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May 22, 2011

Bringing Sexy Back to Offline WOM

[image designed by the kiddos at Brains on Fire]

At the 2011 WOMMA School of WOM Conference, Geno Church and I gave a presentation titled, “Bringing SEXY Back to Offline Word of Mouth.” It was less a presentation and more a RANT about the importance of not losing focus on real world marketing ideas that can spark customer-driven conversations.

Unfortunately, it’s become decidedly unsexy to talk about anything word of mouth marketing-related that doesn’t involve Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or scores of other social media thingamajigs.

Geno and I went true school by sharing strategies and ideas for how businesses can spark conversations with customers all day every day in the offline REAL world. (For all those social media experts and practitioners who steadfastly contend social media solves every marketing problem, keep in perspective that 93% of retail sales in America happen offline.)

The following 425 words express some of the key points I made during my 15-minute RANT at the school of WOM. (These words first appeared in a recent CrackerJack Marketer newsletter. Missed it? Rectify it.)

Touchpoints as Talking Points

The best word of mouth isn’t a marketing tactic. It isn’t a tweet, a status update, a viral video, or anything else you can find or do on a social media website. The best word of mouth isn’t a publicity stunt or anything done to get some buzz for a day. The best word of mouth is how a business does business not just one day, but every day it is in business.

The word BUZZ needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary. Buzz is exclamation point marketing. It’s a one hit wonder. It’s one and done. Big bang one day, nothing the next day. Too many marketers are relying on the Big Bang Theory to get people talking.

And too many marketers are living for The DOT and not The LINE.

The DOT being a “One Day Big Bang” approach to getting people talking. The LINE being an “All Day Every Day” way to becoming a talkable brand.

The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 business is 14,600 days and the average life span of a small business is 3,100 days. Clearly, a business is not in business for just one day; it is in business for a series of days — a line.

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to give consumers reasons to talk about brands, products, and services not just for one day... but rather, for a series of days.

To create a talkable brand, we must earn opinions from customers at every touchpoint. Anything a customer can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is a touchpoint. Customer touchpoints are EVERYWHERE which means word of mouth opportunities are everywhere.

For example, any restaurant that uses a “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign from a restaurant supply catalog has given up on being talkable. This sign is one of the first customer touchpoints someone will experience inside a restaurant. It’s the perfect opportunity to showcase a company’s unique personality by creating a custom sign that expresses the uniqueness of the restaurant.

Starbucks has long practiced the idea of giving people reasons to talk by earning opinions from customers at every touchpoint. One of the simplest ways Starbucks earns opinions from customers is by deliberating calling their drink sizes Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti. The easiest (and least talkable) decision would be to use Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large as their drink sizes. But there’s nothing interesting in the mundane.

The most talkable brands take common customer touchpoints and make them uncommon... uncommonly talkable. What touchpoints can your business make interesting to get customers interested?

May 08, 2011

Presenting Smartly | part three

Here’s another lesson about delivering standout presentations from stand-up comics as first seen in HBO’s TALKING FUNNY television show.

Highly successful presenters, like highly successful comics, deeply understand how to affect an audience. The more successful a presenter becomes, they more they know how to say the right things in the right ways to make a connection with their audience.

I’ve seen some very polished presenters make a connection with their audience but the presenter isn’t connected to their own material. In other words, the presenter doesn’t believe in their material but because they understand how to tell a story on-stage, the audience is still affected in a positive way.

These polished presenters make a fabulous living. Give them a topic. Give them stage time. Give them an audience. And, watch them go. They are highly skilled and highly compensated communicators. But have they lost something?

Ricky Gervais touched upon this issue in TALKING FUNNY when he shared, “It’s not just being funny. It’s being proud of your stuff and doing things that other people couldn’t do.


For presenters, it’s important to be proud of your material. It’s also important to craft your presentation point-of-view that is distinctly you. But it’s most important for you, as a presenter, to speak on topics you are uniquely qualified to talk about.

If you aren’t uniquely qualified to talk about a topic, I urge you to refer someone you know who is qualified to talk about that topic.

From time to time I get asked to give a presentation on an issue/subject I’m not passionate about. These are topics that aren’t important to me but they are important to someone else. Thus, I refer someone who is proud of their unique point-of-view on a topic and who can deliver a killer presentation.

You might be able to positively affect an audience talking about something that isn’t important to you. However, I’m certain someone else you know would be better suited to give that presentation. Consider spreading some love and refer someone you know who could deliver a standout presentation on a topic you aren’t passionate about.

May 02, 2011

Presenting Smartly | part two

We continue sharing presentation lessons from comedians. These lessons were discussed during HBO’s TALKING FUNNY roundtable conversation between master comics Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.


To develop his comedy act, Louis CK would, “Take my closing bit and open with it. Because then I had to follow my strongest bit.”

That’s smart advice for anyone presenting anything. If you’re giving a presentation, lead with your best material. If you’re pitching a client, lead with your best work and best rationale. If you’re debating someone, lead with your best argument.

By leading with your best material, you will challenge yourself to make sure the rest of your presentation can compare to your strong opening. If the rest of your material can’t compare to your opening bit, then you need to rework and rethink your presentation points.

I can relate to this advice. For my Bigness of Smallness presentation, I lead with my best stuff. Early on, I struggled to make sure everything else that followed my opener was strong enough to keep the audience’s attention. After a few years and continuous honing, my follow-up material has become strong enough to work alongside my opening bit.

Back to conversation from TALKING FUNNY... when Louis C.K. told the others he developed his act by moving his strong close to the opener in order to challenge himself, Jerry Seinfeld said, “You see, that’s how he got good.”

You wanna get good at presenting just like Louis C.K. got good at stand-up comedy?

Try opening with your strongest material and then challenge yourself to develop material worthy of following your great opening bit.

April 28, 2011

The $4,000 Webinar* | May 18

The first CrackerJack Marketer webinar is scheduled for May 18 at 11:00cst. (For those CrackerJacks on the email list, you’ve already been clued in.) For those of you not on the list, you're just now hearing we’re charging an unheard of $4,000* for the webinar.

Why so much?

Because $4,000 is closer to the real value of the information Paul Williams and I are going to share about how a retail business can become a Talkable Brand.

*However, since $4,000 is a ridiculous amount to spend for a 60-minute webinar... we’re giving a massive 99.9% discount when you use the not so secret password of: CRACKERJACK.

That knocks down the price to a reasonable $40.00.

But wait, there’s more... as in, more information about the CrackerJack Marketer webinar.


Becoming a Talkable Brand:
How Customer Touchpoints Lead to Customer Talking Points

The most endearing and enduring retailers connect with customers in the most surprisingly meaningful ways. Most of these ways are invisible to the consumer’s eye. (But not to a CrackerJack Marketer’s eye.) The smartest marketers understand any and every place a customer can “touch” a company is an opportunity to spark conversations and form connections with customers.

Expect a fast-paced webinar loaded with examples galore of actionable best practice advice on how to engage and encourage customers to tell others about brands they find talkable.

Key takeaways from this webinar will include:

  • Marketers don’t decide what gets talked about, customers decide.
  • Long-lasting word of mouth is more about living a company’s culture every day than delivering upon a heavy-up marketing plan.
  • Every employee is actually a member of the marketing department.
  • Plus, oodles of ideas on making word of mouth happen to spark conversations leading to higher sales.

Cost:$4,000* (MEGA discount available. Read below.)
Date:Wednesday, May 18
Time:11:00 AM - 12:00 PM (central)
Registration:Click To Register!
* Use this discount code: CRACKERJACK and receive a 99.9% discount and pay only $40.00
All attendees will receive a detailed PDF summary of the webinar as well as a boost in confidence.

April 26, 2011

Presenting Smartly | part one

Presenters can learn a lot from comedians on developing a better act. The process in how a presenter crafts, develops, and delivers a presentation is much the same in how a comedian puts together their act.

Presenters and comedians have much in common.

Presenters, like comedians, must share a unique point-of-view. Presenters must also share their unique point-of-view in a smart way, just as comedians must do. Good presenters and good comedians utilize the power of timing and pauses in their delivery. The very best presenters and comedians go the extra mile by managing to give the illusion of their on-stage performance being a dialogue and not a monologue.

Last fall I delivered a presentation sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned from comedians to hone my act. I put the slides up (without narration but with stand-up clips) as an online video. You can watch it here or click play below.

I’m always on the lookout for more lessons from comedians to help me improve as a presenter. HBO recently aired a program called, TALKING FUNNY. It’s a roundtable discussion between master comics Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K.

It’s brilliant. It’s a must watch for anyone in the presentation game.

