June 28, 2006

Advertising’s Little Blue Book


Someone from somewhere at some recent time sent me a copy of THE LITTLE BLUE BOOK OF ADVERTISING. Readers of this blog know my marketing mindset is along the lines of spending marketing dollars to make a customer’s experience better and not necessarily spending dollars to make the advertising better. So yeah, I read this book with a grain of salt the size of a salt lick.

The authors, Steve Lance and Jeff Wool, are long-time ad guys and in the book, they share 52 tips they’ve learned over the years working in the advertising game.

It’s an easy read (albeit choppy at times) with some brilliant and banal insights including ...

”You don’t have to be a billion-dollar brand to do quantitative and qualitative research. It’s as simple as asking everyone who comes into your store (and keeping all the data for analysis) ‘how did you hear about us?’ (quantitative research) and ‘what made you stop in?’ (qualitative research).” (p. 22)

>> You’ll be hard-pressed to demystify the notion that small businesses can’t do customer research better than that.

”Not knowing where you want to take your company/brand—realistically—is management malpractice at its worst. It’s a virtual guarantee for financial failure.” (p.59)

>> Okay, this nugget might not be brilliant but the marketing doctor in me thought the use of “malpractice” in a marketing context was brilliant.

”Take a look at your advertising and marketing plan. Not the budget, the plan. And not the media plan, either. We’re talking about a written plan that says (in effect), ‘We’re going to do X in order to achieve Y and this is how we’ll do it in Z time frame.’” (p. 66)

>> I’ll gladly borrow that X-Y-Z line when talking with small business clients about how to simply (and surely) develop an actionable marketing plan.

”Where do you want [your business] to go? The answer’s simple: you want to go where your best customers are and where they’re headed. Ideally, you want to get there a little before them. Research provides the best opportunity to understand where that is.” (p. 75)

>> Again, Steve and Jeff use real words with real meaning to explain how customer research can help companies set forth a vision for the business. Nice.

”The fact is, an ad that talks about how great a company is, is an easy ad to sell internally. Your boss likes it because he knows it’s going to please his boss. His boss likes it because he knows it’s going to please the president. The president of the company is thrilled that you’ve put in writing how good your company is. And everyone gets to go home at 5PM.” (p. 93)

>> Yep … that explanation sums up why we tend to see so many hubris-heavy marketing messages from companies. Makes complete sense to me. I saw this happen repeatedly during my days working inside Starbucks.

”To get the best and freshest work from your people, follow the advice of an art director we know, “Stay in the area of the problem, not the area of the solution.” (p. 113)

>> Not sure I totally know what that line means but I’m sure to chew on it until I do. There’s something powerful in their advice of spending mind-time in the area of the problem and not the solution.

”Steve had a boss who taught him the true art of hall walking: ‘Walk the halls at 7 PM; it’ll take you to the problem every time.’ His theory was that the people who were still there at that time were either a) the dedicated employees staying late to clean up someone’s mess or b) the problem employees who were overwhelmed and couldn’t manage their jobs. Either way, the conversations he would have with the 7 PM people would often reveal the organizational issues.” (p.121)

>> Sure, that’s a total riff off Tom Peters’ MBWA (management by walking around) concept. But there is brilliance in the idea of roaming the hallways at 7PM on a workday to discover what problems are taking too much time of employees.

"In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In marketing, it’s brand, brand, brand. Start diluting it and you’ll wake up one day with a name that means . . . nothing." (p. 35)

>> It’s become tired and trite to play the BRAND IS EVERYTHING card. Think about every endearing and enduring business you admire. (For me that’s … Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, Google, Chipotle, Pei Wei, Container Store, Trader Joe’s, Lexus, In-N-Out Burger, Jones Soda, Apple, etc.) How many of them were built on brand advertising and how many of them were built on being a better business? You cannot create a brand before you create a business—the process is simultaneous. As you build your business, you create your brand. Dig?

”If your product’s the same, then turn to the research and marketing people. What’s the unique selling proposition they can come up with that will set your product apart from the competition?” (p. 100)

>> Oh my! Let’s stay in the area of the problem and not the area of the solution. The solution for a non-compelling product is NOT to offer creative selling propositions. That’s band-aid marketing at its best (and worst). The long-lasting solution here is to address the root cause of the problem and spend marketing dollars to make the product more compelling and not to make the selling proposition more compelling.

