My Fake Teeth

24 09 2009

When I was in 3rd grade, around the time the other kids were sporting jack-o-lantern smiles, I was informed that I did not have all of my adult teeth. In fact, I was missing four. This was really no big deal at the time, because everyone my age was missing one here or there. I also proudly repped a lovely gap between my two front teeth, which I could shove a straw in – which was cool.

The dentist told me that he had to pull those baby teeth – the incisors  –  so that he could straighten my smile and put me in braces for 8 years. I vaguely remember this. More than anything I remember these bright neon  t-shirts that had a dinosaur with braces on them. All the patients got one, and so my sister, who was enjoying her full-braced, frizzy hair 80’s adolescence at the time, and I wore them, of course on different days. When I received my full mouth of braces, I changed the colors seasonally and got these cute little fake teeth put in the place of the holes that would never come in. They just kind of  hung on those braces, like a bite from an apple. Since I was lucky enough to wear braces from 3rd grade to 10th grade, I didn’t even notice. But of course, all good things must come to an end, and the day I got those bad boys off I understood that I truly did have two holes in my smile. I cried when I got my braces off. At this point, it was no longer acceptable to be missing teeth – I was in high school for gods sake. The orthodontist tried to ease my sadness with a retainer that I could flip out of my mouth, holding on to two little kernels of corn.

That’s when Dr. Hoedt came along. A basketball friend’s dentist dad somehow got wind of my situation and offered to make me temporary bridges – something a little more permanent than a flipper retainer and would fill the gaps until I could get adult implants. Thus he installed the bridges prefacing it by saying that they were only meant to last a year or two. They were attached to each neighboring tooth and looked relatively real, (at least that’s what all you nice folks said). Eight years later, they finally started to fall apart, as if telling me it was time to get serious and grow up.

They call my condition ‘congenitally missing teeth’ (CMT) aka I got the short end of the oral gene stick in my family. But now, as an adult, I’ve come to have an affinity for my congenitally missing teeth. They are my quirk; my weird thing that you would never know about me unless you too had congenitally missing teeth, in which case you would know what to look for in others’ dental composition.

Monday, I finally had my temporary/permanent bridges removed and Tuesday, I had my dental implants installed. It’s not a very short description when trying to explain A. why I look like a chipmunk, B. why I retainernow have an Invisalign retainer with two pieces of wax posing as teeth for the next six months while the implants heal (ahh how technology has evolved) and C. that no, my implants are in my mouth.

History of Dental Implants: I’m pretty sure the guy on the Clear Choice billboard that hovers over Broadway and 5th (Denver) sums it up:

This is seriously on a billboard on 5th and Broadway.

This is seriously on a billboard for ClearChoice.

It’s also become a running joke in the office, too. I had this put on my desk the other day.

Thanks Tasha!

Thanks Tasha!

This sign was hanging out in the warehouse were we get our signage done – my friend took a pic and printed it for me. Always on my mind, she says.

It’s also been referenced in meetings – I was comparing a short term, piecemeal solution to a long term, off-the-shelf, ever customizable solution for e-marketing. I said, it’s like bridges are to implants. Bridges may be quick to get and look great for 15-20 years, but your definitely going to have to get them redone, where implants last forever – in fact, they’ll out last me.

Bridges are to Implants, as Exact Target is to Eloqua:
As I’ve been working on my business, trying to define what Claire Blue Ideas is and what it’s all about, I keep hitting the same wall. By trying to brand my sole proprietorship, I am essentially trying to brand myself. Am I a digital marketer or a writer? What do I want potential clients to know about me and my capabilities? Do I market my personality or my portfolio? Can I do both separately or together? What about my interest in writing outdoor adventure editorials? How does that fit into the mix. And this blog, The Weekend Warrior – well, originally it was just supposed to be about adventure sports. But my job as a marketing consultant is such a big part of my everyday life, how could I possibly exclude it from my blog?  So then, should I have three separate blogs? One on adventure sports, one portfolio and one about digital marketing? Finally, how do you define the umbrella in which Claire fits under?

Going through a branding exercise for me and my business has been bogging me down, and even depressing me a bit. I am like a disjointedness pie chart – there are too many pieces and I don’t know which is my X or Y axis. And to be perfectly honest, my audience is really just the people that know me. My loyal readers. You guys. And you guys read my blog for probably no other reason than because I pester you with Facebook updates and emails. Yet you email me, respond and comment and tell me something was funny or confusing or misspelled. And you do it almost every single time I write. And I think, wow, maybe it doesn’t matter that the name of this blog is almost completely irrelevant to its content. Maybe it should just be my name, because truly, my readers are really just my friends of past and present, co-workers and colleagues, family and the occasional Google searcher who randomly typed a keyword that I randomly matched my metadata.

So doesn’t it make sense that my brand be something that is wholly me? Something that has been with me from the beginning? The one thing that has been an ongoing source of humor, contention and wierd stories from the start? My brand is really just the foundation of who I am – a congenitally toothless girl.

The implant surgery that I had on Tuesday signifies an end of an era. My removeable teeth will soon be a thing of the past; I’ll completely forget about all of the retainers and braces and off-colored porcelain and denture picks and threaded dental floss. In six months, I’ll be able to floss straight up and down for the first time ever. But even though those implants will look and feel real and will last forever — we will all know that they are still just my fake teeth.

If Demi Moore can do it, so can I! I'll just spare you the photo!

Thanks Demi, for liberating all the CMT's out there to take out their retainers and smile!