These comics address so many issues presenters deal with in developing an act, relating to the audience, and finding the funny. Or in our case, finding the pithy, poignant takeaways for attendees to be influenced and inspired by.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing some of the many smart comedy lessons discussed in TALKING FUNNY. I’ll help to translate the comedy lessons into practical presentation lessons.

For example, there’s a discussion between these master comics about how long should a comedian keep the same material in their act. We presenters face the same issue... how long should we continue using the same slides with the same takeaways?

Chris Rock and Louis C.K. throw away their act every year. Meaning, they start from scratch every year and develop an entirely new act.

Jerry Seinfeld takes a different approach. He evolves his act over a long period of time. Jerry knows the first month he starts telling a joke it’s not going to go over as well as it will six months later, when he’s practiced and refined the bit.

In explaining his approach to crafting his act, Jerry relates it to a people management philosophy from legendary ceo Jack Welch: “I like to keep evolving … like how Jack Welch ran GE. Every year he would fire the bottom 10-percent. That’s the way I do it.


Yes, you read that right.

Jerry Seinfeld applies the Jack Welch 20/70/10 rule to his comedy act. Makes complete sense. Keep the great jokes (the 20%). Continue working on the average stuff (70%) until they become great jokes. And dump the bad jokes (10%) that have no potential to become great jokes.

Turns out, I’ve been using the 20/70/10 rule with crafting my presentations. 20% of my act is proven evergreen material. 70% of my presentations use newer examples with less practiced material. Some of that will become proven, evergreen material and some of it will be destined for the dumpster. And yes, 10% of my presentation material should be put in the dumpster today.

The point is, like Jerry, I cycle through my material. All of us presenters should cycle through our material. Some of us will be more like Chris Rock and Louis C.K. and start from scratch after cycling through all our material within a year. Others of us will be more like Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais and cycle through all our presentation material after a few years.

Expect more “Presently Smartly” lessons on the Brand Autopsy blog from HBO’s TALKING FUNNY roundtable discussion with master comics.

April 24, 2011

Eulogizing My Sister


I’ve had some challenging speaking gigs but none more challenging than eulogizing my oldest sister, Lana.

Melana Love Moore Eaves passed away on April 19, 2011. After a prolonged ordeal, her kidneys gave out. She was 47.

I knew this would be a very difficult talk to give.

No more than four minutes. That’s all the time I had to deliver my words. Not nearly enough time to capture the essence of Lana.

As I drove up to Dallas I began to string together something authentic and affecting in my mind. Tears gently rolled down my face as I began stringing together my words.

On Saturday morning I rehearsed my words. I felt confident in delivering an authentic and affecting eulogy.

That confidence waned as I entered the modestly appropriate chapel on Saturday afternoon.

I was overcome with more emotion than I thought. A slideshow of photos spanning Lana’s life brought me to tears. I thought there is no way I will be able to get through my short talk without losing it.

(I prayed for help.)

The service started and this simple video played of my Mother talking about her firstborn daughter, Lana. (Keep in my mind, no one at the funeral had heard my Mother’s voice for several years because she passed away in 2007 from ALS.)

Lolly, Lana’s long-time friend, spoke first. Her talk was from the heart and closed with reciting lyrics from an 80's TV sitcom we all know. So fitting. So lovely. So Lana.

Steve spoke next. (Steve married Lana to her husband, Denny Eaves, in 2008.) He shared Lana’s connection with Christ and ended with reciting verses from Ecclesiastes.

Next was my turn.

Doing my best to keep my composure, I walked behind the podium. Paused. Breathed. And spoke...

I didn’t really know my sister. I knew of my sister more than I knew my sister.

There are many reasons for this.

One reason is age.
When Lana graduated from High School, I had yet to enter Junior High.
There was just too much of a difference in age for me to know my sister.

Another reason is Lana had another family she belonged to ... her family of friends.
Lana chose to spend a lot time with her family of friends.

What I knew of my sister is she always had good intentions.
She meant well.
She wanted to be good to others.

I felt her good intentions when I was in the sixth grade.
One morning I awoke to find Lana at the foot of my bed.
She wanted to be the one to tell me some horrible news.
She wanted to be my big sister and be the one to tell me a friend of mine had committed suicide.

That was Lana’s good intentions in action.

Many, many years passed.
Many Holiday family gatherings passed ... some Lana spent with us and some Lana spent with her other family.

In 2005 I felt very distant to Lana.
So I called her.
Asked her to meet me for lunch.
We talked.
We talked for the first time since I don’t know when.
That felt good.
She better understood my life and I better understood her life.
It was good to reconnect with my sister.

If there is any moral to this story it is to reconnect with someone who you’ve lost touch with.

Call them.
Invite them to lunch.
And talk.
I’m sure they will appreciate your good intentions.

{PAUSE ... BREATHE ... hold up the scrapbook}
My mother kept a detailed scrapbook during Lana’s early years.

Every little thing was noted and dated.

The day Lana first crawled. Noted and dated.

Lana’s first syllables, "Da-Da." {Look at Dad.} Noted and dated.

And Lana’s first sentence was noted and dated.

Two weeks before her second birthday, my Mother noted that Lana said, “I want to go home, Mommy.”

We’re about two weeks before Lana’s next birthday ... “Mommy, she’s home.”

After the service, we met with family and friends in the receiving line. While I managed to not to lose it while delivering my eulogy, I lost it in the receiving line.

Unbeknownst to me, the mother and sister of my childhood friend who committed suicide were in attendance. When they reached me in the receiving line, I lost it. I cried uncontrollably. I also hugged both of them uncontrollably. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a big-time hugger. Thank you Sherry and Shannon for being there.

And thank you Lana for being my big sister. Although you lived a short life, you’ve taught me life-long lessons. Give Mom an uncontrollable hug from her youngest son.

April 14, 2011

The Blessing of Simplicity

I recently happened upon a social media tip from an obviously knowledgeable person. Problem was, he had too much knowledge. “Too much knowledge, how could that be bad?,” you ask.

Too much knowledge becomes bad when it becomes a curse that prevents smart people from sharing smart advice that less knowledgeable people can understand. Case in point, this social media tip found online:

"Use the friendship paradox to identify the social brokers at opaque target markets. Identifying people closer to the center of the social graph delivers higher ROI when evangelizing.” [name withheld to protect the guilty]

Obviously, this social media expert has lots of knowledge. He unfortunately suffers from the "Curse of Knowledge."

Chip and Dan Heath wrote about the Curse of Knowledge in MADE TO STICK. Here’s how they explained it,

Here’s the great cruelty of the Curse of Knowledge: The better we get at generating great ideas—new insights and novel solutions—in our field of expertise, the more unnatural it becomes for us to communicate those ideas clearly. That’s why knowledge is a curse. But notice we said ‘unnatural,’ not ‘impossible.’ Experts just need to devote a little time to applying the basic principles of stickiness.

The antidote to the “Curse of Knowledge” is the Blessing of Simplicity. Using simple, easy-to-understand words will make you look smarter because you’ve communicated your complex advice in an easy-to-digest way.

Don’t confuse simple words with dumbing something down. It’s actually harder to use simple, jargon-free words than it is to use supposedly smart and knowledgeable words.

For example, here’s another social media tip I found online that probably says the same thing the “friendship paradox” quote was trying to say,

Remember that this is social. Don’t approach it as an opportunity to sell, sell, sell. It’s about building relationships and trust – things that take time and come from reliable and repeatable actions. Treat social media just as you would a social function in real life.” [name withheld to not make the guilty guy look guiltier]

Ahh ... much easier to understand.

April 10, 2011

ONWARD | Howard Schultz

NOTE: To understand my Starbucks bias, scroll to read my disclosure statement.

OnwardI can’t recommend Howard Schultz’s book, ONWARD: How Starbucks fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul, to every business book reader. I can only recommend Howard book chronicling his second go-round as Starbucks ceo to about 250,000 people.

ONWARD will only appeal to the current 200,000 Starbucks employees, thousands of ex-employees, thousands of wannabe employees, analysts working on Wall Street, and a handful of Starbucks customer zealots.

ONWARD has such focused appeal because it’s all inside baseball stuff. Howard positions too many insignificant details as earth-shattering business defining decisions. The only people who can fully appreciate and understand the minutia Howard writes about are those 250,000 people whose jobs are linked to Starbucks or whose lives are fanatically linked to Starbucks.

For example, Howard spends time writing about the switchover from the old automatic espresso machines to the new automatic espresso machines. He waxes poetically about giving Starbucks baristas “world-class technology at their fingertips.” And he agonizes about finding the opportune time to “announce the Mastrena to the marketplace [Wall Street].” Palpable stuff for those closest to Starbucks and not really for anyone else.

