The Onion:

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress

November 5, 2008 | Issue 44•45

WASHINGTON—After emerging victorious from one of the most pivotal elections in history, president-elect Barack Obama will assume the role of commander in chief on Jan. 20, shattering a racial barrier the United States is, at long last, shitty enough to overcome.

And my favorite excerpt from this article:

Carrying a majority of the popular vote, Obama did especially well among women and young voters, who polls showed were particularly sensitive to the current climate of everything being fucked.

Sad, but true.

Read the full article here >

And last, but hardly least… from Barack Obama, 44th President of these United States:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

This is your victory.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too. And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see?

What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

More social media “hype”

No time to share much Genius today… too much excitement around the TechCrunch article highlighting Viximo‘s turnkey virtual goods solution as a “massive monetization opportunity” and the growing excitement around the launch of our first iPhone apps.

But I couldn’t resist sharing some fresh data in support of all the recent “social media hype”.

And so… at the risk of further alienating the readers who told me “social media is a crock” earlier this month, called me “warped,” and threatened to bite me (you KNOW who you are!)… I present you with these tasty nuggets:

  • 3/4 of US online adults now use social tools to connect with each other (compared with just 56% in 2007). On average, they spend one hour per week using these tools; however, 19% [and growing] are averaging 7 HOURS PER WEEK. [source: Forrester Research, October 2008]
  • 75% of Fortune 1000 companies with Web sites will have undertaken some kind of online social-networking initiative for marketing or customer relations purposes in the next year. [source: Gartner, October 2008]

But don’t take it from me, take a peek at Shiv Singh‘s (former colleague and current VP, Social Media, Razorfish) presentation deck from the recent Publisher’s Summit, which dives deeper into what marketers should know as the social media landscape shifts [and evolves!] around them.

When you’re done with that, hop over to Pete Kim’s blog (also a former colleague from Razorfish. Coincidence???) where he’s curating The Mother of All Lists of corporate SMM efforts (not to be confused with corporate S&M efforts. That’s a different blog). I suspect that curating this list will become a full-time job for a team of many in the not-too-distant future.

But then, I’ve been drinking “seriously poisoned Kool-Aid.” Ahem.

If you’ve arrived here quite by accident and are feeling cold, confused, and alone, I might suggest you start at the beginning—with a quickie tutorial on just what the f*ck this whole social media thing is (brought to you by Yours Truly).

Or, you could continue to bury your head in the sand. Your choice, tots!

Bloody brilliant!

I’m not a big fan of serial killers—or TV shows that glorify them—but I can & do appreciate a guerrilla marketing campaign that’s totally killer ;). And this one is.

Brought to you by the same Geniuses who used custom-made fountains spitting fake blood to promote last season’s Dexter premier, this display of Dexter-ous marketing featured fake “pop-up” newsstands (in high-traffic spots like Central Park, outside LA’s Kodak Theater, and San Francisco’s Union square) filled with mock issues of major mags like GQ, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker, all featuring Dexter, of course, as the cover Babe, and clever headlines like “Killer Tips” and “He’s Got a Way With Murder”.

To complete the blood-curdling experience, each newsstand carried snacks exclusively wrapped in—what else?—blood-red packaging.

Clever? Yes. But did this [literally] outside-the-box campaign yield equally noticeable results?

Apparently so. Media Bistro reports that the ratings for the show’s season premiere were up 21% over last year’s—making it the most-watched premiere of a drama on the network since 2004.

In a world of media-and-advertising-oversaturation, I’d say that’s a bloody good outcome!

You’d. Better. VOTE (for Obama)!!!!!!!

I just finished reading GOOD Magazine’s Election Issue, in which they present “1565 Reasons to Vote”—a clever, compelling, and reasonably unbiased look at the excuses people make for not voting—and the CRUCIAL importance of bucking that trend on November 4, 2008.

Generous Genius that I am, I thought I’d share a few highlights…

Reason 101:
20% of NYU students polled recently said they’d give up their right to vote in 2008 for an iPod Touch. A f**king iPod Touch.

Reason 784:
You voted for Prom Queen in high school. Ditto season 2 of American Idol.

Reason 963:
Your polling place is really easy to find: vote411.org

[Not to harp on American Idol, but…] Reason 1281:
Because it’s a slightly more important vote than the next American Idol.

Reason 1283:
Former musician and full-time Whack Job Ted Nugent recently penned a “Teditorial” titled “Sarah Palin is My Girl.” Didn’t see that one coming, did ya?

