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Brand Crush: 5 Things You Can Learn From Canva

Plus: 4 Day Workweeks—Are We Ready?, How Van Leeuwen Does Marketing Without Advertising, and The Perfect Ad

Welcome back. It’s September, and, I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it feel like the year is flying by? The beat goes on.

In today’s issue, I’ll cover:

  • Editorial: There’s something different about ChatGPT

  • The Latest: Job Market back to normal, 4-day work week bill reintroduced

  • BX: Brand Crush: 5 things you can learn from Canva

  • MX: How Van Leeuwan does marketing without advertising

  • UX: Find the future of your product

  • CX: You think your brand is customer obsessed—but do your customers agree?

  • EX: To increase the value of your work, contextualize it

  • DX: Why a great customer experience starts with data management

Let’s go.

There’s something different about ChatGPT

A couple of times a week, I ask ChatGPT to go on wild brainstorms with me. Sometimes I miss a week—like last week—but this week, I started a new conversation and noticed something different.

I think it’s because I decided to use the new Custom Instructions feature. If you don’t know what that is, basically ChatGPT allows you to enter a universal prompt, so the AI “remembers” what’s important to you when it interacts with you—and you don’t have to use the same prompt, over and over again.

I love “Illustration by Ruby Chen”

For example, my prompt was mostly about work, what I believe, and what my expectations are of the AI. That’s it.

But the responses have been quite amazing. Clever. Witty. Reasonable. Creative. And not just that. Now most responses from the AI end with a question—right? Maybe the devs learned from Inflection AI, but it’s a nice touch.

Anyway, that got me thinking about AI in general. Are we closer to “general intelligence” than we think?

Then I saw this tweet:

Are you prepared for such a thing? Will AI be able to simulate consciousness, sooner than later? I think we’re closer than people realize.

A “conscious” AI. It’s something that I’m watching closely. Not because I’m afraid (maybe slightly), but I’m curious as to how AI:

  • Could really disrupt work

  • Could think for itself, and the ramifications of that in society

  • Will alter human-to-human relationships

  • Could improve, or negatively impact societal structures

How do you feel about all this—knowing that humans are biased to a particular point of view—and datasets that train AI also carry that bias?

But could AI “see” its own biases? Will it learn when it’s left to its own devices and start picking its own dataset to learn from?

The Latest

The Job Market Returned To Normal Levels Since The Pandemic

"This is a month where we saw the hiring that has defined the post-pandemic recovery go from exceptional to sustainable," ADP chief economist Nela Richardson said on a call Wednesday with reporters.

The data "really does represent a pivot back to normal — normally strong instead of abnormally strong," Richardson added.

4-Day Workweek Bill Reintroduced

From the article:

Democratic Congressman Mark Takano of California has reintroduced the 32-Hour Workweek Act.

The legislation aims to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and reduce the standard workweek from five days to four days, with no change to employee pay.

Rep. Takano says it's a necessary culture shift that would give American workers more time for family, leisure and education.

4-day workweeks are not a new idea. Companies are already using the model, including Kickstarter. Here’s Jon Leland, Kickstarter’s Chief Strategy Officer:

"We did a six-month trial of a four-day workweek last year. We found that employee engagement was higher than it's ever been. Employee retention was higher than it's ever been. And, we were better able to hit our goals each half working on just a Monday-to-Thursday, 32-hour workweek."

Jon Leland, Chief Strategy Officer Kickstarter

So the state of Maryland is also proposing a 4-day workweek bill. If it passes, they will become the first state to pass such a bill. In the past, California tried and failed to pass a bill several times, but that’s not stopping them from doing it again.

I think these bills can really help employers take the leap. It gives them more motivation and justification to their stakeholders, their boards, their investors to pilot something like this.

Jon Leland

ILO Finds That Generative AI Will Augment Jobs, Not Destroy Them

The study, Generative AI and Jobs: A global analysis of potential effects on job quantity and quality, suggests that most jobs and industries are only partly exposed to automation and are more likely to be complemented rather than substituted by the latest wave of Generative AI, such as chatGPT.

Therefore, the greatest impact of this technology is likely to not be job destruction but rather the potential changes to the quality of jobs, notably work intensity and autonomy.

Walmart’s new GenAI tool: My Assistant

Walmart has also entered the fray with their own AI assistant, unoriginally called “My Assistant”. Here’s Donna Morris, Walmart’s Chief People Officer:

We’ve launched a GenAI-powered feature called My Assistant to all campus associates in the U.S., in an easy-to-use desktop and mobile app experience. From speeding up the drafting process, to serving as a creative partner, to summarizing large documents, My Assistant has the potential to change how our associates work and solve problems.