Another palpable moment in the transformation story of Starbucks detailed by Howard is the decision to remove heated sandwiches from the stores. Howard felt, and rightfully so, the smell of burnt cheese overtook the smell of coffee in the stores. So we, the reader, get to learn all the details about Howard being conflicted in removing the sandwiches because sales would suffer and Wall Street wouldn’t be happy.

We also get to learn the nitty gritty in how Starbucks cracked the code on serving heated sandwiches without overtaking the smell of coffee. Turns out, according to Howard, “... by moving the cheese to the top of the sandwich and lowering the baking temperature to about 300º F, the cheese was less likely to burn. The result was, I had to admit, a breakfast offering that was worthy of our coffee.”

Now do you understand the limited appeal of this book? This is all great stuff for Starbucks employees to know and for prospective employees to be aware of, but not necessarily anything anyone else would be remotely interested in.

AWWARD_cover Besides the book’s focused appeal, ONWARD has many AWKWARD moments. One such awkward moment is where Howard refers to himself, multiple times, as the founder of Starbucks. (Jerry Baldwin, Zev Seigal, and Gorden Bowker might have something to say about that.)

Another awkward ONWARD moment deals with Starbucks positioning its lighter-taste profile coffee, Pike Place Roast, as “... nothing less than our reinvention of brewed coffee.” Howard writes, “For customers, Pike Place Roast ushered back in some of what had been missing in our coffee experience. Aroma. Freshness. A little theater. And... Pike Place would be proof that the company was actively reclaiming its coffee authority.”

Most people I talk to and the Starbucks employees I’ve talked with have a different opinion about Pike Place Roast. It’s lacks the bold flavor Starbucks built its coffee reputation on and in no way, can this every day coffee be viewed as reinventing brewed coffee. It’s simply a coffee that tastes more like coffee people can expect from Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s. Howard even admits Pike Place Roast is “... a bit light for [his] personal preference.”

Perhaps the most awkward moment is the many times Howard derides how Wall Street measures the success of a company based upon short-term financial figures. Yet, Howard essentially claims victory in transforming the company because in fiscal 2010, financials for the company were at an all-time from revenue to operating income to operating margin. It’s too early and born of too much hubris to proclaim victory.

Awkward moments aside, there are many VANGUARD moments in ONWARD where Howard shares smart, thought-leading business advice for entrepreneurs, marketing managers, and business owners/operators. However, these vanguard moments are hidden deep inside in the 330+ pages of overly dramatized details.

I’ve collected ten VANGUARD moments in this SlideShare presentation. Along with the smart business advice snippets, I’ve added in some audio commentary to explain why that moment is a VANGUARD moment. Click the play button to view the slides and hear my commentary. Enjoy...

AUDIO INSIDE | click the play button below

DISCLOSURE: I am a biased reviewer of anything Starbucks. Why? I worked there for eight years a marketer in the mid-90s and early 2000s. I wrote a book sharing some of the fundamental business and branding principles Starbucks followed to become an iconic brand. The consulting advice I pass along to businesses is steeped deep with my knowledge of how Starbucks became a beloved brand. I also know too many of the long-time Starbucks employees who were laid off during the bad times. My perspective is influenced because of my experience but my opinions are also shaped by now having an outsider’s view of Starbucks. (Also, while I receive many business books from publicists and publishers, I bought my copy of ONWARD.)

UPDATE: I received a free copy of ONWARD from a publicist. It has been donated to the Austin Public Library.

April 04, 2011

Introducing: CrackerJack Marketer


Not too long ago, in a business galaxy not too far away... Paul Williams and I were retail marketing managers at Starbucks Coffee. Our hands were always dirty working in the trenches designing and implementing marketing programs to acquire new customers and to get current customers to buy more, more often—standard retail marketing activities.

Since my days at Starbucks, I’ve spent time at Whole Foods Market as a national retail marketing director and more recently as a one-man marketing advice shop with Brand Autopsy.

Paul has spent his post Starbucks days building out his Idea Sandbox brainstorming business helping clients generate remarkable marketing ideas.

Over the years Paul and I have kept in touch and have worked together on a few retail marketing projects. The work we’ve done has been top-notch and we’ve had fun doing it. So much fun that we’ve decided to create an offshoot business to help you become a really good marketer... a CrackerJack Marketer.


The CrackerJack Marketer business is being setup to share lessons we’ve learned about the retail marketing game. Everything we’re doing with CrackerJack Marketer is to help marketing managers and retail business owners better solve for acquiring new customers and getting current customers to buy more, more often.

Learn more by watching this homemade video...

The simplest way for you to participate is through signing up to receive the CrackerJack Marketer email newsletter. Each month you’ll receive a strong dose of retail marketing knowhow packaged in an easily digestible email. For signing up, you’ll immediately receive a .pdf of our Ten Timeless Tips for Marketing Career Success. The cost is only your permission and your time.

Another easy way to participate is follow the CrackerJack Marketer website. Every week, Paul and I will give two answers and two perspectives to relevant marketing questions like: How best should a Brand Style guide be designed? ... Is a sports sponsorship with the expense? ... Is sampling the best way to drive trial of a new product? All totally free marketing advice.

We’ll also be doing monthly CrackerJack Marketer webinars (beginning in May). Topics for these webinars will be timely like “When and How to Use Groupon to Boost Sales” and timeless like, “Designing Effective Customer Loyalty Programs.” There’ll be a charge for these webinars but the payoff from attending and learning will be large.

With CrackerJack Marketer, we’re also offering various tiers of consulting services. Learn more here.

The Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice will continue, just as Paul’s Idea Sandbox business will also continue. We’re just adding on a new way to work with businesses by focusing our advice solely on the retail marketing game with CrackerJack Marketer. Come along for the ride...

March 31, 2011

Solving Starbucks Problems | March 2007

The Brand Autopsy Archive Project
1,400 posts since December of 2003. That’s a lot of HMOs (hot marketing opinions) served up on the Brand Autopsy blog. For this week, we’re going to revisit five vintage posts from the Brand Autopsy Archives. Enjoy...

BACKSTORY | April 1, 2011
Howard Schultz is doing a full throttle media junket tour promoting his book on how Starbucks rediscovered its soul, reinvigorated its financial footing, and reengineered its growth engine. The book is titled ONWARD and this has me looking backward to when Paul Williams and I offered Starbucks some tough love on how to solve its growing problems.

In a ping-pong series of posts in March of 2007, Paul and I, both former Starbucks marketers, were responding to Howard Schultz’s leaked internal memo where he admitted that Starbucks has “… had to make a series of decisions that, in retrospect, have lead to the watering down of the Starbucks experience, and, some might call the commoditization of our [Starbucks] brand.”

With the publication of ONWARD, this five-part (with 10 posts) series has been given new relevance. Re-read, or read for the first time, the laundry list of strategies and tactics Paul and I believe Starbucks could’ve implemented to become the company Howard’s book says it has transformed into being.


We began by addressing the LOSS OF COFFEE THEATRE issue:
Paul analyzed the switchover from the La Marzocco espresso machine to the Verisimo automatic machine and offered up tactical ideas Starbucks can use to course-correct itself back to espresso authenticity. I riffed off Paul’s post and added the idea Starbucks needs to give permission to store partners to showcase their flair and personality while on the bar in order bring some of the coffee theatre back.
Next on our list was the LOSS OF COFFEE AROMA issue:
I explain in detail how “operational efficiencies” (not Flavorlock packaging) have led to Starbucks stores no longer smelling of coffee. I offer the quick-fix solution of finding ways to grind coffee in-store again. Paul disagrees with my exoneration of Flavorlock packaging and he smartly offers up the idea of implementing an “Aroma First” rule. This “Aroma First” rule would have Starbucks making in-store decisions based upon how any proposed activity would impact the aroma of coffee inside a Starbucks.
We also addressed the LOSS OF STORE SOUL issue:
Paul breaks down what it means to be a Mom & Pop shop and gives specific ideas on how Starbucks store design should stop being all things to all people at all its stores. I offer up thoughts on how Starbucks should give more control to its stores to run store-specific marketing programs and post store-specific marketing signage.
We touched upon the LOSS OF MERCHANDISE focus:
I explain how Bearista Bears and Finger Puppets sell very well, but it a great cost to the brand. As a solution, I propose Starbucks ask itself two questions to ensure its merchandise focus: (#1) Does the product link directly to coffee? If yes, sell it. If no, don’t. (#2) Does the quality of this product match the high-quality of Starbucks coffee. If yes, sell it. If no, don’t. Paul adds-on and modifies my two questions by asking if the merchandise links directly to either the preparation, consumption, and/or enjoyment of coffee. He closes his thoughts by expressing just because Starbucks can sell music, DVDs, and plush toys doesn’t mean they should.
We close by addressing the LOSS OF IDENTITY issue:
Paul likens Starbucks returning to its core to restoring antique furniture to its core, original finish. He also brilliantly points out Starbucks needs LESS INNOVATION and MORE EXPLORATION. Starbucks didn’t invent coffee, it explored the world of coffee and brought interesting flavors to its customers. Paul says Starbucks should concern itself with digging deeper into the world of coffee and uncover exotic coffee concoctions and share them. I take the IDENTITY conversation in a different direction and explain how Starbucks needs to standup to the bullies working on Wall Street by pruning all of its unhealthy growth in order to rejuvenate its soul and refertilize its reason for existing.

