Jennifer B. Davis
This has to be one of the coolest custom products ever, custom metal cufflinks from Eleven Forty Design. They are individually modeled from a picture (or you can pick from your favorite person from their portfolio which includes Einstein and Flash Gordon). Each sleeve would have one side. Put them together and they create a little portrait bust. Imagine your toddler, your dog, or your favorite superhero immortalized on your cuffs.

This would be an interesting category of products for a custom engraver (or laser "tattoo" artist) to have. Send in a picture and they engrave it onto a flat silver cufflink. Probably would be a lot cheaper than this sculpted design, but just as personal.
Jennifer B. Davis
Oxford Landing wine out of South Australia makes it easier for customers to become repeat buyers of their products. Their labels include a tear-off card to remember the wine by. I rememer in the days of the Rolodex (now, there is a company that missed the boat...they had the brand that could have lead them to create Act! or Plaxo, but that is another post), marketing literature would often include a die-cut Rolodex card that people could tear off and save. This is the wine bottle equivalent. Brilliant!

I think product packaging is one of the most underutilized mediums for viral marketing. I'd love to hear about other examples that you have seen.
Jennifer B. Davis
What would people do if every service issue at a company was handled in such a personal manner as Seth describes here. When is the last time one of your executes signed a personal apology letter or a note thanking someone for their business...or in this example the outer case of an xBox 360? As he said in his post, "humans like humans. They hate organizations." How can you make your company more human?

First, I'd recommend you read Danny Meyer's book about his career in the New York restaurant business called "Setting the Table" and think about how hospitality might apply to your business. My book is heavily dog-eared (a sign of a winner) and he writes a lot about the human dialogue and its impact on business success.

According to Danny, hospitality is at the foundation of his business philosophy. "Virtually nothing else is as importan as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on eyour side. The converse is just as true. Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simiple propositions - for and to - express it all."

And that is just on page 12. Trust me. You'll love this book and will hear me mention it again as it has influenced my thinking on many things about customer service, product development, and strategy execution.
Jennifer B. Davis
A former colleague of mine and I were chatting today and I was prompted to pen these two laws that in our mutual experience apply to businesses or projects of any size or scope.

  • The Law of Customer Service: Friendliness and customer empathy play crucial roles, but in the end it is all about setting expectations. Making and keeping promises, is the key.

  • The Law of Analysis: Anyone can make an Excel forecast look good. In the end, it is all about the accuracy of your assumptions. There must be robust and defensible reasons to believe.
I'd be interested in your experience with these laws (or related concepts). In my experience, there is no use fighting these laws...the laws will win.

This might be the first of a whole constitution of laws that I might compile. I would love your contributions.
Jennifer B. Davis
Right mix of defeatest attitude, friendly familiarity, and, best of all, he or she never commits to getting back with you. This was taken from a blog post by Michael Arrington and he removed all the personally-identifiable information (to protect the guilty/innocent).

You may find this example inspiring as you draft your "I am in the office, but can't be bothered with your email which is why my 'Out-of-Office' is perpetually set" message (aka, 4 Hour Workweek fame).


Thank you for your message. I apologize in advance if I do not reply.

I admit it. My email response rates are lame. I have tried many different approaches and techniques, yet I fail. I read everything that comes in, and I swear I have the most sincere intentions of replying to all of you. But, alas, I suck.

I am spending more time than ever on the road these days. Working on private equity stuff, coaching startups, giving speeches, training for an Ironman this summer, and luckily, taking some vacation. The result has me logging in to Gmail much less frequently, which may, in fact, be a healthy development.

Thankfully, what used to be well over a thousand inbound messages a day is slowing now that I am an increasingly irrelevant unemployed vagabond and no longer holding any [XXXXXX] pursestrings. Hopefully, these trends will continue until my mom and dad are the only folks left sending me notes, and even then mostly to give me updates on the weather back in [XXXXXX].

If you are curious about what I am up to, or looking for clues as to where you can physically stalk me, try my Twitter stream[XXXXXX]. If we are actually buddies, friend me on Facebook. Though, be warned I log in over there even less frequently than here. If you are just looking for some cheap laughs, check out my brother [XXXXXX] ’s YouTube videos:[XXXXXX].

In any event, I do look forward to being in touch with all of you. For now, thanks for your patience.
Jennifer B. Davis
I live with a preschooler and a toddler, so needless to say I am always scrambling to remember (and write down) the funny things they say and do. Even at work, I am amazed by the funny things that people say. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

  • "We must get more aggressive about being conservative."

  • "I don't like winging things. I don't want them to feel wung."
    (not sure if wung is a word or what exactly is the past tense of the word "winging")

  • "It doesn't build character. It shows it."

Here is a fun little book that you can create to allow you to capture those quotable quotes as they occur. The downloadable PDF is here. Either that or you could carry a steno pad, start a Twitter account, or use Jott to document those things before they slip your mind.

