Why Customers Are Willing to Pay Not to See Your Ads

The current Hammock Idea Email explains how and why ad-blocking isn’t just a browser plug-in hack. Blocking ads is also a multi-billion dollar business. It’s based on the notion that advertising doesn’t always need to be at the transaction intersection when dollars are exchanged for content. Oftentimes, customers become so overwhelmed by the crush of ads on the internet and traditional media, they are more than willing to pay media companies for the chance to view (listen to, watch, read) ad-free content.

And many media companies have learned that there are billions of dollars in potential revenue in allowing people to pay for ad-free content, rather than subjecting them to personalized ads or the sheer magnitude of ads that appear on a web page.

Here’s a link to a web version of the email..

Social Objects, GE & Bonnie Raitt

4_3_2014The 12 readers of this blog will recognize some themes in the essay about social objects appearing in the current Hammock Idea-Email.  Also, thanks to my friend Hugh MacLeod for giving us permission to use his illustration to accompany it. More importantly, thanks to Hugh for introducing me to the idea of social objects several years ago.


Social objects come in a wide variety of forms, from cartoons to blog posts to 4-photo tweets. They are the hard currency of the internet, the beginning of a social exchange that creates and fosters conversations that lead to long-term, people-to-people relationships among those who go by such labels as buyers and sellers, shoppers and merchants, creators and collectors.

(Sidenote: Each issue of the Idea-Email contains one 300-400 word essay on an idea we believe will be helpful to a senior marketing executive. You can see an archive of past issues and subscribe to it here.)

Breaking good: A ten minute chat with Professor Jeff Cornwall

Jeff Cornwall, Belmont University entrepreneurship professor and longtime blogger (The Entrepreneurial Mind), recently invited me to appear on the video version of his blog — a show that is produced by the Nashville-based web video network, Talkapolis (think Leo Laport’s TWit network with a southern accent). The episode was posted today. It was to visit with Dr. Cornwall and I appreciated the chance to explain the customer media and content focus of Hammock Inc. — and our role in the context of today’s marketing landscape. Here’s is an embed of the 10 minute interview.

After advertising, what? Levi’s bike commuter collection “Go to Work” media

Levi’s commuter collection uses digital and video media to celebrate a niche passion, and to help grow its potential customer-base. (Note: Take up the “no-helmets” issue with them, not me.)

The 12 people who read this blog know that among my top three current obsessions is riding a bicycle to and from work. (I’ve just crossed 1,000 miles of in-town bicycling during the first eight months of 2013.) A small sub-set of people know that my in-city bicycling has caused me to wonder why I spent so many years believing riding a bike was dependent on my wearing Spandex and trying to ride as fast as I could.

Riding a bicycle for transportation and fun has nothing to do with Spandex, I’ve discovered. Nor speed. It’s about having such a wonderful means of commuting to work that even a woman driver* blowing her horn, screaming, “just get on the f*0#ing sidewalk” can’t pierce ones zone of bliss. (And yes, that happened to me yesterday.)

Recently, I touched on this topic and wondered out loud what the bicycle industrial complex was thinking when they spent decades using-up the majority of their marketing dollars reinforcing the idea that Spandex and bicycles are joined a the hip area. (Actually, that’s a rhetorical question as I know the answer: bicycles purchased by spandex-wearers are high-margin, expensive products.)

As I’ve noted, I believe the CitiBike program in New York could prove to be the breakthrough biking needs to help people understand that riding a bike is about transportation, as much as it is about recreation or fitness.

The reason I say CitiBike is the “disruptive” force is simple: A large chunk of the U.S. fashion industry exists within a fairly flat and densely populated few square miles of Manhattan. The world’s largest advertising and marketing firms occupy much of that same area, as do the nation’s major entertainment and media companies.

Quickly, these gate-keepers of pop-culture and fashion (especially the young fashion magazine associates commuting to work) will crush the notion that Spandex has anything to do with bicycling. Spin-classes, maybe, but the commuting kind, no.

Just look at this list of articles about “bicycles and fashion” that have appeared in the New York Times during the past year.

Spandex is bicycling’s Blackberry. Commuter fashion is its iPhone.

Before landing in New York, the urban bicycling fashion trend has been building over the past several years. For the past five years, San Francisco-based Levi’s has been nurturing a niche fashion collection for bike commuters. (And the coolest bike shoes in the U.S. are also from San Francisco.)

Today, bicycle fashion tends to slant towards hipster chic…or if older riders like me wear it, perhaps hipster-replacement chic. But check out these bicycle shoes from the UK if you want a sample of what you’ll see on Wall Street among bicycle commuters there.

As you’ve probably never seen its commuter fashion line advertised on TV or elsewhere, how does Levi’s market it? Customer media and content, of course.  (Thus, the subject line of this post.)

Here are three short videos in a Levi’s YouTube series that show hip, young bicycle commuters who happen to be wearing Levi’s Commuter “Go to Work” collection. Makes you want to commute, huh?

*This particular incident involved a woman, but being a redneck is gender neutral.


Welcome back, Kathy Sierra

draumurDanceKathy Sierra is one of those people I’ve been fortunate to meet through blogging who has provided me a framework for understanding and articulating (at least to the 12 people who read this blog) my beliefs about marketing — or, more precisely, about that thing that is replacing what we used to call marketing.

While others were beginning their quest to see who could shout the loudest such buzzwords as “content” and “social,” in her 2007 blog, Creating Passionate Users, Kathy was saying, simply, “make customers awesome.”

Again, listen: Make customers awesome.  (Although, she said, “make users awesome,” as her audience was primarily software developers back then.)

Making customers awesome has nothing to do with telling customers how great you are, what awards you’ve won, how much money you’ve raised for your startup, that you are “first” or “best” or “largest.” Making customers awesome isn’t about how clever your Superbowl ads are, how many followers on Twitter you have, how many Facebook likes you’ve got.

Making customers awesome is helping potential buyers (customers) and those who purchase your product (owners, users, members) reach the goal they desire in work, or in life, or strictly for pleasure–and then to help them go beyond that goal to the land of Awesome. (Or, as she now might say, the land of “Kick Ass.”)

Making customers awesome is about teaching, helping and inspiring.

Along with several other muses on this topic (like Doc Searls, the late Osmo Wiio*, Hugh MacLeod, Jason Fried) and 20+ years of working with some great clients and the amazing staff of Hammock with whom I get to hang out every day, Kathy inspired me to re-think a lot of what I once assumed marketing is all about — especially the kind of highly custom, often post-sale, relationship-building services we provide.

Kathy’s simple message, and use of cute graphics she created with stock photos, and her presentation skills, turned her into a rockstar among a certain niche (a niche with many people) of software and tech-oriented marketers. It also brought out some of the haters who too often show up when anyone gets too, well, popular with the cool (in this case, cool but geeky) kids.

I was saddened when Kathy stopped blogging, and with the circumstances surrounding it, and have missed the way her posts exercised my brain.

I’m happy, therefore, that she’s blogging once more, at the site SeriousPony.com and is on Twitter, as well, at the username, @seriouspony. Her new blog, she writes, “is mostly about the science of badass, with a little UX, learning theory, game design, DSLR video, horses, and code.”

Can’t wait to see what that means.

Welcome back, Kathy.

*I learned recently that Osmo Wiio passed away in March. I’ll be posting an item about him later.