March 30, 2011

The Domino’s Theory to Keeping Employees

The Brand Autopsy Archive Project
1,400 posts since December of 2003. That’s a lot of HMOs (hot marketing opinions) served up on the Brand Autopsy blog. For this week, we’re going to revisit five vintage posts from the Brand Autopsy Archives. Enjoy...

BACKSTORY | March 31, 2011
Summarizing business books and articles has been a mainstay on the Brand Autopsy blog. The archives go deep with Interesting Articles and Business Book Musings. Years ago, I stumbled upon an article from the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 17, 2005) about Domino’s Pizza store manager hiring strategies worthwhile because it explains the important role store managers play in reducing front-line employee turnover. It’s also interesting because Domino’s learned that paying employees more money is futile when the company culture doesn’t pay enough attention to the employee experience. Retailers of any size and retail marketers from any company can learn something about attracting and retaining great employees from this article.

Originally posted on March 14, 2005

DominosHigh employee turnover rates not only compromise service to customers, it can also hurt a business financially. It costs a business like Domino’s Pizza $2,500 to train every new entry-level worker and in upwards of $20,000 to train a new store manager. And when you hire 180,000 workers a year, like Domino's was doing in the late 90s, we're talking huge financial costs.

So when David Brandon was named Domino’s CEO in 1999, he went on a crusade to reduce Domino’s 158% employee turnover rate. Brandon’s crusade has been a success. These days, Domino’s employee turnover rate hovers around an impressive 107%.

In reducing its employee turnover rate, Domino’s choose not to go the conventional path of paying workers more money. As Brandon put it, “If we had increased everybody’s pay 20%, could have moved the needle a little bit to buy a little loyalty? Maybe, but that’s not a long-term solution.” He went on to say, “… you can’t overcome a bad culture by paying people a few bucks more.”

Instead, Domino's chose to focus on retaining store managers more than store employees to reduce staff turnover. It is Domino's experience when store managers churn at high rates, it has a tremendous negative effect with store-level employee turnover rates.

So the Domino’s Theory to Keeping Employees is about ensuring store managers are (a) of better quality, (b) have better tools, and (c) are better incentivized.

(a) Hire Better Quality Store Managers
According to research commissioned by Dominos, the critical success factor of a Domino’s store is not location, location, location ... but rather ... store manager selection, selection, selection. One way Domino's selects better store managers is to have each candidate undergo an online test to measure their financial acumen and people management style.

(b) Give Store Managers Better Tools
Each Domino’s store has an in-store computerized tracking program which details store sales figures down to the employee level with stats like average order size per employee and the time it takes to get a pizza order out the door. These tools help Domino’s managers to better track their star performers and challenged performers.

(c) More Meaningfully Incentify Store Managers
Besides giving profit-based bonuses, Domino’s also doles out stock options to top-performing managers based upon customer service measurements and store sales growth gains.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal | To Keep Employees, Domino's Decides It's Not All About Pay | Feb. 17, 2005

March 29, 2011

What Ries Doesn’t Get About Execution

The Brand Autopsy Archive Project
1,400 posts since December of 2003. That’s a lot of HMOs (hot marketing opinions) served up on the Brand Autopsy blog. For this week, we’re going to revisit five vintage posts from the Brand Autopsy Archives. Enjoy...

BACKSTORY | March 29, 2011
I’m a big fan of Al Ries. He co-wrote POSITIONING with Jack Trout in 1980 and its become a bedrock marketing strategy book. His recent Ad Age articles about branding in the today’s social media world and the dangers of discounting are spot-on. However, I disagreed with Al’s article from March 7, 2005 saying, “Marketing is 90% strategy and 10% execution.” The following post explains the importance of execution in making retail magic happen.

Originally posted on March 8, 2005

There’s been some blog chatter on Al Ries’ latest Ad Age article, “What CEOs Just Don’t Get About Marketing.”

I think Ries’ penchant for hyperbole is overshadowing the crux of his argument that good execution of a bad marketing strategy will not deliver exceptional results.

However, I can’t blame anyone for jumping all over him when he writes such blanketed statements like, “Marketing is 90% strategy and 10% execution. With the right name, the right target audience, the right position and the right timing, most marketing programs are bound to work. The difficult part is the 90%. The easy part is the 10%.”

Has Ries undervalued the importance of people (employees) executing a marketing program? Oh yes ... he has grossly undervalued the importance of people making marketing happen.

I just don’t buy his argument that most marketing programs are bound to work if the right name, right audience, right positioning, and right timing are in all place. I also disagree with his statement that the easiest part to a marketing program is the execution.

My experience at Starbucks Coffee and Whole Foods Market tells me marketing is more like 35% strategy and 65% execution. A so-so marketing strategy can deliver exceptional results if those responsible for executing it are informed and inspired to make retail magic happen. The real trick is how best to solve for informing and inspiring customer-facing employees to make retail magic happen.

Brand Examiner Paul and I wrote about one such way we solved for informing and inspiring Starbucks partners to make retail magic happen in a Fast Company blog posting from December of 2003. Click here to read about Blended Beverage Bingo.

So … from your experience, what % of marketing is strategy and what % is execution? Is it 90/10 or is it more 35/65?

March 28, 2011

Competing for Share of Consciousness

The Brand Autopsy Archive Project
1,400 posts since December of 2003. That’s a lot of HMOs (hot marketing opinions) served up on the Brand Autopsy blog. For this week, we’re going to revisit five vintage posts from the Brand Autopsy Archives. Enjoy...

BACKSTORY | March 28, 2011
I remember being homesick in March of 2004. It was just a few months after I had moved from Seattle to Austin to work with Whole Foods Market. Luckily, work travels brought me back home to Seattle. I stuck around a few extra days to visit some old haunts and finally got around to reading the excellent book, THE VISIONARY’S HANDBOOK. This post shares one of the many thought-provoking paradoxes that every marketer at a growth company should read and be inspired to think/act differently.

Originally posted on March 24, 2004

While on vacation in Seattle, I’m taking time to catch up on some reading and some thinking. Currently, I’m chewing on the paradoxical wisdom written by Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor in The Visionary’s Handbook. (Admittedly, I am a laggard in reading this book as it was first published in 2000. I really hate being a laggard!)

In one chapter, the authors talk about competing for "Share of Consciousness" with consumers.

“To win consciousness share, the message has to tie to the product to the experiences of the consumers you want to reach, so it can enter the full dimensionality of their lives. The message can’t just celebrate the product – products are everywhere.

You can also create consciousness share by never forgetting that all great consumers – the ones who set markets and launch new product lines – are acutely aware of themselves as markets of one. Fail to win a share of their attention by being innovative at the same time you are pursuing a share of the larger market consciousness, and you’ll be sacrificing the future for the present.

The largest percentage of the market you are ever going to attract occurs at the very moment you begin to lose the customer who made it happen.”

All marketers working for companies that are in full throttle growth mode should re-read and "chew" on this statement again: “The largest percentage of the market you are ever going to attract occurs at the very moment you begin to lose the customer who made it happen.”

WHOA!!! That is a “chewy” statement.

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

February 14, 2011

The Power of a Visual | Starbucks Trenta

Short. Tall. Grande. Venti. And now, Trenta. Starbucks is introducing a 31-ounce cold cup. It’s a ridiculously large size. However, Starbucks would be ridiculous if they didn’t take advantage of a profit-rich upsell opportunity. Right? Ultimately it’s customers who will decide whether or not this is a ridiculous success (or failure). I’m betting customers will decide this is a good thing.

To better understand just how HUGE the Trenta size is, Rob Cockerham has a powerful visual. No explanation is needed. This 40-second visual says everything...

Hat tip to @NealStewart

February 07, 2011

The WOM Opportunity Grid

As part of my project work with The Keller Fay Group, I have access to interesting word of mouth (WOM) data on the brands and product categories Americans talk about.