”Its repetition, repetition, repetition that makes your advertising memorable and successful. (p. 163)

>> This “Tell’em, Sell’em, and Tell’em Again” angle is classic jurassic advertising thought. Remarkability/Fanaticism in many ways has replaced the classic jurassic advertising approach of Reach/Frequency.

“The Internet (in case you didn’t know it) is just print delivered on a different platform.” (p. 175)

>> Really? And a laptop is just a typewriter delivered on a different platform.

”SALE! Don’t ever hide that word. Some people say it’s the most powerful word in the English language. We’re not sure about that, but it’s definitely in our Top 10.” (p. 193)

>> Paraphrasing Seth Godin from PURPLE COW … a marketer that relies on low price marketing strategies is a marketer who is out of ideas. This marketer believes the word ‘SALE’ has lost its salience.

June 05, 2006


I recently finished reading TREASURE HUNT, the follow-up book to the best-selling TRADING UP. In TRADING UP, Michael Silverstein (along with Neil Fiske) profiled the reasons why consumers choose to pay a premium price for luxury goods/services. This time around in TREASURE HUNT, Silverstein (along with John Butman) profiles the middle market consumer and the reasons why they sometimes choose to trade-up and most times, deliberately trade-down to purchase less expensive goods. He also gives businesses advice on how they can better appeal to the middle-market consumer at both the high-end and the low-end of a market.

There’s much to explore about the book over on the Treasure Hunt website with preview PDFs (synopsis & intro) and video snippets from the author. Below you’ll find elements of the book that I found worthwhile. As for the book itself … it is definitely a worthwhile read.

Treasure Hunt
The title of the book stems from Silverstein positing that consuming “… has become a treasure hunt—a constant search through the world’s incredibly vast and ever-changing store of goods and services, with the goal of finding the perfect value every time.” (pg. 5)
Bifurcation Nation
Silverstein contends consumer markets are bifurcating into two fast growing segments. “At the high end of the market, consumers are trading up, paying a premium for high-quality, emotionally rich, high-margin products and services. At the low end, consumers are relentlessly trading down, spending as little as possible to buy basic, low-cost goods that still deliver acceptable quality, reliability, and increasingly, elements of fashion and current design.”(p. 4)
Trading-Up Market Size vs. Trading-Down Market Size
Using Boston Consulting Group data, Silverstein projects the market size of the trading-up segment to be $535 billion in annual spending and the market size of the trading-down market is an astounding $1 trillion dollars a year.
Market Capitalization Comparison (year 2004 figures)
Market capitalization of the top ten trading-up companies: $55 billion.
Market capitalization of the top ten trading-down companies: $476 billion.
Biggest Trading-Up Categories
The following categories typify areas consumers willingly spend more for:
1 | Travel and Entertainment
2 | Homes and Home Renovation
3 | Cars
4 | Restaurants/Dining Out
5 | Home Goods
6 | Food and Beverages
Biggest Trading-Down Categories
These are categories where consumers deliberately spend less for:
1 | Homes and Home Renovation
2 | Cars
3 | Restaurants/Dining Out
4 | Travel and Entertainment
5 | Food and Beverages
6 | Personal Services
Reasons Why Middle Market Consumers Trade-Down
1 | They are savvier than ever and take great pride in out-smarting companies by finding ways to get products/services at the lowest possible price.
2 | They do not think there are meaningful functional differences between goods at two different price points.
3 | They were taught by their parents that being thrifty is virtuous.
4 | They do not believe in excessive consumption.
“The Want List”
Silverstein writes that middle-class consumers keep an ever-changing dream list of items they want. Because these consumers never earn the money to buy items on their want list, they will, many times, make trade offs by not buying a $7,000 Rolex and instead, settling for buying a $1,500 HDTV.

For marketers, Silverstein makes a very astute observation, “If you can understand the want list of your consumers, you may discover that you are competing not only against other companies in your category, but also against completely different categories where consumers might spend their discretionary dollars.”(p. 56)

The Trading Up Trap
“Companies that pursue a trading-up strategy, for example, will usually make some incremental technical or functional improvements in their offering, and hope that the emotional value will soar. But they don’t or won’t, make a full commitment to the strategy. They won’t put enough cost in the product. They’ll rely too much on advertising to build the brand. They won’t listen well enough to consumers about what they like and dislike.” (p. 229)

May 16, 2006

Levine Fixes His Broken Window


Last November I blogged about Michael Levine’s BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS book and I subsequently mentioned how his abandoned website/blog was a broken window that needed to fixed.

