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122 posts categorized "Interesting Articles"

February 25, 2011

Revolutionary Political Change


Peggy Noonan was writing about political change but it applies to business change.

Almost all revolutionary change inside a business is a battle of internal politics pitting the young versus the old. Young ideas versus old ideas. Younger generation versus the older generation.

“All revolutions ... are about the young versus the old. The young want revolution and progress, the old are inclined toward stability and peace.” -- Peggy Noonan

November 21, 2010

Words Matter when Marketing Yourself

Your resume is your personal sales sheet. It lists your experience and expertise. It should also excite a potential employer to schedule an interview with you. According to Karen Burns, your resume shouldn't contain tired and trite buzzwords that look professional but read comical.

Karen lists 50 buzzwords to avoid when marketing yourself on a resume because they will "make your resume look like everyone else's" and "they're probably not among the keywords employers search for."

Buzzwords Karen advises us to avoid include:

  • Team player
  • Detailed-oriented
  • Strong negotiation skills
  • Results-oriented professional
  • Strong work ethic
  • Results-focused
  • Proven ability
  • Motivated

Consider applying the same thinking to the word choices you use in any marketing materials designed to drive awareness and preference with customers. Drop the tired and trite words for those with personality and punch.

Perhaps a visit to Unsuck-It is needed to improve your personal sales sheet and your company's marketing materials.

October 17, 2010

Frictionless Friction Theory

Three economists won a 2010 Nobel Prize for developing a theory based upon "markets with search frictions" to explain why people remain unemployed despite plenty of job vacancies.

For non-economists like me (and like most everyone reading this blog), I can't begin to understand "markets with search frictions."

Thankfully ... Justin Lahart and Jason Lee, from the Wall Street Journal, explain this with simple text and simple visuals. I found the following worthy of a just-created 2010 Novel Piece Prize for Luminance in Economic Explanation.

Justin writes...

"Peter Diamond on Monday shared the Nobel memorial prize in economies for research into the difficulty buyers and sellers face in finding each other and how that can disrupt a marketplace. The laureates showed that such 'search frictions' can lead to increases in unemployment, despite classic models of supply and demand.

For example, if your inability to sell your house keep s you from taking a job elsewhere, that can have an outsize effect on the job market. In a seminal 1982 paper, Mr. Diamond used a strikingly simple parable to illustrate the point — a parable that applies to today's unemployment problem." [source: Wall Street Journal, Oct. 16, 2010]

Jason draws...

Friction theory

Friction at work

Congratulations Justin and Jason on being 2010 Novel Piece Prize winners for Luminance in Economic Explanation.

September 14, 2010

Gatorade Doesn't Get It


In today's Wall Street Journal we learn, Gatorade has four full-time staffers monitoring "social-media posts 24 hours a day ... hoping what they see and learn will help the company more effectively promote its new G-Series of drinks. Whenever someone uses Twitter to say they're drinking a Gatorade or mentions the brand on Facebook or in other social media, it pops up on a screen in Mission Control."

Mission Control?

Gatorade, we have a problem ... social media can't be controlled. If your MISSION is to CONTROL conversations people are having about Gatorade in social media, you will fail. #justsayin

June 05, 2010

A Good Bad Profit

Sometimes I drop the following slide into presentations to illustrate the business need to not nickel and dime customers. It’s a smart line from Frederick Reichheld’s THE ULTIMATE QUESTION...


I always thought those “Cash Advance” businesses were built upon earning bad profits. That is, charging people super-high interest rates for a cash advance to tide them over until their next paycheck.

Businessweek recently ran an excerpt from BROKE, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc.—How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin. In the excerpt, we learn “Cash Advance” businesses actually profit from a good profit and not a bad profit. That's because these places charge around 20% interest for a short-term quick loan.

How can charging 20% interest be a good profit?

When you consider the average fee for a bounced check is nearly $30 (and rising), the 20% interest rate from a “Cash Advance” place can be cheaper, especially with loans under $150, for people needing quick cash until their next payday. (Go ahead. Do the math. You'll see the obvious advantage.)

While its disheartening to know the "Cash Advance" business is a cash cow, its fascinating to learn they profit from a good bad profit.

April 19, 2010

The Physics of Word of Mouth Marketing

PROMO Magazine recently published an article I wrote about the natural laws that govern word of mouth marketing. To understand these natural laws, we need to revisit basic physics.

In school we learned about Isaac Newton’s three natural laws of motion. These laws explain how and why objects move. These laws can also explain how and why word of mouth marketing can move brands from being unknown to well known.

Law of Inertia
Newton’s first law of motion tells us an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. This law of inertia applies directly to word of mouth marketing because conversation at rest tends to stay at rest while conversation in action tends to stay in action. If a company does nothing to encourage people to talk, no one will talk.

Law of Acceleration
With Newton’s first law, we learned a force is required to spark momentum. Newton’s second law, the law of acceleration, explains how much force is required to spark movement. The larger an object is, the more force needed to move the object. Conversely, the smaller the object, the less force needed to move the object.

The correlation to word of mouth marketing is simple. The larger a brand is, the more marketing muscle needed to generate conversations about the brand. On the other hand, the smaller the brand, the less marketing muscle needed to spark conversations about the brand.

The Law of Reaction
Newton’s third law of motion tells us for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is a parallel natural law that governs word of mouth marketing as it relates to delivering great customer service. This marketing law states: for every action by a customer, there should be a genuine and appropriate reaction from a business. These appropriate reactions take the form of a response, a rescue attempt, or a relaying of information from a company to an individual customer.


For a deeper dive into how physics principles correlate to marketing, read David Bowman's informative series of posts.

April 10, 2010

A Crowdsourced Barbie Doll

Mattel, the makers of Barbie dolls used crowdsourcing to decide which career the next Barbie doll should have. Mattel promoted its online crowdsourcing contest on Facebook, Twitter, and with some regional advertising. The voting choices were: Architect, Anchorwoman, Computer Engineer, Environmentalist, and Surgeon. Over 600,000 votes were cast and the winner was...