To coincide with the Super Bowl advertising game, Keller Fay plotted out a 2x2 "WOM Opportunity Grid" showing the talkability of product categories. This grid is divided into four quadrants pinpointing which product/service categories are the most mentioned in brand-related conversations happening in America. This grid also layers on where marketers can find the highest concentration of Conversation Catalysts(TM), those Americans who disproportionately drive word of mouth conversations about brands.


The WOM Opportunity sweet spot is clearly in the upper right-hand quadrant where brands in conversational product/service categories get mentioned the most by all Americans and where the highest concentration of Conversation Catalysts(TM) exist. Brands in talkative categories where high levels of influential customers are engaged in conversations, stand the best chance to capitalize on the word of mouth opportunity.

Conversely, the WOM Opportunity sour spot is in the lower left-hand quadrant where fewer brands get mentioned in less conversational product/service categories and where fewer influential consumers exist.

To tie this back to Super Bowl advertising, I had Keller Fay pinpoint where the major product/service categories fall on their WOM Opportunity Grid. >> LEARN MORE

February 03, 2011

Super Simple Social Media Policy

I am not a social media marketing expert. I’m a retail marketer who believes in using really good marketing to connect with customers. That explained, I heard some great advice on creating a super simple Social Media Policy while attending the Blogwell Austin event on Feb. 2.

Andy Sernovitz, CEO at the Social Media Business Council, reminded us of the juvenile sexual innuendo joke where you add “... in bed” at the end of a fortune cookie saying. For example...


That’s funny. It’s also a useful idea, says Andy, to borrow when writing up a company Social Media Policy.

Most businesses, especially big businesses, have corporate conduct guidelines explaining how to behave when on the job. Most, if not all, of these guidelines can be used as the basis for a super simple Social Media Policy. All one has to do is add “... online” at the end of each conduct guideline statement. For example...






Of course, adding “... online” to a company’s existing corporate conduct guideline policy does not cover everything a business needs to concern itself with when designing its Social Media Policy. However, it probably covers most things.

For a much deeper dive into designing a Social Media Policy check out WOMMA’s resources and the resources from

February 01, 2011

Most Talkable vs. Most Valuable Sports Teams

In my post sharing Keller Fay Group data on the Most Talked about Sports Teams in America, Chris Navitimer asked a great question in the comments, “Does most talked about [sports team] automatically lead to [making the] most money?


Forbes Magazine routinely runs a report of the Most Valuable Sports Franchises based upon revenues, operating income, and stadium deals. While that report doesn’t measure profitability, it does give us a look into how financially valuable sports franchises are.

I took a few minutes to compare the Most Talkable Sports Teams in America with the Most Valuable Sports Teams in America.


The New York Jets were the most talked about team in 2010 and they are one of the most valuable teams as well. The Dallas Cowboys talkable value is nearly the same as their financial value. While the Indianapolis Colts and the Los Angeles Lakers both are highly talkable, that doesn’t translate well into their financial value.

Conversely, the New York Yankees and New York Giants are highly valuable financially but their talkable value from 2010 doesn’t match their financial worth.

Of course, this comparison between Talkable & Valuable sports teams is more interesting than conclusive because the financial valuations of sports teams are so reliant on the ability of a stadium to generate significant positive cash and on earning money from television properties. Nevertheless, it's an interesting peek into lesser known dimensions of our favorite American sports teams.

January 27, 2011

The Most Talked about Pro Sports Teams in America

As part of my project work with The Keller Fay Group, I'm digging into their archive of research findings and providing insights which marketers can use to better tap into the power of word of mouth. There's a trove of insightful data prime for your picking (and using) on the Keller Fay WOM MATTERS blog. Go ahead, have a look.

Occasionally the word of mouth findings we share are more informational than actionable. For example, Keller Fay ran some of their TalkTrack® data of American’s brand-related word of mouth conversations to determine "The Most Talked about Pro Sports Teams" in 2010. The list is full of surprises.

The first surprise, for some, could be the New York Jets ranked as the most talked about pro sports team by Americans. Given the franchise’s storied history, its loyal fans, the exposure from the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” and the talk worthy cast of characters on the team, it can’t be too surprising the New York Jets were mentioned the most by Americans in 2010.

How about the other teams in the Keller Fay-compiled list of The Most Talked About Pro Teams in America? Where do the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers rank? Given the Lebron James departure to the Miami Heat, do the Heat make the list or do the jilted Cleveland Cavaliers make it instead? Which major league baseball teams make the list? Riffle through this SlideShare presentation to find out…

January 25, 2011

A Lesson on Scale and Compromise


Looks like the Starbucks Petri Dish experiment has ended for 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea. According to reports, Starbucks is returning/rebranding this location to become a Starbucks Coffee, again.

When 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea opened up in July 2009, I was quick to call it a one-off experiment for Starbucks to relearn some of the personal touches it lost due to making so many compromises in order to grow to over 16,000 locations in 50-plus countries around the world. (We’ve gone over all these compromises on past Starbucks postings so read-up if need be.)

One of the comments
in my post about this petri dish experiment didn't understand why Starbucks couldn't scale the 15th Ave. Coffee concept. My response was a short Lesson on Scale and Compromise...

DATE: July 2009
Why Starbucks can't scale its 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea concept...

my original comment:
Starbucks already scaled this [concept] into becoming the Starbucks we know today. Problem with scaling is COMPROMISE. Anytime a business “mass produces” something, compromises occur.

Think of a recipe for homemade cookies. This recipe yields two dozen of the most delicious cookies ever. Scale that recipe to yield 80,000 dozen cookies every day and lots changes. Industrial ovens replace the household oven used. Bulk ingredients replace hand-picked ingredients. Complex systematic procedures insure each cookie is the same diameter, the same weight, the same everything when scale happens. After enough compromises and changes take place from scaling, the taste of the cookie changes. It just doesn’t taste the same.

I bet McDonald’s used to make a very good hamburger. Not today. Scale happened.
I bet Quiznos used to make a very good sandwich. Not today. Scale happened.
I bet Taco Bell used to make a very good taco. Not today. Scale happened.

Very few companies retain its specialness after it decides to scale. At some point, too many compromises are made for the sake of growth and all those nuanced compromises, when added together, result in a product that no longer resembles the original intent. That’s exactly where Starbucks is today. Maybe 15th Ave. Coffee & Tea will teach Starbucks all the compromises they’ve made to grow have truly changed the original intent of the company.

Business Wisdom from Drug Dealers

I recently gave a VSOP ... Very Special One-time Performance ... at the ProductCamp 6 event in Austin, TX.

ProductCamp, like its BarCamp relative, is an unconference gathering of marketers, mainly product marketers, who network and learn from each other. It's a free event but the price of admission is participation by either leading a session, talking shop with others, and or volunteering to make the event run smoothly. I highly recommend you learning more about ProductCamp and definitely participating in one happening near you.

My VSOP for ProductCamp was titled, BUSINESS WISDOM FROM DRUG DEALERS. Long-time Brand Autopsy readers know this is territory I've covered before. Fans of 37signals know its founders recommend emulating drug dealers to find business success. While the topic is oddball, the lessons to be learned from street corner sellers are practical.

No video was taken of my presentation. However, you can re-live this talk by watching the following reenactment. (To recreate this prezo, I recorded one-take audio of me giving color commentary to the slides and to the transitions for the previously recorded video ditties shown during the prezo. Click play and all will make sense.)


>> Direct link to the video
Business Wisdom from Drug Dealers
Before you dismiss this as outlandish and ridiculous – think for a second. To build a successful venture, drug dealers must design their business and develop their products in the same ways legitimate businesses do. Drug dealers, like marketers, must address issues ranging from Launching New Products to Customer Acquisition Strategies to Brand Dilution to Procurement. In this session, you'll learn vital and actionable marketing insights from a most unlikely source, drug dealers.
John Moore is a former "drug" dealer. For eight years he worked as a retail marketer with Starbucks Coffee selling an addictive drug, caffeine. These days, John leads Brand Autopsy, a marketing firm that consults with businesses aspiring to become a beloved brand. USA Today, Best Buy, Kraft, Little Caesars, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association have all benefitted from John's past experience as a "drug" dealer.

January 16, 2011


Long-time readers know I read lots of business books. Over the years I've written reviews, shared "money quotes," and done kooky dramatic readings of interesting business books. In 2011, we're resurrecting the money quotes method of sharing worthwhile snippets.

First up are marketing-related money quotes from the recently published, NOW... BUILD A GREAT BUSINESS from Mark Thompson & Brain Tracy. Nothing in this book is groundbreaking. However, it serves as solid refresher material for owners and managers of emerging/enduring businesses.