Well ... it may have taken him a few months to do it but the Broken Windows Broken Business website is no longer broken. Levine recently updated his book companion website and this time around, he doesn’t try to accomplish too much by having links to a blog and discussion board. Instead, Levine sticks with the basics and doesn’t make implied promises he might not be able to deliver upon.

Not overpromising and under-delivering ... good move Michael.

Question … do you expect authors of business books to maintain a companion blog? I’ve come to expect authors to either maintain a companion blog to support the book or a catch-all blog with wide-ranging ruminations. To me, having and maintaining a blog has become a cost of doing business be it as an author or as a markerting medic with Brand Autopsy.

May 08, 2006

High-Flying Business Book Promotion Idea

[UPDATED on May 9 to fix a broken link]

Earlier today, Stefan Engeseth conducted a lecture at 30,000 feet in the air sharing ideas from his book (ONE: A Consumer Revolution for Business) on FlyNordic’s Stockholm to Olso flight. I wonder if Stefan began his presentation by asking travelers to … “Adjust their business mindset and marketing mentality to a full upright and unlocked position?


March 27, 2006

Harvesting Collective Genius

Sunday’s NY Times has a way tasty article from Bill Taylor (co-founder of Fast Company) about how Rite-Solutions is insourcing ideas from all its employees rather than outsourcing ideas or relying solely on the ideation generation from a few big-brained internal executives to move the business.

Rite-Solutions has created an internal idea stock exchange where employees can suggest the company invest in new technology, enter into a new business channel, implement a cost-efficiency initiative ... etcetera. Submitted ideas become mock stocks and employees read an “expect-us” (not a prospectus) detailing how the idea can benefit the company. These ideas-turned-stocks are then listed in the Rite-Solutions “Mutual Fun” board where every employee is given $10K in stock market fantasy funds to buy, sell, and trade in the ideas they believe Rite-Solutions should focus on.

Pretty cool, huh?

Now, check out the congregation is smarter than the preacher sentiment from James Lavoie, one of Rite-Solutions co-founders:

"We're the founders, but we're far from the smartest people here. At most companies, especially technology companies, the most brilliant insights tend to come from people other than senior management. So we created a marketplace to harvest collective genius."

In another article, Lavoie explains the reasoning behind Rite-Solutions “Mutual Fun” idea this way …

“We believe the next brilliant idea is going to come from somebody other than senior management, and unless you’re trying to harvest those ideas, you’re not going to get them. That’s why we give everybody an equal voice, and a game to provoke their intellectual curiosity.”

The “Harvesting Collective Genius” reminds me of the Idea Revolution which Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder wrote about in the way worthy IDEAS ARE FREE book. In this book, Robinson and Schroeder make the business case for the internal insourcing of employee-generated ideas. Worthwhile snippets from this book include:

“Every employee idea, no matter how small, improves an organization in some way. It is when managers are able to get large numbers of such ideas that the fill power of the idea revolution is unleashed.”

”Ideas are free. Employees become allies in solving problems, spotting opportunities, and moving the company forward, to the benefit of all. And when managers decide to let their employees think alongside them – and no longer seek to go it alone – they will have joined the Idea Revolution.

”This empowerment starts a virtuous cycle. As employees see their ideas being used, they begin to feel valued as part of the team and become more involved.

”Small ideas are the best source of big ideas. A big problem or opportunity frequently manifests itself through a host of smaller signs or symptoms, each of which might be seen individually by different people in different places at different times. What might seem to be a small idea could in fact be addressing a facet of this larger issue. This bigger issue can often be discovered by probing with the right questions.”

Small ideas tend to stay proprietary, since there are no mechanisms for competitors to find out about them, and even if they do, the ideas are often situation-specific and so cannot be copied. Because of their proprietary nature, they accumulate into a considerable cushion of sustainable competitive advantage.”

March 09, 2006

Laws of Lifetime Growth


Over at the Dig Tank blog, Howard Mann recommended the recently published LAWS OF LIFETIME GROWTH (Dan Sullivan & Catherine Nomura). Since Howard’s Brickyard thinking jibes with much of my thinking, I took him up on reading THE LAWS OF LIFETIME GROWTH.

Good book … lots of chewy statements to gnaw on which will help challenge/motivate anyone and any business to seek meaningful and continual growth. However, at times, the book gets a little too righteous in dispensing pious platitudes. Look beyond the triteness and delve into the “rightness” of each lifetime growth law.