Or was it?

Since the voting was open to anyone anywhere, non-Barbie loving fans were able to cast their ballot. Young girls, who are Barbie loving fans, voted overwhelmingly for Anchorwoman Barbie. Other non-Barbie loving fans voted for Computer Engineer Barbie.

The Barbie community voted for the Anchorwoman doll and a well-orchestrated crowd of engineers voted for Computer Engineer Barbie.

To Mattel’s credit, they are following the direction of the crowd and releasing a Computer Engineer Barbie. Mattel is also giving its real community of fans what they want by producing an Anchorwoman Barbie doll.

What if Mattel hadn’t used crowdsourcing but rather, "communitysourcing" to decide what career Barbie should have next? Communitysourcing could have saved Mattel from spending unnecessary time and money addressing the matter.

Perhaps Tom Myerman is onto something when he talks about rethinking crowdsourcing in favor of communitysourcing.

February 10, 2010

It Takes Time

As children we learned Practice Makes Perfect. As adults we know this truism as Deliberate Practice or the 10,000 Hour Rule.

No matter what you call it, it’s simple; it takes time to win.

Overnight success is a magic bullet mirage. Doesn’t happen.

Success for the New Orleans Saints took 43 years with the past year requiring 514,000 hours of labor by the entire Saints staff (players, coaches, and back-office employees).

The lesson is simple. Winning ain’t easy, it takes time.

February 11, 2009

Small Idea. Big Impact. (Less Mess.)

File this under “Small Ideas with Big Impact” ...

Too much spillage in the men’s room urinals at Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam).

Etch an image of a common housefly near the drain holes of the porcelain urinals.


Spillage has been reduced by 80%. According to someone close to the project, “The fly improves aim. If a man sees a fly, he aims at it.”

Further Learning:
This is an example of what professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein call a NUDGE. These professors classify any act that attempts to “alter [people’s] behavior in a positive way, without actually requiring anyone to do anything at all” as a NUDGE.

Fascinating stuff. Learn more by reading the NUDGE book, NUDGE blog, and this NY Times article.

December 22, 2008

Bad Apple Behavior


Can one person in a workplace ruin a workplace? In other words, can one bad apple spoil the whole bunch?

That’s the question Dr. Will Felps, Rotterdam Business School professor, sought to answer. His findings were published under the title of, How, When, and Why Bad Apples Spoil the Barrel. [preview available].

This American Life brought to life Felps’ work in a recent episode. It’s a fascinating piece, worthy of spending a few minutes listening to. (Listen here.)

The gist is this … Felps’ study indicates the spillover effect of Bad Apple behavior can undermine the success of a group. Groups in this study infected with a Bad Apple, performed 30%-to-40% worse than similar groups without a Bad Apple.

This study identified three personality types linked to Bad Apple behavior. I’m sure we’ve all experienced one of these personalities in our group project work:

This personality will make rude and insulting comments directed at others. He’ll criticize other people’s ideas without offering up alternative ideas of his own.

The attitude of indifference persists within this person. Verbally and non-verbally, he’ll convey feelings of “whatever” and “who cares.”

The Debbie Downer of the group. This person will complain about how unenjoyable the project is and openly doubts the group will succeed.

(Interestingly, these represent some of the same destructive on-the-job personalities Dr. Bob Sutton wrote about in THE NO ASSHOLE RULE.)

What’s a group to do if they are burdened with a Bad Apple?

Sure, you could confront and try to reform the Bad Apple. However, a better approach could be to follow Jim Collins’ advice from BUILT TO LAST and have the virus, that is the miserable person, ejected before the spillover effect happens.

Mucho kudos to the My Curate's Egg blog for some super-sleuthing link finds.

November 10, 2008

Eric Schmidt on Google being Frugal

Business at Google is healthy. However, in these uncertain times Google is watching its expenses and is getting downright frugal by tightening some of its famed employee perks (free food, free massages, etc.).

The New York Times ran an interesting interview with Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) where he comments on managing the company during this economic avalanche. He was asked if it is enjoyable to manage a company on a spending diet. His answer may surprise you...

SOURCE | Google at 10: Searching Its Own Soul

September 15, 2008

More Business Failure Commandments

Earlier, we shared takeaways from Donald Keough’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF BUSINESS FAILURE.

Today, by way of Seth, we learn of Ed Welch’s list of 101 ways a business WILL destroy itself. Lots of chewy nuggets in Ed’s PDF — below are a few of the chewiest nuggets...

#1. When you have a great product that’s selling well - look for ways to make it cheaper – your customers won’t be able to tell the difference.

#5. Do everything you can to keep your customers from creating a community – you don’t want them talking to each other.

#16. Make sure your employees care more about procedures and rules than customers.

#22. Never try to build customer evangelists – mass advertising has always worked better!

#47. Make sure everyone in your company understands that people are loyal to products and brands – NOT other people and relationships.

SOURCE [.pdf]: 101 Ways to Destroy Your Tribe (Ed Welch)

(Hint … to apply what Ed shares, DO THE OPPOSITE.)

September 02, 2008

!!! Required Reading !!!

In June, Time magazine ran a story about the business philosophies of Kip Tindell (ceo/co-founder of The Container Store) and John Mackey (ceo/co-founder of Whole Foods Market). Kip and John are kindred spirits because they hold fast to the belief “empowered employees beget happy customers.”

The article is interesting. However, the transcript of the CONVERSATION between Tindell and Mackey is FASCINATING.

This CONVERSATION is required reading for anyone remotely interested in building a business that matters.

I’m on vacation this week. But you can’t take a vacation until you READ THIS.

What are you still doing here? I ain’t kidding you. I am imploring you to READ THIS. (There will be a quiz.)