Trust me, you may find a use of them in the future. Perhaps you will have a line of t-shirts.

Jennifer B. Davis
I am a list maker and an organizer type. You know...the kind you ask to plan things and handle things because I can keep my wits about me and manage tons of details. However, I have learned that there is a barrier to organization that many can never overcome...the front-end work and clarvoyance required. Before you know all the stuff that needs to be done, you must start a list. You must organize your day without knowing what emergency may arise. You must create a filing system before you know all the things that you may want to file. And, before you have anything to file, you must create your plan.

Now, you can see why I love and fear for the success of a new product from BlueLounge called the Space Station. It is a sleek desk organizer with "internal coiling pins" to maintain the sprawl of wires that exist on most desks. The design has a "why didn't I think of it" simplicity and I am thinking variations of this could be made out of a wood for a more furniture feel (which is what I would want for my home office).

Still, we'd all have to designate these USB ports, decide what equipment would need to be accessed frequently enough to get a cord wrap, go out and buy duplicate connections for when you traveled (assuming this puppy doesn't fold in the middle to fit in a carry-on bag), and the other things that kept people's desk messy in the first place. I wish them luck!
Jennifer B. Davis
Usually I am a positive person, but sometimes it is fun to get a bad attitude. And when you do, why not wear it on your shirt?

If you are an entrepreneur or in venture capital you might appreciate (or resemble) some of the sentiments from VCWear.
If you are in a larger corporation, then I know you will find many of these DespairWear demotivators hit a little close to home. I personally like some of the kid products, which are cute and not so depressing.
Jennifer B. Davis
The lengths that people will go for self-expression (and to brag about their accomplishments) is extreme, for sure. So, it should be no surprise that people are using the Internet to share their fashion sense or their home decorating. Beyond self-expression, this might be a great way for designers to keep their finger of the pulse of emerging trends and for the rest of us to get bite-sized inspiration from normal people around the world.

For some examples, check out Normal Room to see self-published pictures of home decor. See a group photo pool on Flickr called Wardrobe Remix.
Jennifer B. Davis
"The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky." - Solomon Short.

At Intel and other large companies a lot of effort is spent on creating and fostering the right ecosystem of "fellow travelers" who have complementary technology offerings that together create markets, foster solutions, and refer each other to their customer bases. This is the network effect in application, but is also a lesson for each of us about the power of network effects, tangential legacies, and unintended consequences.

There is a group of companies and ideas that get pulled along in the wake of a business success. How many companies today make their living from selling iPod accessories? Case in point. Some are more obvious than others, but if there is a business success, you can point to dozens of related industries or companies that benefited. The invention of the car lead to fundamental changes in our national character, but also created huge fuel distribution networks, after market services and products, and a whole set of media outlets dedicated to the product category. Even something a simple as the invention of wall-to-wall carpet, meant the creation of carpet laying jobs, carpet cleaning services, and a host of home applicance innovations. No one would buy a Roomba today if there wasn't modern floor covering options. It is always a wise business strategy planning tool to think about who else would succeed if your business succeeded, and look for active ways to partner.

As the quote I started with illustrates there are even connections made to unsuccessful intiatives. No one remembers who battled in the War of 1812 (the US and the UK), but there isn't a Fourth of July celebration that doesn't include the playing of the epic anthem. This is an important lesson when facing disappointing results or an outright "train wreck" of failure. Who would benefit from this failure? Who would be best served by the education gained by this experience (however painful)? In the case of the composer, the war itself was an asset. Your failure can be your greatest asset as well, depending on your ability to learn from it.
Jennifer B. Davis
I have often marvelled at how much good Jimmy Carter did after he left the office of the Presidency. Despite being what most consider a lack luster president, he went on to become a respected diplomat and philanthropist. His contributions to causes like Habitat for Humanity and others is significant.

Kaira from RealYouIncorporated wrote recently about Eleanor Roosevelt and made the same observation. It was after she left the White House as First Lady and after her husband's death, that she became a delegate to the UN and championed the causes of human rights. "When all is said and done, she received 35 honorary degrees in her lifetime, compared to 31 for her husband."

And even in popular culture, the celebrity around Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's "do gooding" on an international scale makes as many headlines as their expanding family.

So, in this might be two lessons. One is that you don't have to have a current "position" to make an impact in profound ways. So, what are you waiting for?
The second is that you can strive to achieve something in your career and life, only to find that the largest impact was after your goal was achieved. Once you get on the map, you can decide where your journey takes you from there!

P.S. This is true of individuals and corporations. How many meaningful foundations are created by successful companies? Why didn't they start with the foundation first? See an example of purposeful "giving back" at Creative Outlet Labs.
Jennifer B. Davis
"Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics."
- Fletcher Knebel