Go ahead and gnaw on the following snippets from the book ...

”The ten laws in this book are like mirrors you can use to reflect your behavior, to see if it’s supporting or undermining your continued growth. Use them as you would a hallway mirror on your way out the door – do a quick check to make sure everything looks good, adjust if necessary, and then carry on. (pg. 2)
Always make your future bigger than your past.
”Approach your past with this attitude, and you will have an insatiable desire for even better, more enjoyable experiences.” MORE
Always make your learning greater than your experience.
”Experience alone is no guarantee of lifetime growth. But continually transform you experiences into new lessons, and you will make each day of your life a source of growth.” MORE
Always make your contribution bigger than your reward.
”The one sure guarantee that rewards will continually increase is not to think too much about them. Instead, continue making an even greater contribution – by helping others eliminate their dangers, capture their opportunities, and maximize their strengths.” MORE
Always make your performance greater than your applause.
”If you become more skillful and useful, you will receive greater applause from an expanding audience. This can be intoxicating, and the temptation will be to start organizing your life around other people’s recognition and praise. You’ll keep repeating what got you the applause in the first place – rather than moving on to something new, better, and different. The applause will become more important to you than your improved performance.” MORE
Always make your gratitude greater than your success.
”Continually acknowledge others’ contributions, and you will automatically create room in your mind and in the world for much greater success.” MORE
Always make your enjoyment greater than your effort.
”Finding ways to get more and more enjoyment from your activities is one way to ensure continued growth.” MORE
Always make your cooperation greater than your status.
”Working with others and creating opportunities for increased cooperation makes greater things possible in our lives and in the world.” MORE
Always make your confidence greater than your comfort.
”Many successful people start off life as dreamers and risk-takers, but the moment they become successful, they start seeking greater security and comfort as their main goal. This attitude puts them to sleep motivationally, and they lose the confidence that made them so successful.” MORE
Always make your purpose greater than your money.
”Money as an end, become as growth stopper. Having a purpose that is greater than yourself will give you a constant impetus to strive. Purpose gives life meaning and helps us direct and focus our talents and efforts.” MORE

Always make your questions bigger than your answers.
“ … all growth lies in the territory of the unknown. What we already know is in the past. What we have yet to discover is the future. Always make your questions bigger than your answers and you’ll keep drawing yourself into a bigger future with new possibilities.” MORE

February 24, 2006

Whatcha Reading?

Okay ... I've been way too lax in churning out the sixth installment of Worthy Reads | Worthless Reads (WRWR). I'll get around too it soon. In the meantime, below is an image of books I've recently read or plan to read. No doubt some of these will appear on WRWR #6.

(As long as you are here, consider revisting vintage WRWR posts ... One, Two, Three, Four, and Five.)


February 23, 2006

Jack Hayhow’s Perfect Pitch


Yesterday I received a pitch. Okay it was more a gift than a pitch. Jack Hayhow, author and chief executive servant at Opus Communications, sent me a copy of his book, THE WISDOM OF THE FLYING PIG.

I’ve been sent countless books from folks wanting me to blog about them. While I am appreciative of receiving business books, rarely do I blog about the books given to me.

However, I’m blogging about Jack’s book because he followed the 3 R’s of a perfect pitch - Respect, Recency, and Relevancy.

Jack showed respect by not pandering to me with an over-the-top adulation heavy quid pro quo come-on. Instead, his respectfully written note showed recency and relevancy by referencing my latest rant on RadioShack which showed me he is a regular Brand Autopsy reader.

I’m also blogging about THE WISDOM OF THE FLYING PIG because Jack has some smart things to say about business leadership. Chew on this chapter header from the book: "Managers don’t get paid for what they do, they get paid for what their people do."

Be sure to troll through Jack Hayhow’s two-month old Pig Wisdom blog because you are sure to find something inspirational.

January 31, 2006

The Wal-Mart Effect podcast

Todd Sattersten from 800.CEO.READ recently recorded a conversation with Charles Fishman, Fast Company senior writer and author of THE WAL-MART EFFECT. Fascinating stuff.

If you are at all interested in how Wal-Mart plays the retailing game … download the podcast. Charles is a great conversationalist and his stories about Wal-Mart are as captivating as they are informative.