** Kudos to Lilly Rockwell of the Austin-American Statesman for the heads-up.

August 22, 2008

Resuscitating Comatose Brands

Kudos to Karlene Lukovitz for her autopsy-esque article on reviving left-for-dead brands. Click here or below to read the interesting article...


August 09, 2008

A Visit to Snow's BBQ

Living in the Badlands of Central Texas has some benefits. I took advantage of one those benefits on Saturday morning by visiting Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX.

Brand Autopsy blog readers will recall an earlier post about Snow’s BBQ, a small town BBQ joint that was once hardly-known but now is widely-known thanks to hefty praise from Texas Monthly magazine.

Saturday was the day for me to make the hour-long drive to visit Snow’s and experience for myself the littlest bestest BBQ joint in Texas. I took along my itty-bitty camera and clumsily cobbled together this amateurish video of my visit. Enjoy.

July 24, 2008

Architects Envision the Next Starbucks

Consider peeping the July issue of ARCHITECT magazine. The magazine asked five architect design firms to envision the rebirth of Starbucks. Interesting results ... lots of daydreaming esoteric fodder for design-types. The regular marketing-type in me likes the Modular Community Kitchen design from Studios Architecture.

CLICK HERE to review all five rebirthing Starbucks design ideas.

July 22, 2008

When Being Too Good Becomes Bad

Let’s pretend … you live in a small town, population 1,200. You operate a BBQ joint open only on Saturdays in this small town. The townsfolk describe your brisket as “transcendent meat.” By the early afternoon you’ve sold all 300 pounds of the meats you smoked. Your day is done and your customers are happy. Business is manageable, profitable, and more important, enjoyable.

Then all of a sudden your unknown BBQ joint gets praised as BEST BBQ IN THE STATE.

People now drive hours from all over the state to taste your BBQ and by 10am, all the meat you smoked has been sold. Then you start smoking 1,000 pounds of meat instead of your regular 300 pounds, but still sell out by mid-morning.

This isn’t pretend, this is real.

Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, TX was anointed by Texas Monthly as the best BBQ joint in Texas. Since being lauded, Snow’s BBQ has been swamped with out-of-towners. The first Saturday after being featured in Texas Monthly magazine, I made the trip out to Lexington, TX to taste the ”transcendent meat” at Snow’s. No go. All gone. I was too late, even though I arrived at 10:45am.


As Snow BBQ’s pit master, Tootsie Tomanetz, says, all this attention has “blowed our business out of proportion.”

When faced with a similar situation where demand outstrips supply, most businesses would welcome the opportunity to blow their business out of proportion and simply expand to better meet demand. Expansion is the easy answer. The more difficult answer is to not expand.

Snow’s BBQ doesn’t want to expand because its owner, Kerry Bexley, worries that his and Tootsie’s passion for their Saturday BBQ gig will dry up under all the demands that come with being a bigger business.

These are perplexing times for Bexley and Snow’s BBQ. Sure, business is booming and the attention is good for the ego. However, is being too good actually bad for business? More out-of-town customers mean fewer folks in Lexington can enjoy the meats at their hometown BBQ spot. Tootsie is having to dramatically ramp up her early morning meat smoking duties, which adds intense pressure for everyone involved. It’s not uncommon for Snow’s BBQ to sell out of their meats by 9am which means loads of customers arriving after 9am leave disappointed. Again, is being too good actually bad for business?

Kerry Bexley told the Austin American-Statesman he’ll consider shutting down the business if it becomes just that … a business. “My concern,” says Bexley “is we don’t get so big that she [Tootsie] doesn’t enjoy it. But when it does, well, we’ll quit.”

Wow, that’s a refreshing take ... a business that puts passion and enjoyment before revenue and growth.

Learn more about Snow’s BBQ from this NPR story and this review from Chowhound.
UPDATED | After adding an astute comment, Rick Liebling riffs beautifully off this post with a post of his own ... Scarcity, Storytelling and Having Your Business Blowed Up.

July 15, 2008

Article (1) & Interview (2)

ONE | I dusted off my “No Business is Perfect” essay and gave it new life with new context. It’s on the Keppler website … READ ARTICLE.

TWO | CZ Marketing interviewed me about SBUX, WOM, and OTHER STUFF … READ INTERVIEW.

July 07, 2008



Over at the Idea Sandbox blog, Paul Williams breaks down the perverted oddities in this Burger King promotional tray liner. Really, this is just odd. Look at the rubber glove-wearing Pickle and the pants-down Onion. Now read Paul's breakdown.

June 28, 2008

The Action Nudge

Okay. I’m admitting it. Admitting to my procrastination. I should be deep into a writing project, but I’m not. I’m avoiding it. Sure, busyness with my everyday business has taken up my time. But my summer is slow, I have the time to devote to this writing project.

However, I need a nudge.

That nudge is re-reading Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART, (I’ve blogged about TWOA before -- here and here.) In TWOA, Pressfield helps you to overcome the self-sabotaging power of “Resistance.”

Check out these money quotes and if you like what you read, devour the whole book.

Money Quotes

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is."

"Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is."
"Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within."
"Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize."
"Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro."
"To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation. The amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time."
"Resistance hates it when we turn pro."
"Why have I stressed professionalism so heavily in the preceding chapters? Because the most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying."
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.” – W. H. Murray The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
SOURCE: Steven Pressfield | THE WAR OF ART

June 20, 2008

Jay Ehret on Losing Focus


Take a few minutes today to read Jay Ehret's cautionary tale on how he lost focus by trying to run two businesses ... only to run himself into the ground. An important lesson for us all.

May 12, 2008

Advice from Eddie Lampert

Fortune’s latest issue shares “The Best Advice I Ever Got” from a cadre of business muckety-mucks. Lots of good advice from the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Nelson Peltz. Craig Newmark, Tina Fey, and Indra Nooyi. I especially liked the advice from Eddie Lampert, hedge fund head man and Sears chairman ...

