Why Games Work When Goals Don’t

I'm lucky. I did not play any organized team sports growing up. And I didn't participate in any competitions like spelling bees, dance recitals, or science fairs. And I never quite got the hang of playing the clarinet in 6th grade band. So for me, the idea of playing a game calls to mind a casual neighborhood round of soccer-baseball (a.k.a kickball), or attempting to jump rope for as long as possible without missing, while simultaneously reciting some weird story about a girl with a name that begins with A, then B, etc. and adding fancy steps until I tripped on my sneaker laces. Pretty low risk. No Olympic dreams. No athletic scholarships. And no, sports wise, I really never "could a been a contender." My history leaves me blessed with a rather childlike concept of play. I think playing a game is…well, fun. Your mileage may vary.

With this blessed perspective, here are some reasons why I think games work when goals don't:

  • Playing a game lightens the performance burden. We are "just playing" after all. No one expects to be perfect. We are energized to keep trying new things.
  • Playing begins with, and perpetuates a love of the game.
  • Playing fully engages all of our senses, and thereby unlocks abundant creative resources.
  • We more naturally identify simple, measurable steps. We can make those steps as easy or as challenging as we wish. I'm a big fan of easy — not because I'm afraid of hard work. I'm a fan of easy because an easy task gets me into the game, then my natural curiosity and desire take over.
  • If it isn't working, we can make-up new rules or call a do-over.
  • It's fun to keep score. Is there anyone who doesn't love amassing shiny gold stars? (Please, it's not just me, is it?).
  • A game naturally creates an environment that is designed for success. When we play a game, we think about things like equipment, and practice, and coaches, and fans. We learn or create rules that help us win. We begin to hone in on the actions that really make the difference (Just connect with the ball, don't try to knock it out of the park every time). Pick any game metaphor you like, and you have an instant framework for moving forward on something you want to be doing.

And, hello, we are playing here. It is supposed to be messy and chaotic, and loud, and punctuated by belly laughs. A lot like life.

Cats & Marketing – Part 3

In part one I explored Norton’s approach to marketing (attracting sustenance). In part two, we saw how Kramer, my other furry guru, manages his approach to getting what he needs or wants. In each approach there are lots of reasons to conclude that you should not leave the cats in charge of your marketing.

Then again, maybe they’re on to something: These furry little VPs of Marketing are spot on effective. Their approach to the customer is authentic, deeply connected with what is important to them, and only a moderate energy investment. Their action arises in the moment, based on their assessment of the situation (she moved…time to eat!). And while they have preferred individual approaches, they are willing to change strategies a bit if it doesn’t seem to be working. They will often partner strategically with each other (abundance mindset – there’s enough to go around). And, blissfully, sometimes they just let the purpose driven activity rest and hang out for a while enjoying the customer’s company. Because, you know, as long as everyone is getting what they need, the relationship rules.

Norton & Kramer’s Guide to Marketing:

Top 5 things to avoid:

  1. Gray & white cat resting on bench with paws hanging over edgeIt’s best to not wait until you are starving to connect with your customer.
  2. Staring at an empty bank account does not create sales.
  3. Don’t get underfoot, it can really be annoying (and annoying the customer is really not the best way to go).
  4. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get a result after a single action.
  5. Don’t bite.


10 things that work:

  1. Black cat reading newspaperFlaunt your unique style.
  2. Be in relationship with your customers daily.
  3. Be a little entertaining.
  4. Be willing to give a little something (add value), just for the fun of it.
  5. Step back from time to time to get perspective.
  6. Lavish your attention on your “right fit” customers rather than trying to please everyone.
  7. Talk to your customers, and invite feedback from them.
  8. Be creative in getting your message in front of your customer.
  9. Make it as easy as possible for your customer to buy.
  10. Take time regularly to just purr.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Cat in Charge of Your Marketing – Part 2

In Part 1, I explored one cat’s approach to marketing (attracting sustenance). Now in Part 2, we’ll consider how Kramer, my other furry guru, manages his approach to getting what he needs; and once again there are lots of parallels to marketing strategies.

As a reminder, for this exploration, consider food and attention (sustenance) as the equivalent of sales/income (sustenance). Kramer’s actions and antics are his marketing strategy and tactics. I am the Customer because I have the sustenance and Kramer wants some. He really wants some. 

Black cat gazing thoughtfully downward Unlike his buddy, Norton, Kramer tends toward a more sleek and sophisticated style, but he is not afraid to flaunt his quirks. He can be a kind of “outside the box” guy (literally, but we don’t need to go there.) And even more so then Norton, Kramer is perfectly content to ignore the Customer until he needs sustenance. In fact, he sets a whole new standard on what it means to ignore the Customer.