For example, on page 21 the authors list vital questions businesses must ask to achieve ongoing success...

Leadership: "What results are expected of you, and what do your people need form you to contribute their full potential to you business?"

Strategic Plan: "What is your plan to generate sales and profitability, and how is it working? Could there be a better way?"

Team Building: "How do you attract and keep great people and inspire them to perform at their best in achieving business results?"

Product: "What are great at building, who are your ideal customers, and what product or service qualities will attract more of them?"

Marketing: "What is your competitive advantage--that factor that makes your product or service superior to anything else available, and how do you convey this message to your potential customers?"

Sales: "What must your potential customers be convinced of so that they want to buy from you rather than your competitor?" [SOURCE]

There are more knowledge nuggets from the book, including some marketing-related advice shared in this slideshare prezo ... enjoy.

[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. I was sent a free copy of NOW... BUILD A GREAT BUSINESS to riffle, read, blog about, or use as kindling. The embedded amazon links are NOT affiliate links. That ain't how I roll, dig?]

January 13, 2011

Thomas Carlyle on Treating People


"You can tell a big man by the way he treats little men." -- Thomas Carlyle

January 11, 2011

What stories really are...


For extra credit, watch Dr. Brown's TEDxHouston talk.

For extra extra credit, read her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

"Stories are just data with a soul." -- Dr. Brené Brown

January 06, 2011

Jack Welch on Competitive Advantage


"If you don't have a competitive advantage, don't compete." -- Jack Welch

January 04, 2011

Really Good Marketing

Why are we complicating the game of marketing by creating distinctions like social media marketing, content marketing, and shopper marketing?

Tactically, things have changed because of technology and consumer cynicism. Fundamentally, though, nothing has changed in the game of endearing a brand/product to a person.

Really good marketing is, was, and will continue to be about getting the right message to the right person at the right time in the right way(s) to deliver the right results.

Really good marketing is Ford using social media to create awareness and preference for the Ford Fiesta.

Really good marketing is Eloqua sharing relevant information with B2B businesses on how to do business better.

Really good marketing is Costco sampling goodies to in-store shoppers to increase sales.

No matter the tactics and tools we use, really good marketing is just that ... really good marketing.


December 31, 2010

Beyond Thinking Different to Doing Different

Originally posted on December 31, 2004

Bruce Mau, a designer, thinker, articulator, and massive change provocateur, has a lot of ideas on a lot of things. His Incomplete Manifesto for Growth is a list, an incomplete one at that, of 43 ideas to get you beyond thinking differently but doing differently.

As 2010 turns to 2011, the message of doing differently is one we should all heed. The first incomplete ideal is featured below. Heed and enjoy.


December 30, 2010

Favorite Posts from 2010

As 2010 turns to 2011, it's time to revisit my favorite Brand Autopsy posts from the past year. Revisiting vintage posts is year-end tradition having started with my favorite posts from 2004 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2008, and 2009.

I began the year giving Starbucks some tough love for over-reaching in measuring the impact of MyStarbucksIdea and closed the year with more tough love for the company because of their ho-hum Starbucks Digital Network.

In the middle of the year I published a business book masquerading as a screenplay with the title of, TOUGH LOVE. This ebook (and paperbook) tells the story of a rags-to-riches entrepreneur who confounds his relentless critics to build a global iconic brand. His fortunes dramatically reverse until he learns life rewarding and business saving advice from unlikely sources. Injected throughout the storyline are breakout business lessons and thought-provoking business advice.

Business books have always received lots of digital ink here. For 2010, I summarized many worthwhile business books in 300 words or less. Biz books getting this treatment included: TRADE-OFF ... PRICELESS ... THE BUSINESS TREE ... FASCINATE ... SUCCESS MADE SIMPLE ... THE MESH ... and RESONATE.

Sir Wilton Norman Chamberlain III was also dusted off for some dreadful dramatic readings of popular business books including LINCHPIN and SWITCH.

We also had some fun with the Tom Peters book, LITTLE BIG THINGS, by doing a slideshare presentation that adheres to the "Peters Principles" of Powerpoint. Additionally, we awarded DIFFERENT and THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO with Novel Piece Prizes.

Throughout the year we got serious with posts like Crisis as a Turning Point and In Between Aspiration and Action. Plus, we shared some thought-provoking quotes from the likes of G.K Chesterton, Gary Hamel, Morris Chang, and Henry Ford.

And we got goofy with the "Haul Video" trend and got silly (but totally serious) with a Fluent Talk on Stuttering.

Thanks for being along for the ride this year. For those who have been riding shotgun with me since 2003, MUCH THANKS for being a long-time reader.

December 28, 2010

2010 Novel Piece Prize for Business Strategy Luminance

The NOVEL PIECE PRIZE award recognizes excellence in business book writing. The first recipient was Youngme Moon. The second recipient is celebrated below...

Why do service firms ranging from ad agencies to consulting businesses to creative professionals succumb to the pitch process of giving away free ideas in order to win new business? This year's recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Business Strategy Luminance answers that question as well as provides a framework for all types of businesses to use in order to profitably gain new business and new customers in the book, THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO.


Blair Enns, business development advisor to marketing communication firms, believes creative professionals have become addicted to the frenzied adrenaline rush of the pitch presentation. According to Enns, this is counter-productive to beginning working relationships with clients because "at a time when we should be conversing, we are instead cloistered away preparing for the one-way conversation called the presentation."

Writing in THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO, Enns derides the practice of service firms giving away free ideas in proposals and presentations to prospective clients as flawed. He equates such an arrangement to that of a doctor and a patient. "A client," writes Enns, "asking for unpaid ideas in a written proposal is like a patient asking for diagnosis and prescription from a doctor he refuses to pay."

Enns contends clients, in many instances, come to service firms with self-diagnosed problems and with surgical procedures already identified to help restore their business health. Unfortunately, Enns says, "[service firms] are far more likely to proceed with such a flawed approach than any medical practitioner." Enns urges services firms to "view the act of prescription without diagnosis for what it is: malpractice."

To orbit the new business pitch process hairball, Enns instructs service firms to develop a "Deep Expertise" by making "The Difficult Business Decision" of choosing a tightly-focused specialty. From there, firms must "articulate that focus via a claim of expertise" and "work to quickly add proof" to the claim. Then, service firms must diligently work to achieve a "true thought leadership position" and use its earned expertise to "trigger in the client the idea that perhaps his performance in a certain area could be improved."

Enns readily admits it isn't always possible to derail the pitch process. In those situations, Enns advises service firms to "gain the inside track" because the "default assumption should be that somebody always has the inside track." According to Enns' strong position, if a service firm cannot derail the pitch process nor gain the inside track, the firm should walk away from the potential business.

The most widely applicable business lesson from THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO involves pricing power. Undifferentiated services firms, like undifferentiated products, have no pricing power because abundant alternatives exist. The simple business rule is: the more crowded a market, the more likely low price becomes the differentiator.

According to Enns, "winning while charging more is the ultimate benefit of effective positioning." The more selective a firm is in what they do (positioning), whom they sell to (prospective clients/customers), and how they deliver services (proof of expertise), the greater pricing power a firm will enjoy.

Please join me in celebrating the work of Blair Enns as the recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Business Strategy Luminance for 2010.

December 23, 2010

Walt Disney on Business Success

A huge hat tip to Drew McLellan for finding and sharing this tasty nugget of business wisdom from Walt Disney...


"Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends." - Walt Disney

December 20, 2010

2010 Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance

Since this blog began in December of 2003, I've awarded and celebrated the best business books from the past year. The Brand Autopsy blog archives include award winners from 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007. (Instead of award winners in 2008, we shared a collection of worthy reads [2008].)

We're changing things up this year with the introduction of a new award to recognize excellence in business book writing. It's called the NOVEL PIECE PRIZE and the first recipient has just been awarded.

The Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice has decided to award the Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance for 2010 to Youngme Moon for her analysis of heterogeneous homogeneity in maturing product markets .


Why do so many businesses focus on eliminating the differences between products in their competitive set rather than accentuating those differences? This year's recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance developed a theory which can be used to answer that question as well as provide strategic guidance to improve the marketing of any product.

Youngme Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, formulated a hypothesis to illuminate the destructive business practice of commoditization. Writing in her seminal book, DIFFERENT: Escaping the Competitive Herd, Youngme, theorizes "the more fierce the competition, the stronger the firm's commitment to differentiation should be." However, as Youngme posits, "companies have gotten so collectively locked into a particular cadence of competition that they appear to have lost sight of their mandate—which is to create meaningful grooves of separation from one another."