"Almost every weekend when I was 7, 8, 9, 10 years old, my father and I would toss a football in the yard or play basketball in the driveway. When we played football, he'd say, "Go out ten steps. Turn to your right." The ball would reach me just before I turned, and it would hit me right in the chest. Why would my dad do this? He told me, "If I waited for you to turn, you and the defensive player would have an equal chance to get the ball. Your opportunity is gone."

This idea of anticipation is key to investing and to business generally. You can't wait for an opportunity to become obvious. You have to think, "Here's what other people and companies have done under certain circumstances. Now, under these new circumstances, how is this management likely to behave?" The plays my father designed for me helped me learn to think ahead." -- Eddie Lampert [source]

May 05, 2008

New Guru Review

Four years ago I linked to an article titled, GURU NATION. The article shed light on the Business Guru Scene from the egos to the economics of it all. Interesting read.

The Wall Street Journal has revisited the Guru Scene for 2008. This updated look reflects a change where more non-traditional business experts are in greater demand. Journalists like Thomas Friedman (#2) and Malcolm Gladwell (#4) rank high as does education professor, Howard Gardner (#5). According to the article, the most popular topics for these business gurus include: globalization, motivation ,and innovation. Here's the list...


This list was compiled by two Babson College professors and is based upon the number of online mentions, academic citations, and LexisNexis media mentions. It’s not a truly scientific list, but it is an interesting list.

Adding to the interest is the absence of women in the top 20 rankings. Wendy Bounds, from the Wall Street Journal, asked readers for their take on why women are absent from the list … the conversation is worth reading.

April 25, 2008

Gravitate to the Physics of Marketing


David Bowman riffs smartly on how some brands have gravitational pull while others don't ... all reasoned in the context of Newton's Law of Gravity.

Good stuff ... READ MORE.

April 01, 2008

a Tuesday Time Waster

As a kid I read lots of MAD magazines and the backpage fold-in was always something I looked forward to doing. Can't say I understood everything contained in the fold-in ... it was just fun for a curious kid to do.

The NY Times recently ran an interesting story on Al Jaffee, the mastermind behind the fold-in. Since its first appearance in the April 1964 issue of Mad magazine, the 87 year-old Al Jaffee has drawn every one of these backpage fold-ins. WOW!

Take a few minutes this Tuesday and rekindle your MAD magazine fold-in memories with this wicked cool digital gallery.



March 19, 2008

Knowledge Nuggets from Steve Jobs

The March 17th issue of Fortune magazine has a "Good Steve | Bad Steve" take on Steve Jobs. The Good Steve article has chewy knowledge nuggets from him on being innovative, connecting with consumers, staying focused, managing people, and hiring talented people. Good stuff.

on being innovative…
"You can't ask people what they want if it's around the next corner," says Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and cofounder. At Apple, new-product development starts in the gut and gets hatched in rolling conversations that go something like this: What do we hate? (Our cellphones.) What do we have the technology to make? (A cellphone with a Mac inside.) What would we like to own? (You guessed it, an iPhone.) "One of the keys to Apple is that we build products that really turn us on," says Jobs.

on connecting with consumers…
"It's not about pop culture, and it's not about fooling people, and it's not about convincing people that they want something they don't. We figure out what we want. And I think we're pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That's what we get paid to do.” [MORE]
on staying focused…
”People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve go to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” [MORE]
on managing people…
“We've got 25,000 people at Apple. About 10,000 of them are in the stores. And my job is to work with sort of the top 100 people, that's what I do. So when a good idea comes … part of my job is to move it around, just see what different people think, get people talking about it, argue with people about it, get ideas moving among that group of 100 people.” [MORE]
on hiring talented people…
"When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They'll want to do what's best for Apple, not what's best for them.” [MORE]

March 06, 2008

re: Package Redesigns

Smart thoughts from Neal Stewart on what he's learned from package redesign projects. Good stuff. When you're there, check out all of Neal's HMOs (hot marketing opinions). Really good stuff.

February 29, 2008

Anderson’s FREE-for-All Thoughts

The current issue of Ad Age has an interesting interview with Chris Anderson sharing more insight into his to-be-published book, FREE: Why $0.00 is the Future of Business.

Anderson is the editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine and his take on how, despite subscription fees and cover prices, magazines are in the business of FREE might surprise you.

CHRIS ANDERSON: “Magazines are in the essentially free business. At Wired, we charge $10 a year for a subscription when the actual cost to us is more than 10 times that much.

So why do we charge anything? We charge a nominal fee simply as a psychological fee that shows that you want it -- which allows us to charge advertisers more. A single penny does it. We charge $10 because we don't want to devalue the product, because that would be sending the wrong message. But from our perspective it's essentially free.”

Anderson also shares smart thinking on whether or not getting something for FREE empowers customers or does it dis-empower them.

CHRIS ANDERSON: “I'd like to think that getting more for less is empowering. As we shift from the currency being money to attention and reputation, in a sense, the field becomes a relatively level one.

We all have attention and respect we can offer. That's a far more democratic access to the marketplace. We all have attention that has some value. As more and more becomes free, we're able to deploy that wherever for whatever.

Basically everything is available to everybody -- not necessarily at all tiers and all features, but the walls to entry to products and services are falling faster than ever before.”

SOURCE: Ad Age article | Feb. 25, 2008

February 03, 2008

The Influenceables

Lots of chatter about Duncan Watts and his take that ordinary people have just as much influence as influential people have in making something popular. Cory, Guy, Seth, Spike, and scores of others have all chimed in.

On The Media interviewed Clive Thompson who wrote the Fast Company article that compellingly explains Duncan Watts’ word-of-mouth randomness theory. In the radio interview (available online here), Clive summarizes Duncan’s complex theory this way,

“It’s not how influential each person is, it’s how influenceable everyone else is. If society is ready to embrace a trend, almost anyone can start it.”

Hmm … could it be the marketing society is ready to embrace the trend that individuals have just as much sway as influentials do in starting the next big thing? Could it be that marketers are an influenceable bunch?