The foundation of Kramer’s marketing strategy is quid pro quo…I’ll do something for you, you give me food. And he has two categories of “something” that he gives in order to gain: entertainment and gifts with intention.  Here’s how it starts…

In the distance the Customer hears a muffled, though still surprisingly loud, deep vocalization. It gets louder and louder until eventually Kramer appears bearing a gift. His mouth is filled with a “mouse,” which he will then drop on top of Cat toy set next to toeswhatever is in front of Customer, looking pointedly at the Customer (ok…that’s me) as if to say “I’ll give you this fuzzy thing that kinds of looks like a mouse, that I have carefully brought right to you so you can’t possibly miss it, and you give me that mouse substitute from the can, okay? Right. Now is good. Are you moving yet? Why aren’t you moving yet? Hey! I’m talking to you! Yo! Customer!!!”

Sometimes he will decide that some Customer education is in order, and he will put said “mouse” in his empty dish and look intently at me, willing me to make the connection. He will then offer further guidance, herding me in the direction where sustenance can be found (the equivalent of walking the customer to the ATM so they can get the cash).

IMG_3213Occasionally, Kramer will pause to try to get some perspective (typically from the top of the cabinets), before moving into phase 2.

In phase 2, he shifts into the “entertaining communication” approach. In this phase he engages in a random flurry of activity, zooming around, trying to get through any open door, rolling around on the floor, and sitting up on his haunches and bending around so he is kind of looking at you upside down (I did say he was quirky, right?). All of this activity is accompanied by non-stop communication… “sweet talking.” If there are no immediate results, “sweet talk” gives way to plaintive demands that sound an awful lot like “Now!”

He also has a fall back option…if sweet talk fails…he is not afraid to flat-out beg. And he is relentless. He does not stop until he is successful in “making the sale” and receiving sustenance.

And you can’t argue with his success rate. Maybe there is something to be learned here.

…and we’ll look at that in Part 3. Stay tuned.

Why You Shouldn’t Leave the Cat in Charge of Your Marketing

This is Norton. He is one of my two furry feline gurus.
Close up of gray & white cat's face

This week, Norton and his buddy Kramer (you’ll meet him later) have been teaching me different approaches to marketing. It started like this: they were being totally annoying (as only cats can be), because they were ABSOLUTELY STARVING!! But each was using a very different approach to get what they wanted. And I got to thinking that their actions were beginning to look like individual marketing approaches. Let’s take a closer look…

For purposes of this exploration, we’ll consider food (sustenance) as the equivalent to sales/income (sustenance). Cat’s actions and antics are marketing strategy & tactics. And in this situation, I am the Customer (I have the sustenance, and they want some). And, just for the record, we are dealing here with a cat food based economy (which if anyone is wondering, is motoring along just fine, thank you. Cat food futures look solid. The fundamentals are strong. No, really, they are).

Anyway. Norton tends to approach the world with wide-eyed wonder, and an absolute knowing that “sweetness sells.” His typical strategy unfolds something like this…

Gray & white cat staring at empty food bowl“Doo dee, doo dee, doo dee, doo … oop… I see the bottom of my bowl — yikes! (my bank is empty)” Deep breath. “OK, I’m sure everything is OK. I know that it isn’t always empty. Sometimes there is something in there. Maybe I’ll just keep an eye on it and see what happens…”

  • Proceed to staring at the empty bowl (aka “bank account”) for several long minutes.
  • If no change to bank account, go find Customer.
  • Make direct eye contact with Customer.
  • Stare wonderingly, bemused, “Hey, Customer, you haven’t forgotten me, have you? I’m the really sweet one you like so much.
  • If no immediate change is noticed, continue to stay close, very close to theGray and white cat up close Customer. Direct contact is crucial. In fact sitting directly on top of the Customer’s
    heart is the most preferred position. Should the geometry of the situation make that impossible, proceed to closest horizontal surface that still allows contact with the Customer.
  • Get into the Customer’s head — or at least nudge them in the face and make a lot of (purring chirpy) noise that the Customer seems to (sometimes) find endearing.
  • And if still no response, a little bite always helps (as they say, any PR is good PR).
  • Most important — NEVER let the Customer out of your sight! Stay in contact at all times, at least while actively seeking sales.
  • Be alert to any little cue that suggests the customer is moving toward completing a sale, then rush ahead of Customer to the “bank account” and stare at it until the sale appears.
  • Once sustenance appears in bank, devote all attention to sustenance, while ignoring Customer.
  • Once satisfied, if you feel like it, show appreciation with some additional purring chirpy sounds, if the Customer is still hanging around.
  • Then…(yawn!) take a well deserved rest, (gentle kitty snoring sounds ….) until next time bank account is empty.

See any parallels with your marketing approach? I can see some parallels (…squirm, fidget…) with mine.