Youngme's findings reveal businesses today have become masters of imitation, producing dissimilar product clones resulting in product categories marred by "heterogeneous homogeneity." This herd competitive mentality produces "an explosion of choices, but those choices are meaningless to many of us."

According to Youngme Moon, achieving true differentiation "is rarely a function of well-roundedness; it is typically a function of lopsidedness." Deviance is the difference-maker and continuously approaching decision-making from a lopsided point-of-view will help businesses design products and programs to succeed "in a world where conformity reigns but exceptions rule."

Please join me in celebrating the work of Youngme Moon as the recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Marketing Luminance for 2010.

December 09, 2010

Presentation Rule of Thumb

SOURCE: ideaSELLING | Sam Harrison

"If you need to explain a slide, you have the wrong slide." - Sam Harrison

December 05, 2010

An Arresting Act of Customer Service

The Austin Police Department arrested my attention last week.

While returning from a short jog at my gym, I noticed one police car parked sideways in the half-full lot. I also noticed two police officers looking at the front windshield of cars in the parking lot. Occasionally these officers would write something on a piece of paper and slide it under the windshield wiper of a car.


I thought to myself, "Hey, this can't be right. Getting a ticket for an expired registration sticker while parked at the gym isn't fair." A closer look revealed something else.


These cops were looking inside cars for easily seen valuables beckoning burglars to steal. So instead of writing tickets, these cops were placing friendly warning signs on cars letting people know their cars are potential targets for a burglar.

This was an act of great customer service because delivering customer service is about reacting to what a customer does, says, or doesn't do.

Picture a holiday shopper entering a store with their hands full of bags. Great customer service for an employee is to recognize the harried shopper and ask if they can put the shopper's bags behind the counter.

Great customer service also happens when an employee responds to a question someone asks about a product on twitter.

And, great customer service happens when a police officer takes the time to relay a friendly warning to a citizen who didn't hide their valuables in their car while parked at the gym.

December 01, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Silence can be heard. It was heard at the Word of Mouth Marketing Summit 2010 when Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, known better together as NPR's The Kitchen Sisters, gave a presentation on the Art of Storytelling.

About halfway through their talk, Davia & Nikki stopped talking. People in the audience also stopped. They stopped fiddling with their iPhones and laptops but they didn't stop listening to the silence. Instead, people started listening with their eyes as they focused on Davia & Nikki on stage.

After a good thirty-seconds of silence and with every eye in the audience focused towards the stage, Davia said, "Silence brings people together." (It sure did.)

Sam Harrison, writing in his book, ideaSELLING, sells us on using silence when presenting and pitching to clients. After sharing a pitch to a client, Sam says we should, "Listen up. Be quiet and wait for the decision maker to speak. If there's a pause, resist the urge to fill the void. Stay silent and listen. You're about to hear something important. Maybe you'll get the go-ahead. Or you'll hear the objection or obstacle you must address to gain approvals."

After years of blowing his trumpet and filling space with sounds, Miles Davis learned to play silent notes. He learned silence could be just as loud as sounds from his horn. "Don't play what's there, play what's not there," is the music maxim Miles followed and it's a communication maxim you can follow.

November 26, 2010

Retail Reality

Thanksgiving was yesterday. Black Friday is today. Cyber Monday is around the corner. It's official, the 2010 holiday retail shopping season has begun.

Here's a shopping statistic that will surprise most of us, especially those of us whose world revolves around everything online from social media to social shopping.

93% of all US retail sales occur in the real world.

Ninety-Three Percent.

Which, of course, means, only 7% of US retail sales occur online in the digital world.

Yes. The shopping trends clearly reveal online sales are growing in importance. But what is important today and important for the foreseeable future is offline sales occurring in a physical store.

This marketing wake-up call statisitic comes from Forrester Research ...


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.

November 20, 2010

Economics Lessons Learned from Seinfeld

This is cool. Economic professors from Eastern Illinois University are using classic scenes from the Seinfeld television show to teach us economic lessons.
(Hat tip: BusinessWeek article)

For example, we can learn about cost-benefit analysis and game theory from the episode titled, THE BARBER. From THE MUFFIN TOPS episode, we learn about economics bads and substitute goods.



Most of the episodes are listed. Have fun learning about economics at...

November 15, 2010

Sampling (with a Story) Sold Me

I'm not someone who buys Cheddar Snaps. Yeah, I like the taste of these baked cheese wafers but they are never on my shopping list. However, I bought a bag of Texas Cheddar Snaps the other day. They weren't on my list but they ended up on my lips.

As I was heading to the beer aisle while shopping, an elderly lady stopped me and quietly asked, "Would you like to sample a Cheddar Snap?" Usually I would politely pass. This time I couldn't refuse the offer. She looked like anyone's Grandma and how can anyone turn down Grandma? I couldn't.

Before I snapped into a Cheddar Snap, I asked her if she liked them. Grandma replied, "I'd better. They're my recipe."

With that, Grandma had me ... I was in.

I snapped into the Cheddar Snap. And as I started chewing, she rattled off the wave of flavors my taste buds were experiencing from the type of cheddar cheese to the pecan flavor to the spicy kick at the end. She went on to tell me she's been making these Cheddar Snaps for fifty-plus years.

After that, Grandma had sold me ... I bought a bag.

We all know sampling can sell a product. What we forget is a customer also needs to sample a story when they sample a product. Grandma sold me some Cheddar Snaps when she told me a story.

November 02, 2010

Advertising and Word of Mouth

As part of my project work with The Keller Fay Group, I'm digging into their archive of research findings and providing insights, which marketers can use to better tap into the power of word of mouth.

Keller Fay recently released new data showing the virtues of advertising on Television, in Magazines, and Online to spark word of mouth conversations. The data shows how TV, Print, and the Internet all work differently when it comes to sparking word of mouth conversations about brands, products, and services.

The following presentations explaining the virtues of advertising to trigger word of mouth first appeared on the Keller Fay WOM MATTERS blog. If you're interested in learning more about how advertising can spark word of mouth, read and watch below.

While overall television viewership is down, that doesn't, by any means, diminish the impact television advertising has on sparking word of mouth conversations.

Advertising in print magazines will help a brand reach consumers who are more inclined to be talkative influencers, those folks who actively and passionately keep up with what's new and interesting in the world and share it within their large social circle of friends.

Online media triggers about 15% of all brand-related word of mouth conversations. That's a higher percentage than print media, radio, and billboard. Only television is a bigger trigger of word of mouth, but not by much.

October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Bombardier

There are lots of Halloween traditions and festivities but none as odd as what the Fault Line Flyers soaring club does every year.

Yesterday in Briggs, TX (about 50 miles outside of Austin), glider pilots and their designated bombardier attempted to hit a bullseye by dropping a pumpkin from the sky.

Yep. You're in a glider. A thousand feet above land. And dropping a pumpkin on a target. It ain't easy. But it's fun. The winning drop was a mere 9-feet from the bullseye.

Curious to watch?

Here's what goes down every year at the Fault Line Flyers "Pumpkin Bombardier" Day...

October 27, 2010

Dirty Retail Secret

Some of you know this, while most of you suspect this. The designer brand name clothes you buy at outlet mall stores were most likely never sold at full retail price in a store. It's retailing's not-so secret dirty secret.

According to a BusinessWeek article, as little as 10% of the designer brand name merchandise sold in outlet stores was actually on the shelves of an upscale retailer.

At Off 5th stores from Saks Fifth Avenue, only 10%-to-20% of the merchandise comes from Saks markdowns. Which means, about 80% of the merchandise is made by vendors solely to be sold at Off 5th stores.

Same thing happens at Nordstrom Rack outlet stores, where up to 75% of the merchandise was never sold inside a Nordstrom store.

While many of us during this recession have decided to do more shopping at outlet malls, the goods we've gotten might not be the goods we thought we were getting. Just thought you should know this dirty retail secret.

October 24, 2010

The Starbucks Digital Network. Why Bother?


Earlier this year Starbucks made Internet access totally free in all its company-owned U.S. stores. Now, Starbucks has launched the online Starbucks Digital Network, available exclusively in its U.S. locations.

This network, according to a company press release, is "a collection of hand-picked premium news, entertainment and lifestyle content along with local insights and events. Developed for screens big and small, customers with Wi-Fi enabled laptops, tablets or smartphones can visit the network while in line or while enjoying their favorite beverage in the café."

To bring this digital network to life, Starbucks, along with Yahoo!, is working with lots of content partners including: Apple, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Rodale (health and wellness publisher), LinkedIn, Zagat, and SnagFilms. Essentially, this is a "walled garden" of online content that Starbucks and Yahoo! will tightly control.