January 31, 2008

Ideaicide Prevention is Everybody’s Business

"Ideas are usually rejected out of turn for being too 'something' — too fast, too unproven, too far beyond the corporate image. 'Too something' is a reactionary description used to take the edge off ideas that are strong, bold, and a little scary at first sight. Your challenge is to help people discover a means, harmonious with the culture, to accept your concept."
Alan Parr & Karen Ansbaugh
Ideaicide: How To Avoid It And Get What You Want
* ChangeThis Manifesto *

Be smarter. Be better. Read this.


January 10, 2008

Making Customers Happy

When the 2007 year-end tallies are calculated, Amazon is expected to have grown revenues to $15 billion, an increase of 35.0% from the year prior. The company counts 72-million active customers who spent, on average, $184 on last year. Profit margins, which have been as low as 3.0%, have increased to 6.0%. Amazon is making money.

Amazon is also making customers happy. Ed Nocera, writing in the New York Times, thinks profit and sales-growth at Amazon is a by-product of making customers happy.

Ed purchased a PlayStation 3 as a gift from Amazon this Holiday. Concerned the package hadn’t arrived yet, Ed tracked the shipment from Amazon’s website. He learned the package had arrived and a neighbor had signed for it. Ed asked his neighbor about the package and learned she put the package in the hallway after signing for it.

Ed knew his PS3 was MIA so he managed to find Amazon’s customer service phone number and explained his situation to the customer service rep. Amazon shipped out a replacement PlayStation3 and on Christmas Day, Ed’s son was happy. And so was Ed.

Curious about Amazon’s stock performance, Ed looked it up and saw it had risen about 140% in the past year. Wall Street types credit the Amazon run-up to improved margins, international expansion, its web services business, and to increased sales with its reseller merchant market affiliates.

Ed has a different take,

I couldn’t help wondering if maybe there wasn’t something else at play here, something Wall Street never seems to take very seriously. Maybe, just maybe, taking care of customers is something worth doing when you are trying to create a lasting company. Maybe, in fact, it’s the best way to build a real business — even if it comes at the expense of short-term results.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and Founder, appeared recently on The Charlie Rose Show and had this to say about his obsession with customers,

“They [Aamzon customers] care about having the lowest prices, having vast selection, so they have choice, and getting the products to customers fast. And the reason I’m so obsessed with these drivers of the customer experience is that I believe that the success we have had over the past 12 years has been driven exclusively by that customer experience. We are not great advertisers. So we start with customers, figure out what they want, and figure out how to get it to them.”

Ed Nocera closes his article with this gem,

There is simply no question that Mr. Bezos’s obsession with his customers — and the long term — has paid off, even if he had to take some hits to the stock price along the way. Surely, it was worth it. As for me, the $500 favor the company did for me this Christmas will surely rebound in additional business down the line. Why would I ever shop anywhere else online? Then again, there may be another reason good customer service makes sense.

“Jeff used to say that if you did something good for one customer, they would tell 100 customers,” said Suresh Kotha, a management professor at the University of Washington business school.

I guess that’s what I just did.

SOURCE | Put Buyers First? What a Concept (Ed Nocera) | NY Times (Jan. 5, 2007)

January 04, 2008

Nick Morgan on Better Presentations

Not sure who pointed me to this interview with Nick Morgan, but I’m glad they did.

Nick is a communication and speech coach and his book, GIVE A SPEECH, CHANGE THE WORLD is a must-read for all us business folk who get up in front of people and speak. This interview with Management Consulting News serves as a nice summary of the presentation advice Nick shares in his book.

Money quotes from the interview include:

“The wonderful thing about audiences is that they want to be enthralled and moved. They come in with a positive attitude in spite of the fact that they have been disappointed so many times. Audiences want you to succeed.”

“That support is yours to squander. If you fail to connect, midway through your speech the audience will no longer be on your side--they will be looking for the exits.”

“A successful speech takes your audience on a journey from why to how. Audiences come in asking why--Why am I here? Why is this important to me? They want the answer to be that this is going to be good for them in some way. If you succeed, by the end of your speech they will be asking how--How do I do what you are talking about? How do I get to work on this? That's when you know you have gotten your message across.”
“Good speakers do two things well: they let their own personality come through, and they have a wide range of emotional expressiveness.”

“That's what charisma is--emotional expressiveness, the ability to show a range of genuine emotions. But I don't mean weeping or losing your temper. Rather, you need to let an audience know how you feel about what is important to you, when you are excited about something and when you are displeased with something.”

Read the complete interview here.

January 01, 2008

Experience Again. Be Inspired Again.

The Steve Jobs commencement speech at Stanford from 2005 has made the rounds many times over online. I read the transcript two years ago and was moved. Now, I’m moved again because I’ve listened to (and watched) the commencement address.

The audio (and video) is now available on iTunes.

(Once iTunes opens up, look on the right-hand column under “Top Downloads” and you’ll find the Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement Address. If you do not use iTunes, use this link to listen/watch.)

Since it’s the beginning of 2008, I suggest taking 15-minutes this week to be inspired by Jobs’ story of staying hungry and staying foolish. I’m burning a copy to share with my Father.

Kudos to Dan Pink for the hook-up.

December 09, 2007

Fire Extinguishers can be Sexy

Some might consider the product category of fire extinguishers as being boring. Sure, the fire extinguisher category is HIGHLY important, but it ain’t a sexy product category. Or is it?


The Home Hero Fire Extinguisher looks anything but dull. It’s sleek and dare we say … sexy.

The Arnell Group has redesigned the fire extinguisher to no longer be “so damn obtrusive, ugly, and not conducive to a pleasant experience of the rest of the aesthetic of your kitchen.” The Home Hero Fire Extinguisher is currently being sold exclusively at Home Depot for the alluring price of $25.00.

Learn more from Rob Walker’s CONSUMED column in the NY Times.

