Commentary

The Supermodel With A Giant, Oozing Zit

I recently had breakfast with a wise friend who's the head of digital marketing at a large computer and electronics manufacturer. He left me with a zinger quote that stuck to my brain like Super Glue. To paraphrase my friend and protect the guilty:

"Details and presentation matter. I just sat through a crowded public presentation from a senior brand manager at XYZ company. But you know, for all the glory and savvy of XYZ company, one of the world's largest data-driven marketers, the glaring typo on one of his slides made him look sloppy -- like a supermodel with a giant, oozing zit."

Ouch! You can do your best to be tight with your presentation at every customer touch point. But as this example shows, just the smallest oversight, the smallest imperfection, can be significant. This is especially true within experiences that are otherwise stellar, or ones that have high expectations. You can be perfect 99% of the time, but the 1% you're not can have a hugely disproportionate impact. So be careful of that 1%.

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Sure, high presentation and experience standards are critical -- they will make or break you. But the real lesson here is about intentions and expectations management. First, it's only acceptable to have good intentions, 100%  of the time. However, it's equally important to acknowledge that you're not perfect 100% of the time. Good intentions and humility win forgiveness, respect and trust --  from your colleagues, investors, customers, partners and other stakeholders. Good intentions coupled with humility breed culture and karma that manifest in experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Importantly, good intentions and humility prevent you from becoming that supermodel with the giant, oozing zit

At our startup, we call this the 7:1 rule. That means we expect one another to do extraordinarily more good than bad. However, there are times when we're not perfect, and it's OK -- because we acknowledge it, fix the shortcoming, learn from it, and quickly move on to achieving our larger goal. This balance of intention and humility is an incredible competitive advantage.

13 comments about "The Supermodel With A Giant, Oozing Zit ".
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  1. Lisbeth Kramer from Identities, June 19, 2009 at 10:22 a.m.

    "Advantage," Clickable....LOVE your 7:1 rule...and your last line here, BRAVO!

  2. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., June 19, 2009 at 10:27 a.m.

    It's true. Reading this was a nice way to start the day. Good show.

  3. Joe Strupek from State Farm, June 19, 2009 at 11:04 a.m.

    I couldn't agree more. Misspellings in a presentation are a pet peeve of mine. Almost as much as wordy Powerpoints. However - despite one's best intentions and an intensive editing process - mistakes will happen. When that 1% occurs, how you are viewed will also depend on what impression you've made outside of that presentation. The real problem occurs if that presentation was your first and only shot at the group. Just another reason why we should ban Powerpoint.

  4. Max Kalehoff from MAK, June 19, 2009 at 11:10 a.m.

    @Joe Strupek: I (really) like your reasoning: if you ban powerpoint, you'll remove the potential of stupid spelling mistakes. You'll also remove an evil presentation tool that actually sucks life out of the presenter.

  5. Michael Kremin from NeoGen Digital, June 19, 2009 at 11:16 a.m.

    The impact of typos, particularly in a presentation are often underrated. As media and communications professionals, we should always strive for perfection in the written word and its presentation.

    Years ago, one online service would have humans read backwards every character from a text database that was being keyboarded by an off-shore data entry service. The database was targeted to educational professionals, so the extra effort was considered very important from a credibility view point.

    Now I will have to re-read and proof this comment several times...

  6. Elaine Sloan, June 19, 2009 at 12:37 p.m.

    I agree with your 7:1 rule. If the objective is to do more good than bad, it sets the tone for viewing problems as challenges. The mindset for facing a challenge is much more positive than the mindset for facing a problem. When I see an error in a presentation, I usually let the person know by prefacing the comment with, "if it were my work, I would appreciate someone letting me know; please do me the same favor sometime."

  7. Jonathan Hall from American Pop, June 19, 2009 at 1:17 p.m.

    Grate artical. Reminds me of the Tide to Go - Talking Stain commercial. Keep up the good werk.

  8. Gian Fulgoni from 4490 Ventures, June 19, 2009 at 1:21 p.m.

    Good post, Max. I'm a stickler for correct spelling. It's a sign of accuracy and attention to detail. Love the quote and would love to know who said it. Company name would suffice :)

  9. Max Kalehoff from MAK, June 19, 2009 at 1:49 p.m.

    @Gian: since publishing this, the person behind the quote suggested I out him. So here it goes: it was David Churbuck.

  10. Deborah Rodney from The Next Level Marketing & Creative, June 19, 2009 at 1:58 p.m.

    I agree about typos and misspellings: they even cause me to wince when I see them in emails, although maybe I should loosen up there as that has become a more informal means of communication.

  11. Tim Mccormick from McCormick Fields, June 19, 2009 at 8:08 p.m.

    Being artfully flawed myself.
    When people point out mistakes to me I have a standby quote that the supermodel might borrow.
    "Like a diamond, the closer you get to perfection the more the flaws show."
    If not a humble reply, I rarely hear a rebuttal.
    But this 7:1 rule and the "oozing zit on a supermodel",
    those should be classics.
    Maybe intention is the art of humility or is humility the art
    of intention?

  12. Rosanne Gain from Gain - Stovall, Inc., June 19, 2009 at 8:14 p.m.

    Your headline definitely was an attention grabber, just like a glaring typo. Spelling is so important, which is why we all need proof readers. Of course we all make mistakes, but let's strive to make it the exception, not the rule and, as you so eloquently put it, However, there are times when we're not perfect, and it's OK -- because we acknowledge it, fix the shortcoming, learn from it, and quickly move on to achieving our larger goal. This balance of intention and humility is an incredible competitive advantage. Thanks.

  13. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, June 19, 2009 at 10:33 p.m.

    Great article, making an important point...to some. I'm on your side; I judge a presentation on the care, or lack of care, that shows up in all the elements, both large and small. Unfortunately, our camp seems to be shrinking.

    A few years ago I was involved in a mayoral campaign in a large metropolitan city. The political consultant who was running the show was well-paid, well-known, but a bit on the sloppy side. During the final days of the campaign, one of the other candidates issued a slam piece/door-hanger that needed to be answered, quickly. We worked non-stop over the weekend to get it out by Monday morning.

    When we received the final approval copy from the printer, it was full of typos...over a dozen in a two-sided door-hanger. Though we had time to correct them, the consultant decided to go with what we had, to save time, saying; " no one really cares about typos these days".

    We lost, and the local newspaper even mentioned the sloppy door-hanger in their election day edition, so it definitely cost us votes, and possibly the chance at being close enough for a run-off. I was literally sick to my stomach over that one, probably due to my Catholic grammar school education, where even the slightest typo earned a knuckle-slamming. After all these years, I have to admit the Nuns were right. Too bad more knuckles weren't slammed. Death to typos!

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