Mark Walsh from MediaPost questions the sanity of Starbucks digital network strategy. Mark remarks, "My initial reaction to the Starbucks digital hub is 'why?' Isn't free WiFi enough of an incentive to bring in customers who might otherwise not come to Starbucks? The swelling laptop and netbook population in stores since the company switched to free Web access in July attests to that."

Agreed. Why bother?

Here's why according to Stephen Gillett, Starbucks executive vice president, chief information officer and Digital Ventures general manager...

"Our customers are the inspiration for the Starbucks Digital Network. They’ve told us they want to be the first to know what’s happening in their neighborhoods and around the globe, to have an easy way to discover new music, great books and important films and find ways to be more involved in their communities. And they’re connecting with the brand digitally in numerous ways. These points combined with our passion for creating a unique customer experience, our heritage of recommending culturally-relevant works and focus on giving back to the community, led us to create this new, one-of-a-kind, localized content experience with Yahoo!."

Disagreed. How bothersome.

Let's get real. Here's the real why bother.

If we put Stephen's words through a digitization monetization translation filter, we learn Starbucks has overcomplicated all of this because they are trying to make money from all of this. Starbucks has already done something uncomplicated to get customers to linger longer inside its stores — it made wi-fi access totally free. (The general assumption being if customers linger longer inside Starbucks using the free wi-fi, they will buy more goodies.)

Perhaps a more accurate quote from Stephen should read like this...

"Our ancillary need for profit is the inspiration for the Starbucks Digital Network. The analysts working on Wall Street have told us we need a systematic way to discover new revenue, great profit and important mechanisms to financially leverage our community of customers. We're monetizing our customers with our brand digitally in numerous ways. These points combined with our passion for creating a unique revenue stream, our heritage of being a relevant high-growth stock and focus on giving back to the Wall Street community, led us to create this new, one-of-a-kind, monetizable experience with Yahoo!"

We've been through this before.

Remember how Starbucks, in the early 2000s, spent too much of its time and talents trying to sell CDs, books, and movies to its customers? I remember. I also remember Starbucks selling real estate space inside its stores for drop boxes. We can go further back and dig up Starbucks failed dot-com strategy from 1999, which cost the company millions.

As it relates to the Starbucks Digital Network, rest assured, it is more about making money than fostering community.

Starbucks contends it is not charging program partners $$$ to be involved with its network available exclusively to tens of millions of its affluent customers. While money may not be changing hands, Starbucks is sure to have bartered receiving advertising placements inside the pages of their newspaper partners and display ads on the websites of all their program partners. Starbucks will also benefit financially from money its customers spend with any content provider while on the network.

All of this potential money making activity that's far outside Starbucks comfortable home of coffee troubles me today, just as it did in 2004 when Starbucks strayed from what it does best. Then, Geoffrey Moore, business strategist and venture capitalist, made a smart observation that applies today... "If Starbucks is just trying to find more ways to monetize the traffic that comes through, this is a bad idea. At some point the customers will start to feel abused."

I'm afraid Starbucks, with it's newly launched Starbucks Digital Network, is falling victim to a proven failed strategy of trying to monetize its customers in ways unrelated to coffee.

Why bother Starbucks? You already know how this will turn out.

October 22, 2010

Fluent Talk on Stuttering

The following is a homespun reenactment of an "Ignite Talk" I gave recently in Austin, TX. Cameras were rolling at the event; however, the video will not be posted online for weeks. So ... I've recorded a video of my slides (advancing every 15-seconds) with a voice-over of the key points I shared during my talk.

The title of my talk was FLUENT TALK ON STUTTERING. Watch below to learn why I'm qualified to talk fluently about stuttering.

>> YouTube video link

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.

October 13, 2010

TOUGH LOVE | Speed Kills

"Amid customer complaints that the Seattle-based coffee chain has reduced the fine art of coffee making to a mechanized process with all the romance of an assembly line, Starbucks baristas are being told to stop making multiple drinks at the same time and focus instead on no more than two drinks at a time." Wall Street Journal article (Oct. 13, 2010)

This conversation of balancing speed of service with soul of service isn't a new one for Starbucks.

It's territory we've covered here many times (and its territory covered in my TOUGH LOVE screenplay about the drama surrounding a fictitious Starbucks known as Galaxy Coffee).

Just a few years ago, Starbucks closed all its North American stores to retrain its Baristas on the "Art of Espresso" in hopes of finding a better speed/soul service balance. And today, the Wall Street Journal reports Starbucks is rolling out revised drink-making procedures designed to "make stores operate more efficiently."

Seems to me the issue here is less about being efficient and more about being effective in serving better tasting drinks to customers.

Former Starbucks President Jim Alling once said, "As much as we want to meet people's desire to produce beverages quickly, we also realize that people want a smile with their drink, that they don't want to feel rushed."

If there is one lesson Starbucks has learned in its nearly 40-years of being in business, it's taste will always trump speed. Starbucks customers are paying a higher-price for a higher-quality coffee experience than can be found at a quick service restaurant (McDonald's, Dunkin Donuts, etc.) People will wait for a better-tasting cup of coffee.


October 12, 2010

Reintroducing... TOUGH LOVE | paperback copy


Originally available only as a digital download, TOUGH LOVE is now available in paperback. Learn more about TOUGH LOVE from these archived posts and from

October 09, 2010

Henry Ford Defines a "Poor Business"

Huge hat tip to @Laermer ... nice find Richard!


A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business." -- Henry Ford

October 06, 2010

RESONATE | in less than 20 words

Nancy Duarte has just published RESONATE, a prequel to Slide:ology. Inside RESONATE you'll learn the Duarte Design methodology for crafting killer presentations. The methodology is explained in-depth without being preachy or uninteresting. It's solid advice for any presenter needing to resonate with an audience.

However, you might be too busy to read RESONATE. If so, here's a far too short and ultra tweet friendly summary presented visually.

"Craft a visual story that takes the audience on a journey from WHAT to WHY to HOW."

DISCLOSURES: (1) For my summary, I borrowed heavily from a line found on pg. 23 of Nick Morgan's excellent book on presentations... "Take your audience on a journey from why to how." (2) The publisher, Wiley, sent me a free copy of RESONATE.

October 04, 2010

THE MESH | in less than 300 words

The following continues my irregular postings of business book summaries. I’m striving to keep these summaries to less than 300 words.

The Mesh
THE MESH | summarized in about 300 words

How do you categorize upstart businesses like ThredUP, Zipcar, Crushpad, and Etsy? Lisa Gansky, founder and CEO of numerous Internet companies, gives these businesses the label of being a "Mesh" business.

In her just-published book, THE MESH: Why the Future of Business is Sharing, Lisa Gansky explains the characteristics guiding Mesh businesses. She uses "The Mesh" as a metaphor "to describe a whole new phase of information-based services" that "share information to facilitate access to new customers, customer preferences, and goods."

The four characteristics of Mesh businesses are: Sharable, Smartphone friendly, Tangible products, and Socially-networked.

The basic offering of a Mesh business is "something that can be shared, within a community, market, or value chain." For example, ThredUP is a kids clothes swapping business where members, on the ThredUP website, list shirts and blouses they want to swap and want to wear. You choose, you ship, you swap, and your child wears something new.


Smartphone friendly

Since Mesh businesses are designed for the web-savvy, being accessible to conduct transactions by a smartphone is a must. Zipcar, a car-sharing business operating in 49 states, makes it easy for its members to use smartphones to rent a car for a few hours.


Tangible products

The Mesh, according to Lisa Gansky, "enables businesses to profit handsomely by streamlining access to physical goods and services."

It's not easy to get into the wine-making business. Meticulously tending to grapevines isn't an option for most, nor is having all the wine-making equipment needed to make and bottle wine. Crushpad gives regular wine lovers access to high-quality grapes and the equipment plus expertise needed to make and bottle their own wine.



One of the more compelling characteristics of Mesh businesses is how they've baked social media into how they engage with customers. Etsy, an online seller of homemade arts, crafts, and goods, has thrived because it fosters a community of engaged buyers and sellers who use social media to tell others about the cool stuff for sale made by a passionate craftsman.


Of course, "many Mesh businesses are at the beginning of their life cycles" so time will tell if the Mesh recipe is truly characteristic of business success today and tomorrow.


[NOTE: I often receive free copies of biz books from publishers and publicists. The publisher, Portfolio, sent me a free copy of THE MESH to review.]

October 02, 2010

Advertising versus Advocating


People may talk about a brilliant advertising campaign, but they will never advocate an ad the way they advocate a product they love." --Douglas Rushkoff