November 30, 2007

Visual Vampires

Did you see the Brandweek story about Visual Vampires?

Visual vampires are images shown in advertising that divert attention away from the advertised product. Think … Wendy’s Red WigRobert Goulet/Emerald NutsParis Hilton/Carl's Jr.. (Think 100% Creationist WOM where companies engage in outrageously gimmicky attention-grabbing antics to capture our attention.)

The study Brandweek cites is from The PreTesting Company. Here’s further explanation:

Wendy’s red wig-clad ads are hard to miss. However, new research shows that the characters in pony-tailed toupees greatly overshadow the products featured in the same ads.

“It is a visual vampire. There is high engagement, but when they show the food it drops like a rock,” said Lee Weinblatt, CEO of PreTesting, Tenafly, N.J.

The majority (68%) of viewers of the Wendy’s ad were riveted when the wig was on screen, but when hamburgers were shown it fell to 24%. The baseline for fast food commercials is 50% as consumers expect to be entertained. Other TV ads dominated by visual vampires: Subway (Jon Lovitz), Chrysler (Dr. Z) and Burger King (Coq Roq).” READ MORE

Hmm ... so is there a marketing garlic we can use to ward off these Visual Vampires? Could be. It's something I refer to as the WHAT YOU DO vs. WHAT YOU DID test.

When people talk about your brand, do they talk about the products/services the company does or do they talk about the advertising it did? If people are talking about the products/services you do, then you've successful repelled the Visual Vampire. However, if all people can talk about is the offbeat creativity in your ads, then the Visual Vampire has probably been allowed to run amock.

For example, I know no one talking about the food Wendy's does. Instead, its all about the edgy red wig advertising the company did. Same goes for the Emerald Nuts spots we saw at the Super Bowl this year. No one was talking about how great Emerald Nuts taste, they were only talking about how creepy it was to have Robert Goulet acting a fool in the spot.

As a marketer, I much prefer people talking about what a company does and not what it did. Reckon the only way to truly repel Visual Vampires is to follow the Sethology of spending marketing dollars to make products/services more remarkable and not to make kookier commercials.

November 25, 2007

Dissecting the 2008 Presidential Logos

In 2004, the New York Times dissected the Bush/Cheney and Kerry/Edwards presidential logos.

With the 2008 Presidential Race heating up, the New York Times has dissected the campaign logos of the front-running candidates. Click the image below for a sampling of the dissection. If the image does not show-up big and clear enough on your screen, consider opening up this PDF file. Or, go directly to the source at the NY Times.


Yeah, I know ... this is hard to read on the screen. This PDF version is bigger and easier to read. And the NY Times has a slide show of the entire Ward Sutton illustration.

November 12, 2007

Dim Bulb Sheds Light on Zune

Jonathan from the Dim Bulb blog has a super-tasty riff on the marketing of Microsoft's Zune. Read the intro and then read his full riff...

"People are too busy enjoying their Apple iPods to listen to Zune's marketing, so what is Microsoft going to do?

Spend more money on ads, of course!

It has already wasted millions on state-of-the-art web design, artsy films, and beautiful Peter Max-ish advertising. The branding conceit was that Zune was all about sharing music, and had some built-in whatchamacallit to beam songs to other Zune devices.

Unfortunately, people already share music on their iPods: two people each grab an earbud and, voila, you've got sharing. Hand the player to a friend. Play songs on a computer. Zune offered to fix a problem that nobody had." >> READ MORE <<

September 28, 2007

Bill Gammell on Seinfeld Marketing Lessons

Could it be everything Bill Gammell learned about marketing, he learned from watching Seinfeld? Maybe not everything ... but he did learn some smart marketing lessons from Jerry, Elaine, George, Kramer, and the Cougar 9000.

Consider Bill's e-book worthwhile (and fun) weekend reading.

Click image above ... (go ahead, do it.)

September 06, 2007

a Must Read Manifesto

I’m tired of slogging through business books hoping that somewhere within the far too repetitive pages I’ll find a few money quotes. I continue to believe most 250-page business books can be slimmed down to a svelte 25-pages without losing much. That’s why I'm a big fan of ChangeThis.

Since 2004, ChangeThis has been making me a smarter marketer through its trove of quick-read manifestos. ChangeThis is chock-full of pamphlet-sized business books with just enough information and just enough inspiration to help me make things happen at work.

The latest manifesto I’m high on is THE SECRETS OF MARKET-DRIVEN LEADERS. In 16-pages, Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott share practical advice on how businesses can be more successful by being market-driven rather than being just customer-driven, competitor-driven, or sales-driven.

It’s a smart read with lots of money quotes. For example, here is a cut ‘n paste snippet from the 7 Secrets of Market-Driven Leaders section of their manifesto. Enjoy...

7 Secrets of Market-Driven Leaders

SECRET #1: Work as a Trusted Advisor
People in market-driven companies largely ignore the competition. And they most definitely do not care about technology for technology’s sake. Instead they focus a majority of their energies on the problems that buyers are willing to spend money to solve.

SECRET #2: Build from the Outside-In
Market-driven leaders understand the complete picture of market problems before building products. they develop solutions in the context of the total customer experience.
SECRET #3: Simple is Smart
Whenever market-driven leaders create products or solutions—for potential new customers, existing customers, or even new markets—it is always in the context of creating a simple solution to the problems people have.

The best companies create solutions that are narrow and deep. they organize around a single market problem and solve it completely with a solution that to the buyer seems simple, obvious and most importantly handles all the related tasks in one easy step.

SECRET #4: Leadership is Distributed
At industry-leading organizations focused on a market-driven approach, company operations are driven from the business unit or product management level. Leadership is distributed. Why? Because the business unit leaders and the product managers who work there are the people who are closest to the marketplace and best understand the problems buyers face.

Winning companies recognize it is better to distribute leadership and to employ a bottom-up strategic planning process that drives the business forward than it is for functional senior managers to collaborate on decision making and push new strategies, processes, and plans out to the organization.

