Jane Gobbles up Milk's Favorite Cookie
Jane Returns to the World of Blogging

Smart Man Online: Peter Davidson

Dear readers, we have such a treat for you today! Jane has snagged an interview with a Smart Man Online who is thoughtful, inspiring, and not afraid to speak his mind. Peter Davidson kindly agreed to be interviewed and has provided us with much ado about everything. We are proud to have him join us today to discuss marketing, sales, blogging, and shopping...

Lip-sticking: You're a very eclectic kind of guy, Peter. We think we should start off this interview with a short explanation of what your blog, Thinking is all about. An impossible task, we know, but you're a mission impossible kinda guy, so, do tell, in your own words what you're all about. By the way, does your robot have a name?

Peter: Hidden secret messages aside. The standard answer: Ideas and Commentary on Advertising, Branding, Marketing, Technology and Culture captures the big picture.

I use the blog to capture ideas and thinking about a wide variety of stuff that interests me. Some blogs are laser focused on one small topic and others are much more eclectic. My interests are more on the eclectic side so you will read a wide range of ideas on my blog. A lot of people seek to narrow the focus of their blog so tightly that it captures only a small audience. The ideas and content may be excellent but the blog doesn't receive the attention the author wishes. Others are so broad that no definitive personality or viewpoint emerges to engage an audience. I try to balance that and provide a broad range of content upon which I have a definite point of view.

It's a concept I describe as "Come for the toilet brush stay for the innovative marketing ideas." A lot of my traffic comes from search engines. I blog about a range of new products, companies and people. Readers arrive to my blog searching for one subject and they discover other ideas and subjects worth thinking about. This does good things for me in terms of SEO. I can observe the pattern happening in my referrer logs. I am doing some work involving blogs and SEO we're seeing some interesting practical things. As for the robot he also has a secret identity and I could tell you but then it would get messy...

Lip-sticking: We especially like your writing style-clear and to the point. And never afraid to speak your mind. Is that what blogging is all about? Or, is blogging more about giving a voice to the people, no matter what that voice is-good or bad, silly or sad, idiotic or full of wisdom? We ask this because in recent weeks we've read many an article on the unreliability of bloggers. What can you contribute to that thought?

Peter: I am a strong believer in point of view. As the number of blogs continues to grow, those that have a personality and a point of view are winning. If you can choose between a dry boring blog, a basic informative blog or an entertaining opinionated blog with a clear perspective, which would you choose? Readers do have a choice now, don't they?

If you don't read many blogs, think about it in terms of talk radio hosts. Opinions and point of view win the day. This of course leads to the tools by which people can find blogs they might be interested in. That's another discussion.

Lip-sticking: A recent blog post you wrote regarding video games, intrigued us with this statement: "Time to get the shocks checked on the band wagon. Universities everywhere smell tuition money flowing from the joystick set. Teenagers are waking up to reality-crushed dreams of NBA stardom in time to dream of majoring in "shoot 'em up" as their fall back."

Are you saying technology is a better bet than sports? Are you saying geeks rule? Or, will rule?

Peter: That one was a quick hit to get people thinking. It was based on a couple of news items from last week. Microsoft had just done $125 million in sales of their latest video game and then came the announcement that the University of Louisiana would start offering courses in video game design. I have several hooks in there. For profit education companies have noticed that the gamer generation is interested in preparing for a career in the video game industry. They are ahead in offering training. Now, universities are taking notice.

The reference to "smelling tuition money" refers to the controversial customer centric approach many universities are taking in the design and marketing of their offerings to appeal to the wants of their student customers. Teenagers "waking up" refers to the stereotypical dreams of teenagers. Their role is to discover their own future. It seems that teens are realizing that their chances for success in professional sports are tiny.

Are we going to see a new stereotypical dream of becoming a top video game designer? Again the chances are very tiny. Yes it's mastery of technological skill but it's also a mastery of storytelling and cultural anthropology. Will the top games come from Computer Science majors or Liberal Arts majors? Posts like that just stir the pot and get people thinking.

Lip-sticking: We were surprised to find so little on your "about " page that we just sat and stared at it for several moments. We thought you might have a hidden message in there, something subliminal, but nothing came through. Are you shy? We know you're not boring. We know you're highly intelligent. We know you're a scintillating read and worth following in bloglines, but we want to know who you are! Illuminate us, please!

Peter: One can only go on so many of those "international man of mystery" job interviews before the tux wears out and they all begin to blur together. Truth is I've been in and out of jail more times than my mother appreciates. It's not a fun place to be. I've been to court 55 times in New York City. I've "worked" with the police in many places. Life in the criminal justice system is harsh. [Jane's jaw is hitting the floor!!!!!]

I know because I worked for many years as a consultant architect designing criminal justice projects all over the country. [Ah, now we see.] Yes, I've measured 55 courtrooms in NYC. Yes, I've been to jail a lot of times. Just visiting, though. Mom didn't even like that. I worked on lots of county jails, courthouses and police facilities. I learned a lot about technology and information design.

