Ctrl Alt Delete

"In short, when something goes wrong: reboot."

- Ctrl Alt Delete, page 234

Here’s a trend I’m seeing (and I love it).  The forward thinking minds of the marketing world are starting to write books that are exceptionally human in nature.  They’re easy to read (even if you’re not from the industry), and they’re focused as much on individual objectives as they are on business goals.

Ctrl Alt Delete, the second book from Mitch Joel (author of Six Pixels of Separation) ranks as one of the best to date.  The book is written as two interconnected halves – “Reboot: Business”, and “Reboot: You”.  So what and why are we rebooting, exactly?

As Mitch elegantly demonstrates, there’s a disconnect between our mindset as marketers and consumers.  As marketers (whether that’s selling a product, service or ourselves as individuals), we tend to assume consumers will act in a way that is actually completely different than we actually operate, as consumers.  As marketers we assume certain things that, as consumers, we know aren’t true.  More importantly, these consumer behaviors aren’t going away.  They’re not a trend.   And so, we need to shift our mindsets in some small but fundamental ways, or risk becoming irrelevant.  We need to start over.  We need to reboot.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

You're not really customer focused

"Customer-focused in 2013 means looking at things as a consumer and not as a businessperson."
- Ctrl Alt Delete, page 15

You’re not really customer focused.  If you were, you wouldn’t be trying to push the same ads on Facebook as you are on LinkedIn, as you are on Google Ads.  If you took a minute to think about it as a customer, you’d realize that you’re in a totally different headspace when you’re on these different platforms.

There’s a subtle, yet powerful shift that happened for me when I read the quote above.  How often do we think we’re being “customer-centric” when we try to design products, services or features for the customer’s best interest? Mitch’s shift in thinking on this is to actually start from the consumer’s perspective.  To be the consumer.  It’s a matter of putting yourself on the same side of the fence as the end user, rather than looking over that fence from the business side and being analytical about what you think they want (or should want).

How do you use Facebook?  What kind of ads do you like to see when you’re in a “Facebook headspace”?  How does that differ from a “Google-search headspace”?

Like I said, it’s a subtle shift, but a powerful one, and one that breeds authenticity, loyalty and excitement.  It’s also a refreshing viewpoint to take.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Be Useful

"We could very well see a day soon when utilitarianism marketing budgets overshadow those of broadcast advertising."
- Ctrl Alt Delete, page 46

In Brand New World, Max Lenderman wrote about Charmin creating an iPhone app – called “sit or squat” that helped you find the best public restrooms nearby, using your phones GPS locator. (It’s since been added to the Android platform as well.)  Sit or Squat has been a fantastically successful app since its introduction 4 years ago, and no doubt excellent exposure for the toilet paper company.

But you have to imagine what the boardroom conversation looked like when the concept of the app was first suggested:

“Where’s the ROI?” laments the CFO.

“What’s the total reach and number of impressions?” asks the CMO.

New mediums require new ways of thinking about marketing.  Utilitarianism marketing (ie. the creation of something actually useful to your client base, provided without a price tag) is a new way of thinking about brand exposure and customer relationship development.  What’s the ROI on Charmin’s Sit or Squat campaign?  It’s hard to say.  But is it any harder to identify than the ROI of a series of bus shelter ads?  More importantly, when we think about the campaign from the consumer mindset, which one is more valuable?  Which one is more memorable?  Which one strengthens the consumer’s loyalty to the brand?

It doesn’t have to be through an app, but we do need to think more holistically about the needs of our customers, and how we can provide them with value.  You’d hold the door open for a customer leaving your store, wouldn’t you?  What’s your digital equivalent?

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Less Content (Yes, Really)

"Instead of looking at your content calendar or barking at someone in your organization to tweet more frequently, take a fifteen-minute siesta and ask yourself this one question: What great stories can we tell? Stop thinking about content as the endgame and consider that the true value is the stories you tell."
- Ctrl Alt Delete, page 195

If you’re a business owner, or a marketing professional, this one is for you.  With the roar of constant noise generated by a million brands pumping a million ads into every conceivable online channel, there can be an incredible pressure to feel that we need to keep pace or risk becoming irrelevant.  Mitch disagrees.

Instead of thinking about how to put out more content, let’s take a pause and consider, instead, how to produce great content.  Content that resonates with our customers.  Content that tells a story – no, a great story – and is distributed through a channel that makes sense for that story.  As we discussed in the The Big Idea, not all channels are created equal; a story that resonates on Facebook is not the same as the one that people connect with on Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog.  The content of your great stories needs to resonate, but so does the context.  Craft great stories that will be of interest to your customers, determine the appropriate channel to share it with them, and only then click “publish”.  In a world drowning in noise, less is more.  Stand out from the crowd.


It’s always bittersweet to me when I get to the end of an Actionable Summary and realize I’ve barely scratched the surface of the book I’m summarizing.  On one hand, I feel like I’m doing you a disservice, not going into detail on other brilliant concepts from the book; like what it means to have a Digital-first posture, or the true implications of a One-screen world.  On the other hand, it’s always a testament to the value one can gain from reading the book itself.

I often hear people lament that most business books are really a 2 page article with 258 pages of filler.  And in some cases, that’s sadly true.  Not so with Ctrl Alt Delete.  In these 260 pages lies a wealth of insight, cutting edge thinking from one of the greatest contemporary minds in marketing, and not just a few thought provoking stories.  Whether you’re a business owner, marketing professional, or simply an individual looking to thrive in our digital world, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

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Chris Taylor

ABOUT Chris Taylor

Founder of Actionable Books, Chris Taylor is a writer, entrepreneur and speaker. He spends his daylight hours helping consultants and employees alike find meaning in their work and discover rich team relationships through his company, Actionablebooks...
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