Reason 1544:
“Not because it’s cool, because it’s not. You know what’s cool? Smoking. Smoke while you vote.” – Jon Stewart

Reason 1524:
The average white man born in 1936 had a life expectancy of 58 years. John McCain was born in 1936. Um… he’s 72.

Reason 1559:
The seemingly important choices you make on other days in November—should I have more turkey?—are pretty trite by comparison.

And my mostest favoritest reason of all, brought to you by none other than Oscar the Grouch:

“Vote for the things you believe in—like trash, the freedom to stink and the unalienable right to annoy people!”



Even giving birth on election day is not a legitimate excuse, sorry. After all, you could drop by the polling place during early labor or vote by absentee ballot. Right?

Seriously, people. Have you seen what’s going on out there?

There’s this:

And this:

And don’t even get me started on issues like education, health care, or the environment.

I’ll be blunt: The Bush Administration has f**ked this country and good. Undeniably the worst president in US history, Dubs is living proof that idiots and “mavericks” shouldn’t run the country. His legacy in office has brought our economy, our environment, our educational system, our freedom, and our future TO ITS KNEES.

Please, oh, please don’t sit on your hiney next month and let the dumb-dumbs that are afraid of a black man taking the Oval Office perpetuate the same self-serving, misguided, irresponsible decision-making that has gotten us into this mess.

It’s time for change. BIG, REAL change. Change for the better.

It’s time for us ALL to vote for Barack Obama.

I’ll complete my resounding endorsement for Obama by sharing a quote from author Michael Pollan that I think quite eloquently states the situation we are in—and the most compelling reason for you to vote for Obama on November 4th:

“Over the past eight years, the government has taken steps to radically curtail our liberties and erode some of the bedrock principles of our republic—from undermining habeas corpus to conducting torture in our name. To decline to vote is to tacitly accept the administration’s redefinition of the republic; to vote for a new government this fall is to reject the project and, we can hope, begin to roll it back.”

See you at the polls.

Why Traditional Advertising is Kinda F**ked (and what we should do about it!)

Attention brands, business owners, advertising agencies, and media peeps!!!!

I have some bad news. And it’s not about the financial markets, the election, or your expanding waistline. Nope—it’s far, far worse.

Are you sitting down? Good. Here it comes…


That’s right. DEATH SPIRAL.

Now before you freak and jump out a window (or worse—post nasty anonymous comments in reply to this statement), allow me to explain. And yes, to propose a solution… I am a Genius, after all.

Traditional Advertising’s “Death Spiral” can be attributed to 3 recent phenomena:
1.    Clutter
2.    Trust
3.    Social media

Let’s talk.

I don’t know about you, but I hate clutter.

A little bit of nice, clean white space feels so much better.

If traditional ads were spaced like these last few paragraphs, they might actually WORK.

We might actually even ENJOY them.

But instead… most ads are more like this:

Clear as mud? ☺

The worst part is that the Clutter Problem is escalating at a DEATH-SPIRAL-INDUCING rate.

Consider this:
In 1998 Google had an index of 25M pages. As of this summer, its index had hit the mind-blowing milestone of 1 TRILLION UNIQUE URLs.


Still more to consider:

There are >100,000,000 videos on YouTube.com—with >65k new ones being added DAILY.

In 2005 (most recent data I could find), there were roughly 40 BILLION product catalogs published. That’s equal to 134 catalogs for every man, woman & child in the US.

Yes, folks, the average person is exposed to some 3000 marketing messages per day… but the American Association of Advertising Agencies says we’re only able to absorb (at most!) 100.

And let’s face it, that’s probably an inflated number.

PS. 90% of people who can skip ads, do.

Yes, but most of those messages are crap. What matters is good creative. Killer copy. Pretty women with big boobs wiggling around to a HAWT soundtrack.

Ok… NO. Neither creative nor copy nor boobs—nor any combination of the three—are likely to solve the clutter problem. Besides… you’ve got 2 more hefty problems to solve.

“Lets talk about trust baby, let’s talk about you & me…”

People don’t trust advertisers. Period.

You know it. I know it. Let’s call a spade a spade and move on. But in case you’re still skeptical (or just plain crazy), here’s proof:

“In a 1998 Gallup poll rating honesty and ethical standards across a range of professions, advertising people ended up near the bottom, sandwiched between lawyers and car salesmen.”

