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Use gimmicks to get an NPR story, a book tour, and speaking gigs

While listening to an NPR story on a couple in New York City who had "gone green" [1] (that is, living outside our normal consumer society, at least a bit) I was struck by a thought. If you want to get famous, gimmicks can get you some serious attention. Given the dire economic times [2]and forthcoming radical changes (at least here in the U.S.), I thought some get-famous-quick ideas might come in handy if you're considering a rapid job change ;-)

Note: I mean to use the word gimmick in the positive sense, as the Wikipedia entry puts it,

However, some seemingly trivial gimmicks of the past have evolved into useful, permanent features.

So my definition is "novel, quirky, and useful."

IMPORTANT NOTE: You must be the first on the block because the novelty factor is king. First some examples of successful ones, then a few of my ideas for new ones. Have fun!

Gimmicks that rock

Clearly almost anything goes. My test of a good gimmick: One that gives you a unique helpful perspective on the world, and that keeps on giving (i.e., "has legs"). For example, anyone practicing a personal system like GTD will probably tell you they can't look at work the same way again. Or take my "life as a scientific experiment" approach - I now see courage, fear, and risk much differently.

Here are some good ones I know of, starting with the "thing." Care to share your favorites?

Gimmicks that could rock

Given these successes, what's waiting to be tapped for the Next Thing? Here are a few ideas - what are yours?

  • 2x2 Matrix: Surely you didn't think I'd let this post go without mentioning my long-standing infatuation with the lowly foursquare matrix, did you? Taking a cue from the brilliant Demetri Martin, who has a genius for hilarious business-style presentations (videos here), how about an entire lecture based on them? I've already pointed out the pricey The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix: Using 2x2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions (arriving, it turns out, as a birthday present from a reader :-) but I don't think the gimmick has been really nailed.
  • Favorite tool or web site: This idea is general, and has been done for plenty of sites, but why not turn your fanatacism for a particular tool, game, or web site into your thing? The recipe: Make yourself the world expert in this thing (undying love for it is required), then start writing about it. As you gain momentum your influence will grow, drawing in more readers, industry experts, and, soon enough, Bob's your uncle. Examples abound: Google Blogoscoped, AppleInsider, iLounge, and Twitterforum.com. Or how about a site about whether a site is working or not (Twitter Status - though granted it's an official one). Question: What to do when there's an official one, e.g., Official Gmail Blog or GTDtimes? If you're good enough and well established enough, it probably won't matter. Heck, you might even be invited to participate or work for them (How I Got to Google, for example).
  • Go without: Like the NPR story mentioned above, make a public show of going without something common and fundamental for a year. For example, go on a radical media diet (Tim Ferriss has played this a bit) or stop shopping at big box stores. There's a lot of opportunity here - got any good ones?
  • Go overboard: At the extreme other end of the spectrum is adding an excessive amount of something to your life. Super Size Me (junk food) is a terrific example - loved it! Another is Just Do It: How One Couple Turned Off the TV and Turned On Their Sex Lives for 101 Days (No Excuses!). Nice!
  • Sticky notes: While there's been a ton of books on these ubiquitous wonders - Origami and Problem Solving) I have the sense that a productivity-based shtick could work. (Related: In One Way To Enjoy The Ride - Celebrate Surprise! I mentioned Twenty-Five Years of Post-it Notes - fun read).
  • Self experimentation: Here's one I considered: Read a book a day for a year, write up what you learned, then write a book about that! Another example is go a year always saying yes to anything put at you: Danny Wallace's Yes Man (via On Saying Yes - 3 Possibilities: Always Yes, Always No, Or Only When You Really Want To).
  • Same name: Here's something has to have been done, but I can't find it: Spend a year travelling around the world meeting people with your exact same name. There are tools on the net to make this straightforward (the ones I found required registration - samename.com - or only gave a count - How Many of Me), so it's only a matter of time, determination, and money. Again, if it's not been done already. Side note: When I created my web site (matthewcornell.org) I naturally first tried matthewcornell.com, but it was taken. So I thought I'd take a little chance with an experiment: I called the guy! Turns out we had a nice conversation, so you never know!
  • One-page hot-topic sites: My final idea is a pattern that can be applied to any short-term hot topic. An obvious one would have been http://tinafeyforveep.com (I considered it!), given Tina Fey's recent spot-on imitations of Governer Palin (I mentioned Couric/Palin Open in last week's A Late Adopter's Productivity Experiment With Twitter, Plus Some 140 Word Humor). Again, key to this is being first. The ultimate classic is in politics: Bush/Zombie Reagan 2004. Don't forget to vote!

What do you think?


Reader Comments (5)

You got me thinking, as usual, Matt!

I'm working out the details for a gimmicky launch for my product that will change the way people travel with their iPods or other digital media players. It's still coming together, but the business model should empower a lot of people in a way that has never been seen before. Hmmm....... :o)

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRicky Spears

> You got me thinking, as usual, Matt!

Excellent, Ricky. It's good to know your time was well spent.

Let us know when it comes out.

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Thanks, anonymous. Is there a variation that's not been done?

October 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

Here's a good one: "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible."


November 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Braithwaite

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