Wednesday, 12 July 2017

A month without mobile phone

I'm actually 6 weeks into living without that gadget in my pocket, and only now I start to really understand why people do this - and start to get really enthused about it. So this article will be updated on a regular basis. My notes in the first weeks were rather dull:


"So 7 days ago I ditched my smartphone, and 
I'm sitting here waiting for a remarkable insight or intelligent conclusion of my experience but, damn, nothing pops up. 

Only the first day was strange, that urgent feel that I was missing out on something or someone could not get hold of me. That very quickly evaporated though. 

The only remarkable insight so far is just how unremarkable it is".


"Nothing changed. Zip. A colleague told me I seemed to be more relax than before, but that might as well have been because I'm in holiday at the same time. Life has continued exactly as before. As though I never was a smartphone addict - and as though that smartphone never contributed anything that was unmissable. That in itself might be tale-telling. 

If I have to think of some positives, these would be: 

1. An appointment is an appointment again (olé!) - There's just no way to let me know you would be 15 minutes late or 'have to cancel'. I've got my friends trained really well in that respect. 

2. Following from the above: I've got more time and more energy: I'm no longer busy half of the day organizing the other half. Gosh, looking back I was a walking call centre, and that on top of my normal job. Especially the last 2 years it seemed that every day was a chain reaction of calls postponing something and then informing it was not postponed at all, ... ad infinitum. 

3. And this is the Big One: nobody can call me from a supermarket asking me whether I prefer the orange juice with the pulp or without the pulp!  I have no idea when that level of superficiality surfaced in our lives... how did we do that before the invention of the mobile phone? Did we find those things... important"?

They say a mobile phone can save your life - or what will you do when you have an accident and... I must have been in pretty few life threatening situations this month, for not once I said: "God, how I wish I had a mobile phone".

On the other hand, it's also not so that anything major has changed - I'm lukewarm about the whole experience".

('Experience', really?  
I grew up and lived 30 years without a mobile phone, and today not having one is... an experience?)

Will be continued... soon.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

We do what we are

It's the premise of all marketing. 

And marketing in all its shapes and forms. 

'My front door is of quality, for ME I am quality'. 

You can apply that to the physical appearance as to the voice, a leaflet, business card, website or any other personal or professional marketing tool: anything that is meant to leave an impression. 

There's not a s-h-r-e-d we put online or its subliminal message is: this is me

No message on Facebook or it provides the person seeing it with a wealth of information and it's decisive

90% is unconscious communication: We are not aware that we're aware of it. 

Neither the person posting it nor the person seeing it are not rationally aware of the meat of the message. It's picked up nevertheless: not just what you care about. But how much. How much time you have put in it. Care. Commitment. Money. Energy. Quality of thought.

Everything you are not saying or don't know that you are saying is transmitted anyway - from one unconscious brain to the other.

We do what we are and we are what we do

At least, that's both the perception, the expectation as well as the hope. Ergo: it's everything. 

Example: I do not need to write an 'About Me' page: For your impressions have already long been made. 

You already know it's about cost-effective marketing for small businesses. For you already see the 'cost-effectiveness' and the 'smallness' in everything. 

Your emotional decision to see me as a reliable source or not, was made within seconds after you landed on this blog. Whatever I write or do not write in this page, has no relevance or purpose. It's done. It's too late. You have made up your mind and have taken your emotional decision. 

That was the hardest and most difficult lesson I learned in marketing: 

It took 1 year to rank in the Top 3 for 'SEO advisor' or 'SEO Brussels'. 

It took 1 year to understand that these rankings were not cost-effective marketing at all.
It took 
1 year full time studying conversion techniques before my own website started to run by itself, without further marketing costs.
But it took me 8 years to truly and fully grasp the above. 

Don't tell what you can do, show it, from the very first second. 
For we are perceived to be doing what we inherently are.  


TIP: If you hate this article, you'll also hate Silence is a language too and definitely How is your Halo Effect?

Monday, 20 July 2015

The 3 secrets of happiness

I'm at that age where it starts to feel natural to spread wisdoms.

There has been enough mud, mist and wilderness to also stumble over diamonds. 

Enough time has gone by to let most lose their lustre,  and recognise the ones that still shine decades later. 

Here are the diamonds that made all the difference for me myself - small and simple, for great truths do not need capitals nor exclamation marks:

'Choose your friends wisely'

For we are nothing but the average of the people we spend most time with. They are decisive for your quality, ethics, integrity, wisdom, fun, mildness, reliability, stability, freshness, self-motivation, spice, success - and ultimately your happiness. 

'It's never the destination, always the journey'

Try to avoid destinations at any cost - be them geographical, financial or psychological. They are good to have, for they provide direction and are the icing on the cake, but nothing more than that. Destinations, especially the popular ones, are, per definition, downtrodden, beaten, unoriginal, lacklustre, inside the box. The city-trip can be 'OK', 'cool' or 'great' - it's the journey that can provide four-letter word extasis, satisfaction and insights. 