SECRET #5: Stop Being a Vendor
In our experience working with thousands of technology companies, we’ve watched a sequential decline each year in the level of “trust” between vendors and customers. We’ve learned that the most successful organizations … embrace the discipline of being a problem solver and solution-seller instead of a vendor.
SECRET #6: Marketing with a Big “M”
Industry leaders understand that marketing is more than just “marcom” (marketing communications) and that the role of marketing involves much more than just creating a message and delivering that message with the tools of advertising and public relations.

Companies get into trouble when they throw bucketfuls of money at the promotional aspects of marketing such as advertising, tradeshows, PR, media relations, analyst relations, and the like without paying due attention to the problem identification, market definition, and product management aspects of marketing.

SECRET #7: Measure Only What Matters
Successful companies don’t fall prey to the typical requirements of the C-suite, investors, boards, industry analysts, and Wall Street for managing the minutia and death by metrics. the problem with measuring marketing activities is that too many companies have trained their employees to measure the wrong things. Market-driven leaders measure only what matters.

(AUTHORS: Craig Stull, Phil Myers, and David Meerman Scott)


September 04, 2007

Getting a UPC Barcode


Haven’t you wondered where the UPC barcodes we see in products come from? I have and thanks to Kelly Spors of the Wall Street Journal, I now know the process for getting a UPC Code. [ARTICLE LINK]

Universal Product Codes (UPC) are given out by GS1, a nonprofit group responsible for setting standards for international commerce. A company must pay $750 to join GS1 and then an annual maintenance fee of at least $150. Once a company joins GS1, they are given a unique identification code and barcode(s) for use on their portfolio of products. (You can fill out a GS1 membership form online here.)

Kelly gives small businesses a smart tip to getting a UPC on the cheap. resells discarded/unused UPC barcodes from less than $100. A small business doesn’t have to join the GS1 in order to get a UPC barcode. However, the drawback to this route is that most major retailers require their product suppliers to have their own company-specific ID code. But if you only sell to independent retailers or through your own means, using a discarded/unused UPC identification number will work just fine.

And now we all know how to get a UPC barcode.

July 14, 2007

re: Dijon Ketchup

For a literal companion read to Seth's recent "Dijon Ketchup" post about transforming the good into very good ... check out this vintage Brand Autopsy post on "Ketchup and Malcolm Gladwell."

Or, skip my post entirely and just read Gladwell's take on how Jim Wigon purpled cow'd ketchup. Good stuff.

July 03, 2007

Tasty Quote on Leadership

Someone could write, and probably has written, a book on the differences between a Boss and a Leader. However, this quote sums up nicely (and succinctly) the major difference ...
SOURCE: New York Times Sunday Magazine | Generally Speaking | July 1, 2007

July 01, 2007

The Financial Impact of a Strong Brand Reputation

According to Communications Consulting Worldwide (CCW), if Wal-Mart were to have the brand reputation of Target, then its stock price would increase 4.9% and its market capitalization would increase by $9.7 billion. CCW also estimates that if drugstore chain CVS had the reputation of its chief rival, Walgreens, then CVS’s stock would increase by 6.9% and would add $3.9 billion to its market cap.


It’s no secret that a strong brand reputation has a halo effect within the consumer marketplace and financial marketplace. What’s new is the ability to more precisely measure a brand’s reputation in order to predict how changes in brand’s reputation will impact the company’s stock price.

In this MUST-READ BusinessWeek article, we learn that CCW has constructed a model which is able to link the positive/negative attributes of a brand’s reputation to the rise/fall of its stock price.

Southwest Airlines is a client of CCW and the brand reputation of Southwest is very strong. However, CCW estimates Southwest could improve its stock price 3.5% resulting in increasing its financial market value by $300 million by tweaking its consumer messaging. To accomplish this, Southwest would need to downplay its low fares messaging and instead, highlight its far-reaching routes and frequent schedules. Southwest has followed CCW’s direction and although airline stocks have fallen 15%+ in 2007, Southwest’s stock is only down 5.0%.

Having a predictive model to determine the stock price impact of marketing messages can only help marketers at Fortune 1000 companies to better design and better sell-in their programs.

If you are interested in learning more about how brand management is reputation management, read THE 18 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF CORPORATE MANAGEMENT by Ronald Alsop. It’s a worthy read from way back. You can also read this excellent summary of Alsop’s book.

To further entice you to read the Business Week article, take a look at this graphic. It is sure to intrigue the marketer in you.


June 04, 2007

Watch this Wine Evangelist


Gary Vaynerchuk is a wine enthusiast and evangelist. Fittingly, he's the Director of Operations at Wine Library, a wine retailer in New Jersey. Gary has been sharing his passion for wine with daily online videos where he sniffs, slurps, and spits wine all the while imparting wit and wisdom about wine (and about the New York Jets).

Don't expect a prim and proper haughty toddy video lecture about wine. Oh no. Gary ain't goin' out like that. New York Magazine labels Gary's style as an "unpretentious, gonzo approach to wine appreciation." Yep. That's right on.

The so-called wine establishment doesn't know what to do with Gary's unbridled evangelism for wine. In an interview with New York Magazine, Gary answered his critics by saying...

"It’s amazing how intimidating wine is; all the wine geeks want to keep everybody out. I get these real wine-snob d--kheads who think I’m dumbing wine down. And now wineries are starting to get mad at me. I used to be their darling—because I’m a buyer—but some of them don’t want to sell to me anymore because I panned their wine on the show. That’s been really difficult. I get a ton of positive feedback, but I also get a little zing-zing."

Spend a few minutes watching Gary's latest video and think to yourself, who in your company SHOULD do something similar?

June 02, 2007

Be Online Where your Customers Already Are

BusinessWeek has some straightforward advice for companies as they develop their web communications strategy. It’s about being in places where your customers are already engrossed online. That may mean Second Life, Twitter, YouTube, or somewhere else.