SANDWICHED BETWEEN LAWYERS AND CAR SALESMEN, people!!!!! And perhaps, if we were to redo this poll today, they might change those to “Politicians and Pimps” (both of whom are better-dressed, frankly-speaking).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the trust that most consumers have in the opinions of other consumers.

“‘Word-of-mouth’ the most powerful selling tool…78% of consumers say they trust the recommendation of other consumers.” – Nielsen, Trust in Advertising, 2007 Global Consumer Survey Report.

And the trend is particularly true among younger consumers—namely, the ¼ of the US population (ONE F**KING FOURTH!) who are 14-24yo and were born wired.

Raised in a time where “SPAM” and “COOKIE” don’t automatically conjure images of food, today’s youth LIVES and BREATHES online:

  • They spend >16 hours online/week (online > TV)
  • 56% spend >1 hour daily sending instant messages
  • ¼ prefer social networks to F2F time with friends
  • Have an average of 53 online friends (vs. 11 “close” friends)
  • 96% use a social network DAILY

And they don’t care about your ad, people. They care what their friends think.

Trust me. 😉

Social media
Ah… every traditional advertiser’s favorite topic! YAY! Let’s hug.

Seriously, now—it’s common knowledge that people don’t like intrusive, one-way conversations. What is traditional advertising but an intrusive, one-way conversation?

The paradigm is shifting. Fast. Hard.

Ahh… The Solution!

Should we make the logo bigger?

Craft a catchy new tag line?

More girls? Bigger boobs?

No, no, no, no, NO!

Traditional Advertising’s Terminal Illness (aka Death Spiral) shall not be cured by a larger helping of the Same Old Shi*t. You’re going to have think different. Act different. BE DIFFERENT.


Start by shifting your focus more on branding and less on advertising. Yes, branding. That magical je ne sais quoi that ultimately results in the feelings/thoughts/attitudes that people have about your product/service/company.

You mean our tagline?
Our logo?
The killer copy on our website?
…..Our tagline?
Are you sure?

Your brand isn’t what you say your company/product/service is. It’s what THEY say it is.

Branding isn’t advertising.

In fact, it’s more like… your child. You can’t control it (though it’s natural to want to try)… but you can [and should] certainly influence it, enable it, embrace it, and inspire it.

Start by listening. Really listening. No, REALLY listening.

There. Doesn’t that feel better already?

Virtual goods. Real revenue.

My newest startup adventure has seriously cut in to my blogging time lately… which means the 14 MILLION(!!!!!) people who faithfully hang on The Genius’ every word have been left cold, alone, and without even a teeny tiny Genius Snack upon which to nibble. [sigh]

Spanking for you, @viximo!

No, wait—scratch that. There will be no spankings for Viximo. They’d like that too much.

Instead, I will intentionally NOT talk them up to my legions of followers.

I wont mention the fact that they embody the Next Big Business Model or that they’re building the most kick-ass community of Rock Star design talent in the history of the world.

I wont glorify the notion that Viximo’s platform will enable online communities, gaming sites, virtual worlds, and others to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in the next 12 months alone.

I absolutely will NOT point out that Viximo is enabling major brands and ad agencies to connect with young consumers in an experiential, immersive way that builds brand loyalty, cranks the word-of-mouth engine, and *bonus!* even opens a new revenue stream.

And dammit I will NOT describe the opportunity that Viximo presents to online publishers, retailers, ad agencies, and interactive designers alike as a chance to drink from the udder of The Virtual Goods Cash Cow.

No f**king way.

For those of you scratching your heads, wondering what the f**k a virtual good is, well… I’m sorry, but I refuse to help. It’s not my place to explain that technically, virtual goods are nothing more than a series of 1s and 0s on your computer screen… or that those 1s and 0s collectively represent a $1.5 Billion market—that’s expected to exceed $7 Billion in less than 18 months.

I wont explain that virtual goods provide functional, expressive, and social value—or that they increase social interactions, and hence user engagement and time spent online.

I definitely wont point you to this article which projects that Facebook is expected to rake in $100 Million over the next 12 months—entirely through the sale of virtual gifts and myriad other virtual items (including my personal fav, food and gifts for my Fluff friend, Mar-Mar). Or this one, which celebrates Gaia and IMVU’s success generating $1M/month through the sale of virtual goods “ranging from puppy dogs to lightning bolts”.

I wouldn’t even consider bringing your attention to Second Life’s success with virtual goods ($80M annually), let alone that of our Asian friends like Nexon, which sells more Mini Coopers (virtual ones, of course) than BMW; or Habbo Hotel, which sells more furniture (virtual!) than IKEA.