'When you come to a fork in the road, take it'

Don't get grey hair pondering about the choice. Great opportunities are very rare: cease them. In fact this is also a bit of a sad wisdom: it's already been decided. Whether you take the left or the right, your personality, character, temperament will still be with you - and ultimately lead you to the very same point. DID you make the wrong decision, no worries: 'It's never the destination, always the journey'. DO you think that your character or temperament or background obstruct you: 'Choose your friends wisely'. 


Monday, 22 June 2015

Rather a Spanish bull than a Belgian cow

What's so noble about treating animals as crop? 

A country where you can find road signs such as this one, is not a bad place for bulls.

In the north of Europe I've never seen 3 cows have a whole valley to themselves. Nor road signs warning: Chickens crossing! Pigs crossing! For sure the end of their lives is more 'humane', for they have none.

Instincts deleted, adrenaline repressed. Capacity to mate or fight: not necessary. You're nothing but a vegetable, a grain of sand in the mass industry of a forever growing meat consumption. You end up on a plate while people discuss the flavour of the sauce. You're a cog in the statistics of the obesity rate, not to mention Global Warming. 

But we come to southern Spain and say: "Tsss".

It's in our genes to want to expand in all directions. Our opinions, our cultural habits. As though the town we grew up in is the measure of all things. And, of course, it's also in our genes to strengthen our defense when under attack: the best way to keep the tradition of the bullfight alive is for foreigners to criticize it. 

(A few things regarding gay rights in Africa or democracy in Russia jump to mind too). 

By the way, I met some Andalusian men who are bulls themselves, so much so that sometimes I can see that it is a fair fight. To be able to live all the adrenaline, power, speed and tactics that evolution has provided... oh yes, as Hemingway I'd much rather be a Spanish bull than a German cow. 

OK, I'm in Andalusia again and, as always, my love for the region is skyrocketing. For sure I'm telling things that might upset others - you know how it goes when you see thin ice... you just have to tread on it. You just have to step closer to that canyon.

This is not a pro-corrida article. Only one to stress that there are 2 sides to every coin. Together we will find a middle way. 


Sunday, 3 May 2015

The grand return of German in marketing

Over the past 5 years I've noticed a clear increase in the demand for German. In basically everything: website translations, SEO, set-up of paid advertising, you name it. 

Nothing new under the sun: businesses go where the market is thought to be. 

Lately though I do notice something new: enthusiasm.

The demand for the translation is not always just for strategic reasons, but also for liking the language. 

Or for feeling connected to those who speak it. 

Sure, both are related. We tend to see a culture or country that is economically strong in a more positive light in other domains too. And for sure an Angela Merkel has topped up the existing 'perception of the brand' from mere Reliability... with Likeability.

As all great Brands know: nothing can make you successful as being loved. Do not push but pull

The main expression that springs to mind though is: Cultural Determination. 

Or: our opinions and feelings are only the average of those around us. And fluctuate. 

In this, a language is absolutely no different from the rise and fall of a celebrity or a trend or a song in the pop charts: all things go through a wave of being seen as hip/cool/beautiful/trendy/great to the opposite - and, sometimes, back again.

Today, yes, even 12-year olds here in Brussels might still say that 'German is an ugly language'. But they no longer connect it to 70 years of movies reducing it to one trademark only. The negative reputation is slowly fading. It might be the very last tiny waves on the beach of collective prejudices

People born before WW2 never thought or think of it as being 'ugly'. On the contrary, for them it often was and still is the language of Europe's great composers, finest poets and most influential thinkers. A European nonagenarian can drop expressions in German, just as a teenager does in English. 'Fingerspitzengefühl' they will say, or 'ins blauen hinein', savoring the sweet confirmation that this establishes them as being cultured. Or plugged in with society. 

It's funny that it's never a 'small' language that is named 'beautiful': only ever one of a very large country or very dominant culture. To the victor go the spoils: the attention goes to the beauty of that language, over the heads of that of any other. Its marketing is better.

For sure a language can be spoken beautifully or poorly. Some languages come with a very strong emphasis on the importance of speaking well, in other languages that's less the case. 

If the operas had been written in Finnish, we would all go: "What a beautiful language, how... musical"! Large sections of any society would be 'Finophile'. Others would scratch their heads and have to admit: "True, sauna... that's a nice word". Next thing you know we might focus on the beautiful sounds - and the language is on our radar. 

Sure, being liberated by the Finnish would hugely help. Their prime minister motivating Europe during dark nights. Their tall, brave soldiers distributing chewing gum. The Halo Effect kicks in and in a matter of 2 generations it will be the lingua franca of Europe. 

Where was I? O yes, the German language.

Very, very slowly - and for sure in some 10-20 years completely - we are once again entering a world in which the German shepherd does not have to be renamed in 'Alsatian', a royal family such as the British one doesn't have to change their name overnight for it sounding too German... and it can simply be the great language of Goethe again, of van Beethoven and the Lorelei. 

That in itself is a historic step.
It's how history actually works. Not by grand deeds on specific dates, but as a very, very slow river that takes a century to arrive in a very, very calm sea under a blue, sunny sky. 

You'd think that nothing has happened, but someting has. 

All together now: