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Meme Update #26

In this issue:
    The Y2K Is Falling! The Y2K Is Falling!
    Book of the Week:
        Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless
        by Jeffrey Gitomer

The Y2K Is Falling! The Y2K Is Falling!

A lot of people are making a lot of money over the so-called "Y2K" issue. Edward Yourdon, the well-known consultant, has a book out called "Time Bomb 2000" in which he predicts widespread catastrophe as a result of cascading technological breakdowns on January 1, 2000. United Airlines just announced they have spent $90 million to fix Y2K problems. How much of that was spent repairing faulty equipment? Not as much as was spent on the consultants they paid to tell them what needed to be fixed!

So is the Y2K crisis real? Well, Jane Garvey, head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced she will be in the air at midnight on the 31st to demonstrate, literally, that planes won't fall from the sky. And I can tell you with a good deal of confidence that nobody running Microsoft Word is going to have their computer blow up at midnight because of any date bugs. PC's never really had that particular problem anyway because even the stupidest, earliest date scheme we used in them goes up to the middle of the 21st Century before it craps out. Nowadays dates are stored in such way that the end of the universe will come before the date counter runs out of room.

But there are real bugs, some having to do with January 1, 2000, some having to do with February 29th (yes, 2000 is a leap year), some having to do with daylight savings time happening to fall on the first day of the month. But these bugs aren't all going to show up at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1999. They've been happening for years, since the first farmer took out a 30-year mortgage on January 1, 1970. It's not all going to sneak up on us. In fact, it's a good wager that most of the problems, such as credit-card expiration dates, have already been fixed. My new American Express card expires in 2002, and an Amex executive told me confidentially that the company spent $100 million to upgrade all their systems for Y2K. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing -- systems need upgrading anyway -- there was just a pressing reason to do it sooner rather than later.

So if the problem is really not so serious, why all the fuss? To the meme-minded, the answer is obvious. Memes!

The crisis meme is good at spreading. The "everything's going to be fine" meme isn't. From a sales and marketing point of view, there's little downside to predicting crisis. If you're right, people call you a genius. If you're wrong, at best people forget you even made the prediction and at worse you can explain it all away, even claiming credit that your cries of alarm were responsible for preventing the crisis.

The REAL Y2K problem is not the primary one. It's the secondary one, the memetic one. If people BELIEVE there's going to be a disaster, they start doing things like selling stocks, hoarding toilet paper, and so on. A wholesale liquidation of assets could create at least a short-term economic crisis. That's why it's so important to let people know it really isn't going to be a big deal. But nobody's making money writing books entitled "It's Not Really Going To Be a Big Deal."

If you're going to write a book, you'll call it something like "How to save your children from the coming doom," not "All's Well, Don't Worry." Why? You'll sell a lot more copies that way. Harry Browne, perennial Libertarian candidate for President, wrote a good book that quite a few people have read called "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World." It's a terrific explanation of Libertarian principles applied to your personal life. But another book he wrote was a major bestseller. The title? "How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation." Now this book was published in 1970 and, while we did have rampant inflation in the late '70s, it was nothing like post-World-War-II Europe when people had to have wheelbarrows to carry their almost worthless currency around. But that title sold copies. If you do write a book called "How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation," you should tell people that the REAL way to come out on top is to write a book entitled "How You Can Profit from the Coming Devaluation"!

Meme Master Bill Clinton used the "crisis" meme to beat George Bush in his first election. Bush's message of "things aren't really all that bad" had no chance against it. Of course, the supposed health-care crisis vanished without a trace within months of his election. For his second term, Clinton couldn't really use the crisis meme again. An incumbent can't use the crisis meme because -- well -- it would be his fault. What if he had brought up health care again? He hadn't done anything about it for four years! If there was a crisis in '92 there was sure one in '96. So he had to switch strategies. "Things are great (and it's my doing)" is the usual message of the incumbent. If Bob Dole's handlers had been smarter he would have picked up the crisis meme. Just watch as Al Gore makes a crisis -- likely the "environmental" one -- the basis for his platform in '00.

So what needs to be done? By now I hope you understand that the meme that REALLY needs to be spread is this one. That's what FAA chief Jane Garvey is doing -- she's using memes to fight memes. She's telling people she'll put her life at risk -- good meme! -- to bet she's right that there's nothing to panic about. Good job, Jane. And good luck.

"How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne:
Federal Aviation Administration's Y2K site:
Federal Reserve Board Y2K page:
Y2K products!
Lots of links:
Number of seconds till Y2K:

Book of the Week

Customer Satisfaction Is Worthless, Customer Loyalty Is Priceless:
How to Make Customers Love You, Keep Them Coming Back and Tell Everyone They Know
by Jeffrey Gitomer

How much money do companies spend trying to make customers "satisfied" rather than trying to make them loyal? Gitomer says it's way too much. Would you rather, he asks, have a wife who's satisfied or one who's loyal? Hopefully both, but if you had to choose...?

It's the attention to clarity of purpose that puts Gitomer's latest book (he is also author of the bestselling Sales Bible) into Meme Update. Gitomer talks about ways to have your customers spread memes that increase your business -- in other words get them talking about you. Not only does he fill the book with hilarious anecdotes of bad customer service, which alone make it worth the read, but he also practices what he preaches. if you ever get a chance to meet him you will find a blunt, laughing guy raised in the streets of Philly who is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

The quote I gladly gave him for his book jacket says "I wish everyone I did business with would read this book." Well I do. And you know, it's not so often I read a book that changes me. This one did. I hope I'm a little more aware of all the little things I can do to make people's experience of being with me one they value and talk about. Go out and pick this one up. It's 30% off at the Memetics Bookstore:

All the best memes,


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Richard Brodie is the author of the first and best-selling book on memetics, VIRUS OF THE MIND. VIRUS OF THE MIND is in its third printing and spent over six months on the best-seller list! Start reading VIRUS OF THE MIND on-line, for FREE, at

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