Last but not least, I won’t bother regaling the efforts of retailers like Kohls, JCPenney, K-Swiss, and Sears, all of whom have celebrated notable success selling branded virtual goods on sites like Zwinky.com, Stardoll.com and others. I mean, really, who would be impressed by numbers like these:

•    2.2 million visits
•    1.8 million items sold
•    97,000 click-throughs to Kohls.com
•    ALL WITHIN THE FIRST 16 days!!!!

Clearly someone’s been drinking the Kool Aide.

But I digress… the reality is, I’m simply waaaaay too busy to spend precious time discussing any of this, and the fact is, it’s Viximo’s fault.

I’m sure they’ll regret this unfortunate [and awfully selfish] little faux pas. But in the meantime, I’m standing by my punishment.

Yes, rather than divulge even a hint of how HUGE Viximo is poised to become, I’ll say only this—they HAVE done ONE thing right: They were smart enough to hire a Bonafide Marketing Genius.

Even if they have been a little bit grabby during these first seven days.

“They like me! They really like me!”

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of presenting What the F**K is Social Media? to Boston’s own Ladies Who Launch. The presentation was very well received, and man was it FUN to drop the F-bomb so many times! So much so, that I’ve decided to use a healthy dose of profanity in every presentation I write from this day forward. Doesn’t that sound f**king Genius?

Cursing aside, I must admit that in all my many years of being a Bonafide Marketing Genius, never have I so personally benefitted from the magic and momentum of this beloved thing we call the World Wide Web—and more specifically, from the magic and momentum of it’s offspring: social media.

Here’s what I mean.

At 4:00pm on July 2, 2008, I posted What the F**K is Social Media on Slideshare.net. I then sent an email to about a half dozen contacts who I thought would be interested in the material, and asked them to “vote” for it in the “World’s Greatest Presentation Contest.” A short while later, it appeared on Twitter (thanks @TDefren!) and found its way onto a few blogs, including Three Minds, Sixty Second View, Robert Paterson’s Blog, and numerous others.

By the end of the day, it had been viewed about 300 times.

By the end of the next day (July 3), >900 times.

July 4: >2700 times.

July 5: 4000 times.

As of this morning, it has been viewed >15,000 times, embedded on 209 other sites, favorited by 200 people, and [at least for now] is the most embedded slideshow this month and is in the top 25 most embedded slideshows of all time.

Meanwhile, all this buzz has resulted in >150 new Twitter followers (from all corners of the world), dozens of new connections on LinkedIn and Facebook, multiple “expertise” and speaking requests (the Genius particularly loves those!), and a Monster Truck-sized boost in blog traffic.

Do I hear a “Whoop Whoop!” By golly, I believe that I DO!

Some of you may look at these numbers and say “Big F**King deal. Who would expect any less from a Genius?” Others of you may be drooling with envy, or frozen—like a deer in headlights—at the sheer awesomeness of it. But the truth, my darlings, is that it is amazing—a true testament to the global, networked, constantly-sharing, engaged community that is the lifeblood of social media. That IS social media.

In other words, I owe it all to YOU. And I thank you. I may not be able to fit my head through the door any longer, but F**K it, I’m grateful, and I’m thrilled! Yee-HA!

In addition to arming me with juicy numbers to share and inflating my already super-sized ego, my dear online friends have also submitted a few fantastic comments that I’d like to share.

First, there was this one:

[Identity kept private since the chap sent me this little gem via email, claiming he wanted to protect ME from embarrassment. I’m not kidding.]

“I say: F**k social media 🙂 . From a personal point of view: the bubble will burst again and all that is left is face-2-face communication and interaction. From a professional point of view: a service or a product that targets the baby boomers for instance will not be sold over the internet. Check the stats… And only the top 10 of strong brands will survive via on line communication, creating buzz and brand awareness, not added value.

So, why should I get on the train? Give me one good reason ☺”

Um… did you somehow skip slides 6-44? Jesus, dude. I gave you 5 REALLY good reasons—which is 5 reasons more than you have for being such a dumbass.

And this one from Roger Martin:

Terrific f**king presentation. Marta, will you run for President … please? I’m a former political and investigative journalist who has owned and managed PR firms for the past 17 years. We are leaping into social marketing, and I’ve made your slideshow required viewing for all staff. (Maybe they’ll stop hitting the porn sites?)

To which I can only respond… No, Roger, they will never stop hitting the porn sites. But a guy can dream.