At the end of the 90s I gave up designing boxes to lock people away to join a world where people are set free. I joined the staff of my very large church and worked with visual artists, writers and poets to help them discover and better understand who it was that they were created to be. I switched between my long held passions from the world of architecture and design to what is essentially sales and marketing. The way for artists, writers and poets to discover who they are meant to be is to participate in the artistic programs and creative communities of the church. Convincing them of this is essentially a marketing and sales exercise.

With a growing congregation of 20,000+ and a list of artists, writers, and poets, some 250 and growing, the work taught me a lot about communication tools and techniques. It's where I had my first opportunities to use permission based email lists to build and communicate with a target audience. Economic realities of September 11th affected church work as well. After a layoff I decided to take some time off to consider my next adventure. During that time I began blogging. These days I am ready to bring the relationship building, communication, marketing and sales lessons that I have learned back to the architecture world where I hope to find a gig helping architects market themselves more effectively.

Lip-sticking: The dreaded shopping question-at least, Jane thinks of it that way.
According to Bizreport.com , online shopping is expected to increase this holiday season by 23-26% from last year. Do YOU shop online? How do you feel about shopping online?

Peter: Ya, you betcha. I love to shop online. I've done almost all of my holiday shopping online for three years now. It's especially good when you have friends and family all over the country. Shipping and gift-wrapping options are great. [We agree!]

I don't have to tell you, Jane, that men and women are different and shop differently. I am told that I am a good shopper. I am mostly struck by the difference between a man's instincts to hunt down and kill the first solution to what he wants and the woman's desire to examine all of the available options and solutions to a given problem. Responding to that difference is, I think, the main challenge for the future of online shopping experience.

It seems that we are still in the "gee whiz" phase where e-commerce is concerned. Everyone is still standing around staring in wonderment over the power of database software. To my knowledge there isn't a lot being done on real systems in response to customer gender in online shopping. If I'm wrong please enlighten me. [we direct you to SpunLogic, where they are deep into experiential marketing based on gender studies.]

Readers of my blog know that I have done a lot of thinking about the retail experience. I agree with Marshall Brain [Jane LOVES Marshall Brain…he explains things so nicely!] the guy who started HowStuffWorks who believes that robotics will fundamentally change the way retail stores work.

  • Are the rise of self checkout robots an indicator of things to come?
  • Will offline shopping become more like online shopping just with instant gratification?
  • Will good customer service and personal relationship building switch from offline retailers to online retailers?
  • Why does Barnes & Noble pay a cashier $6 an hour to ring up my sale when Amazon taught me to feel good about buying books from a machine/computer? [because people still like the smell of a bookstore, the ambience, and the touchy feely way they can paw at all the books-- so people tell Jane]
  • Will the next retail superstore (Wal-Mart killer) be an online retailer? It's gonna be a great future for shopping.

Lip-sticking: If you click through to the link above, the last line in the article says, "small changes can add up to major trends." We feel that sums up blogging pretty well. Would you agree? Is blogging going to change sales and marketing online-and offline-dramatically, or is it just a blip on an invisible radar screen?

Peter: When blogging tips and the tools mature, the truth of "markets as conversations" will come to fruition. It comes back to the toilet brush. I bought one of the new and improved designs that have come out recently and blogged about it.

The search engines found it and so did people who were considering the same purchase. As an early adopter I find myself Googling many of the new products I am considering. Who shops at Amazon without reading the customer reviews? I -- like many people -- am suspicious of the positive glowing reviews- too many shills for the publishers and authors.

Blogs are different because you can read deeper and get to know someone and their opinions/point of view. Blogs that are thinly disguised PR vehicles for books or products are quickly outed as such. That's the consumer side where people can and will use blogs for product reviews. The producer/marketer side of the equation is also developing. Mostly we are seeing examples of companies missing the opportunity to shape the public conversation about their products or offerings.

One blogger used the term "pull a kryptonite" in response to something I blogged about referring to the recent PR scuffle about ballpoint pens opening high security bike locks. If the company had their ear to the blogosphere they might have been able to head off the controversy before it jumped to the mainstream media. Bottom line, blogs are definitely ONE of the tools/forces changing the shape of sales and marketing. I have wondered recently why we aren't seeing more really good product blogs. It seems so obvious.

Lip-sticking: Because you're so mysterious, we're adding an extra question. It concerns books. You have a decent reading list on your blog, albeit a small one. All of the books, of course, are business books. So, our question is: what's your favorite fiction book and why?Peter_davidson2

Peter: Jane, you want me to dump all my secrets out on the table! [of course, we do!] Favorite is a moving target. Of the 7 or 8 books I am currently reading none are fiction. All I can share is the last fiction book I read that I liked. It's Tristan Betrayal, The">The Tristan Betrayal by Robert Ludlum. Ludlum has, of course, passed but his publisher is still polishing his leftover stories. This one flashes back from Moscow in the early 1990s to WWII era Europe to follow some of his signature espionage maneuverings. I like Ludlum's books because they are human stories of wits and intrigue and not stuffed with computers and technology.

Thanks, Jane, this was a lot of fun.


The fun, of course, was all ours! There is a wealth of valuable insight in Peter's comments. We hope all readers will visit his blog, click into the links here, and get to know how Peter Davidson's mind works...to the extent that he will share it with us. Much thanks, Peter. We'll be reading as long as you keep writing.

What's not to like about that?


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Great interview, Jane...as usual!

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