You can read more here.

Brand Experience

Brand Crush: 5 Things You Can Learn From Canva

Column Five Media interviewed Zach Kitschke, CMO of Canva, for their Best Story Wins podcast.

This article is a good summary of that interview on why brand is still—and always will be—an inside job. You know, kinda like humans. If the inside is “right” then the outside will reflect that.

When it comes to branding, we see that many brands only think about adding personality to the big stuff, but Canva looks for every opportunity to show you who they are.

For example, one benefit they provide is a special well-being allowance that team members can spend however they choose. Instead of calling this a “Wellness Credit” or “Employee Satisfaction Fund,” they call it their “Vibe and Thrive” benefit. That creative name instantly tells you who they are and what they value.

The Absence of Proof

Belief makes us human. Belief is our tool to dance with a possible future, confront our fears, and build community. Our personal taste and our preferences belong to us as well, helping us believe in ourselves.

Seth Godin

Marketing Experience

The Art of NOT Advertising with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream was a hit from day one. Though it launched in 2008 out of an ice cream truck, they eventually found their sweet spot, so to speak, in “scoop shops”. In 2010, they pulled in over $1 million in revenue from a $60,000 investment.

Their CEO, Ben Van Leeuwen:

The marketing for the first 10 years was simply serving our product and hoping that word of mouth would build brand awareness.

Ben Van Leeuwen

I suppose with a product like ice cream, it shouldn’t be a hard sell, right? But to snatch market share from the Baskin Robbins and Cold Stones of the world, and not to mention all the brands stocked on store shelves, Van Leeuwen has done quite well.

From their distinct packaging to wild brand collabs with Kraft Mac & Cheese (yes, they made that into a flavor) and Hidden Valley Ranch (gross), they definitely got people’s attention.

More from Ben:

From a more tactical, marketing approach, they allow us to very efficiently build brand awareness,” Ben says. “And we hope that not only will they enjoy those really crazy flavors, but they’ll try the vanilla, they’ll try the honeycomb, they’ll try the Earl Gray tea next.

Ben Van Leeuwen

Yes, Van Leeuwen’s is still marketing. They’re just not advertising.

Here’s another perspective [paywall] on Van Leeuwen’s, and how they built a strong word-of-mouth brand.

User Experience

From User Needs to User Dreams: Finding The Future of Your Product

It’s one thing to listen to product feedback and respond to it, fix the things that people want fixing. It’s quite another to build the product that nobody can see yet, but will desperately want it once its launched.

From Steve Jobs:

Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Steve Jobs

Are we suffering from too much short-termism? So focused on what’s in front of us that we miss out on what’s next?

I suppose it’s generally true that the more established companies get, the more prone they are to disruption, simply because they’re charged with keeping growth stabilized.

Put another way, the longer you’re in the game, the more conservative you get. Upstarts become disruptors, only to take the lead—and squander it—because they’re trying not to lose the lead.

Here’s a good article on Finding The Future of Your Product. Whether you make t-shirts or beauty products, there’s always another future for every industry’s products. Will you create it?

Gibson Biddle, former VP of Product at Netflix, also has great frameworks for establishing your product strategy and vision.

Customer Experience

You think your brand is customer obsessed—but do your customers agree?

Probably not. Well, the data says they don’t.

91% of companies say that they always or often personalize engagements with consumers.

While just 56% of consumers report that their interactions with brands are personalized.

With the GenAI tools of today, that chasm is easier to cross.

From Joyce Kim, Twilio’s Chief Marketing Officer:

A good article on why personalized experiences at scale is now available for every business.

Employee Experience

To Increase The Value Of Your Work, Contextualize It Purposefully

Sometimes it’s hard for people to “promote” their work, but it’s still necessary. Whether you’re looking for that next gig, or you’re trying to sell your CEO on an idea, you have to explain your idea.

As Herbert Lui, author of Creative Doing, suggests, to get people to appreciate your work, it’s necessary to contextualize it.

In the end, stories sell. Giving your work “context” is feeding the brain what it craves—a good story.

Data Experience

Why a great customer experience starts with data management

From the article:

Great customer experiences are only as powerful as the data they’re powered by. The more predictably organized your data is, the more you can drive personalized, automated experiences, so your data needs to be structured, visible, and actionable.

The richest billionaires in every state

Aren’t you just a bit curious?

Final thoughts

The Perfect Ad

Well, I don’t know about “perfect” but it’s pretty damn good.

Here’s the Guardian’s "Three Little Pigs” ad that garnered a Cannes Lion Award—enjoy:

Until next time…


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