“Blogs. Podcasts. Video-sharing sites. Social networks. Here's a word of advice for companies scrambling to become a part of these conversations. It's not enough to build a hub in Second Life or create a profile on . It's time to shift your focus away from trying out every high-tech platform that comes across your in-box. Instead, home in on your customers. Almost every demographic group you can think of is engrossed in the Web these days, and users are getting smarter about their tools. It won't take long to find the consumers who care about what you're doing—and tune in to what they're doing.”
SOURCE: BusinessWeek | Web Strategies That Cater to Customers | June 11, 2007

May 30, 2007

Fascinating Wal-Mart Brand Analysis


Today’s NY Times shares fascinating insights into the Wal-Mart brand from a leaked brand analysis report. (Access the article from the site or from here.)

The report was conducted by Wal-Mart’s then agency-of-record, GSD&M, and according to the NY Times, this report, "... offers a rare glimpse of the concerns that are buffeting Wal-Mart’s retailing empire, from its flagging corporate reputation to the ‘near catastrophic’ economic pressures faced by its working class consumers.

For example, this report shares insights that Wal-Mart shoppers know other retailers offer smarter choices in a variety of revenue-important product categories. The report outlines the following …


Smart and illuminating fodder for all us marketers. I was surprised to find a copy of this GSD&M prepared Positioning Report for Wal-Mart (pdf) available on the NY Times website. Go upload and get the download on branding insights into the world’s largest retailer.

Expect to read more from me in the days to come after I've had a chance to fully digest this Wal-Mart Positioning Report. And if you have thoughts ... chime in with comments.

May 25, 2007

Chris Anderson on Genuineness

In the preceding post, I raved about Deliver Magazine. Also included in the May issue (PDF link) was an interview with Chris Anderson, Long Tail raconteur and editor-in-chief at WIRED Magazine.

Chris shared smart words on what it means to be GENUINE in today’s marketing world where what gets measured gets manufactured. Good stuff ...

Genuine is an e-mail from a person rather than a company. If the lead singer of some band that I like sends out an e-mail to those of us who have registered our interest, that’s authentic in a way that a record label sending out an e-mail wouldn’t be. If the lead singer responds to his e-mail, that’s even better. A MySpace page is more authentic than a billboard. A blog is more authentic than a press release. It’s all about having a human voice and re-personalizing the connections.

The key is in catalyzing word of mouth. If consumers don’t trust institutions and do trust individuals, if they don’t want to be marketed at and do want to be influenced by their peers, how can marketers influence those influencers, those alpha peers? Some companies have done lots of experiments in this. There are fake blogs and fake viral videos and fake buzz marketing. It sometimes works, but if you’re busted, it turns into a PR nightmare.” -- quotes from Chris Anderson

SOURCE: Deliver Magazine | May 2007 | PDF link

May 24, 2007

Deliver Delivers


Deliver Magazine
mysteriously appeared in my mailbox the other day. It’s billed as “a magazine for marketers” and since I’m a marketer … I reckon it is fitting for me to receive Deliver.

I'll generally riffle through a business magazine that looks halfway interesting. Most times, these magazines end up in a round file cabinet. Deliver magazine didn’t. As I riffled through the pages I found well-written and well-designed articles on the world of customized direct marketing. Have a look for yourself ... download the May issue as a PDF file.


And while you peruse the magazine online, read about the super-cool direct mail campaign which personalized latte art to include the recipient's name spelled out in the foam (pg. 8). Also read about how Stacy Pita Chips looking to make a name for itself by mailing out packages of product samples to 133,000 women named Stacy (pg. 25).

Oh yeah … this enjoyable and informative marketing magazine is from the United States Postal Service. (Whoa! That's unexpected.)

May 21, 2007

Ad Agency Hires Ad Agency

According to Ad Age, Campbell-Mithun, a Minneapolis-based advertising agency that’s been around since the 1930s, recently hired another ad agency to solve its branding/positioning issues. (Yep, you read that right. Read on for more.)

Unable to define or articulate why Campbell-Mithun is indispensable and how they go about helping improve the branding/marketing efforts of their clients, Campell-Mithun hired Cue, a Minneapolis-based ad agency, to solve for these communication issues.

The end result was the creation of a branding ethos for Campbell-Mithun. This branding ethos consists of seven tenets derived from quotes spoken by Ray Mithun, the agency’s founder. Murals were created and posted inside the Campbell-Mithun offices with the artwork depicting these seven tenets. Plus, these seven tenets are also featured in Cambell-Mithun’s capabilities marketing materials.

I applaud Campbell-Mithun for having the courage to admit they lack the capabilities to define and design branding work for themselves. But that admission could (and should) scare off current and potential clients. Would you want to trust your company’s branding efforts to an ad agency that can’t solve its own branding issues?

May 03, 2007

What’s Next for Zingerman’s Deli?

I’ve never been fortunate enough to experience Zingerman’s Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, MI. (Read a lot about this company to know I admire it though. It’s a classic small company that acts big.)

Zingerman’s purposely decided not to franchise its renowned deli restaurant and take it from being local to being global. Instead, Zingerman’s decided to grow itself by adding additional stand-alone businesses like a coffee company, a barbeque restaurant, a bakery, and a customer service training company.

Zingerman’s is now turning 25 years old and at yet another crossroads in its existence. Zingerman’s first crossroads came fifteen years ago when it began asking the difficult question of what it wanted to be when it grew up. Well … with $30-million dollars in sales and its operation of eight distinct businesses, Zingerman’s is all grown up now. So now, Zingerman’s is again asking questions about what it wants to be when it grows up yet again.

Learn more about what’s next for Zingerman’s from this worthwhile New York Times aticle (May 3, 2007). And, re-learn the story about how Zingerman’s first answered the question of what it wanted to be when it grew up from this vintage Inc. Magazine article (January 2003).