Defining The Backend

14 09 2009

As a digital marketer, I am constantly faced with the challenge of explaining what the hell that even means. It’s like, people’s eyes get huge the moment you utter the word Digital or some three-letter acronym (TLA) associated with the trade. Sometimes, when I meet a fellow digital person, I get so excited speaking my native tongue, that I forget all about how completely ridiculous it sounds. “Well, you could build a custom CMS, but WordPress might be even better because of its high organic SEO.” Ateewhattee?

That is the inherent challenge of being anything technical. Remember the IT guy from SNL? That old solution of turn-off-your-computer doesn’t solve anything on the world of the interwebs. I have finally faced the ultimate challenge in being a digital. Explaining TLAs doesn’t even hold a candle to trying to redefine E-Marketing with a buzz-word heavy term like Lead Nurturing or User Experience. Not to mention introducing a new, fairly complex software like Eloqua.

It’s not Eloqua and what it does; lead nurturing and why it’s important; email marketing and why it’s (arguably) ineffective; or how it all ties together, that’s the challenge. It’s coming up with a high enough-level explanation of all of these in a visual way.

Last year during budgets I found myself inventing new terms to explain digital terms over and over. Not because I’m a bad communicator; I think it was because the message wasn’t memorable enough to executives all with vastly diverse backgrounds and their own set of buzz words to keep straight.
I’m a DigiBaby. My memory has always been immensely integrated with computers: instant messenger, text, Napster and Facebook (Myspace, Friendster, whatever). There’s no doubt that my brain functions at an entirely different level than the executives I work with. So naturally, when they see a line item that says “Social Media” a glazed look of WTF falls over and a continuous cycle of explaining occurs. “It’s not just Facebook, it’s a continuous conversation with your consumers online.”

So when the challenge arose to take a deeper look at how digital marketing integrates and affects every aspect of overall marketing, I in turn, felt that sense of WTF.

That’s when the white papers began, (they have pretty graphs). I worked with Effective UI (new website!) at the beginning of this gradual slope, who I regard as having the toughest job of any of us in the digital marketing space. They have to explain what UI is after someone sees it in their name. What a challenge to overcome! And then you get down to the core of their mission, the User Experience — which isn’t even abbreviated as such — so have fun with that one. BTW, I’ve stopped using the acronym UX in general because of the complete disconnect I see when I say or especially write it. I think people think it’s a computer processor or something, like the way people react to letters at the end of a software version. CS4? WTF!

The sequence of planting the seed with white papers went as follows:
I. White paper from Eloqua explaining the pipeline, how it’s changed, and how Eloqua + Salesforce “close the loop”. Spent about a month using the term “close the loop” until it became an internal term. Success.
II. White paper explaining UX (User Experience). Tried to integrate this term internally, but it never stuck. It has since morphed into the Consumer Experience with Our Brand and finally into a module called the Concierge. Not bad, because the end result is the same. The hardest part is convincing that we need some research to support that experience. Overall, I’d call this a Success.
III. Strategy meeting bringing up whitepaper No. 1. It ended with, “Why can’t you do this manually?” Fail.
IV. Flow chart in Excel. Breaking out each touch point of communication in an excel document. This got the UX look.
V. Flow chart in Word. I added colors this time, so you could see how the leads (type of prospects, etc.) would go through different types of communication paths as they experience the sales cycle. Again, this didn’t resonate with the team. I think there were too many unknowns, such as the bubble that says “Dramatic Re-engagement with the Brand.” I think this also failed because there is an entire front end component to this that isn’t represented, which in turn distracted my highly visual team.
VI. White paper on a progressive form. This helped a little with saying that a form doesn’t have to be a form; it could a mechanism that extracts information on the user based off of their behavior with the online environment. We got a little closer with this concept, because at the end of the day, it sounds pretty neat.
VII. Powerpoint Presentation explaining what each type of prospect is and how we should communicate differently with them. This exercise actually might have brought us back about three steps. I think defining the different prospects may need to occur after you define the optimal end user experience.
VIII. Six months go by and the name Eloqua has been morphed into this term representing an end-all solution that will just feed personalized and relevant information to our users – automatically. I needed to change that thinking because Eloqua is ultimately just code and a fancy user interface. So I started calling it the “capture mechanism” – that magical piece of back end technology that will ensure that no lead falls through the cracks, ultimately “closing the loop”. Bam. It finally stuck, and not only did it stick it moved to the center of the bubble diagram, which held all of the other marketing objectives together. Big-time success. But still, this made it all too intangible. What does Capture really mean? It’s too spatial. And thus the ultimate digital marketing conundrum – how to you show someone a system that doesn’t tangibly exist outside of code? How do you show that there’s a digital component to even things that have zero online presence?
IX. This is how it was done. Matt Fajohn, Digital Strategist from FL-2, and I physically taped a wireframe to the conference table and walked everyone through the steps of how it would play out in the world.
To be honest, I don’t know if it achieved the ultimate goal of explaining the complexity of the integrated system; what it did do was show how something offline eventually will get put back online. My team could finally see what I’ve been talking about all this time. Success.

Digital marketing and all of its TLAs and buzzwords needs to get over itself. It is such an enormous part of all of our marketing efforts that it really needs to stop singling itself out. Digital marketing is no longer just a website; it’s not an email campaign; it’s not a database; it’s not a user interface; it’s not mobile web or an application or even software. It is ultimately the way a user interacts with a brand. Digital is supposed to make everyone’s life easier and disseminate free information for all. It’s about convenience, knowing that you can find what you want the moment you think about it. So if a brand is investing heavily in their digital presence, they better make sure that the end experience, no matter how complicated the backend is, is flawless, simple and completely integrated.