January 28, 2006

Broken Windows Broken Blog

Recently I riffed on Michael Levine’s BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS book which applies the broken windows crime theory to business. Levine contends a broken window in business happens when someone isn’t paying attention to details and that these are telltale signs to customers that a business doesn’t care, that it is poorly managed, and or it has become too big and arrogant to adequately deal with little details.

I hate to point this out but Levine’s website has a major broken window –– he last updated his BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS blog two months ago. (Ouch.)

Does Michael not care enough? Does he not know readers will draw wide-ranging conclusions based upon their perceptions of the inactive BROKEN WINDOWS blog? Is he too busy to adequately deal with little details in maintaining a blog to support his book? I wonder how long it will take Michael to fix his broken window.

December 16, 2005

Riffs on Loyalty Myths

Loyaltymyths_1Some months ago I picked up LOYALTY MYTHS: Hyped Strategies That Will Put You Out of Business and Proven Tactics that Really Work. In this book, the authors contend businesses fail at creating customer loyalty because they mistakenly follow conventional marketing wisdom. They also debunk over 50 commonly accepted loyalty marketing practices. Can’t say I agree with everything the authors say because much of their reasoning is more argumentative than constructive. However, the book does make you think.

For example, LOYALTY MYTHS debunks Frederick Reichheld’s “Net Promoter” theory by writing, “… the concept of net promoters is a bad idea that would not likely have seen the light of day had it not come from such a respected individual. “

If you’ve been following the Word-of-Mouth Marketing game for the past year then you’re probably familiar with Reichheld’s influential Harvard Business Review article outlining his Net Promoter theory. In “The One Number You Need to Grow,” Reichheld’s research indicates there is a strong correlation between a company’s growth rate and the percentage of its promoters. (Promoters are customers who are willing to recommend the company to a friend.) According to Reichheld, “The more ‘promoters’ your company has, the bigger its growth.”

Reichheld contends companies no longer need to rely on expensive studies and complex statistical models to measure customer loyalty in hopes of increasing sales. Instead, Reichheld’s research says a company only has to ask its customers one question: “How likely is it that you would recommend [company x] to a friend or a colleague?" Knowing the answer to this one question allows a company to easily interpret where it stands in creating net promoters (evangelical customers) which in turn lead to sustainable, profitable growth.

In discrediting Reichheld’s Net Promoter research, the authors of LOYALTY MYTHS point to four issues.

Issue #1
”… the implication that all customer satisfaction and loyalty measurement systems fail to correlate with profits is ridiculous.” The authors go on to list a slew of marketing research papers which contradict Reichheld’s research.

[Hmm … are the LOYALTY MYTHS authors mistakenly following conventional marketing wisdom by referencing so many conventional marketing research papers?]

Issue #2
Reichheld’s Net Promoter score is not actionable enough. The authors say just knowing the likelihood of a customer recommending a business to a friend isn’t enough. Marketers need to ask more questions in order to know the underlying reasons why so they can develop specific action to increase a net promoter score.

[Good point. Maybe Reichheld will address the “actionability” of the Net Promoter score in his to-be-published book titled, THE ULTIMATE QUESTION.]

Issue #3
Reichheld seems to have unusual data. The LOYALTY MYTHS authors believe the data is unusual because Reichheld contends the net promoter score is independent of other measurements such as customer satisfaction and repurchase intent.

[I agree. Although, I’m not a marketing research wonk so I do not fully understanding how a customer’s satisfaction rating and repurchase intent with a company are not highly correlated to a net promoter rating of recommending that company to a friend. Any marketing research wonks wanna enlighten me?]

Issue #4
”… loyal customers don’t always act as advocates for brands, services, and companies.” Under this thinking, the authors contend a net promoter score cannot be accurately measured and because of this, the net promoter concept is flawed and useless.

[A net promoter score is just one tool in a marketer’s toolbox. It is not a marketer’s Rosetta Stone allowing us to all speak and understand the same language as it relates to customer research and growing sales. However, this information is extremely useful in understanding the role customer evangelists can play in whether or not a business succeeds or fails.]

Further Learning:
  • “The One Number You Need to Grow” | Harvard Business Review article | $$$
  • Net Promoter White Paper (pdf) | SATMETRIX
  • THE ULITMATE QUESTION preview excerpt (pdf) | Frederick Reichheld (author)
  • Attend the WOMMA Conference | Frederick Reichheld keynoting | Jan 19-20, 2006
  • December 09, 2005

    Broken People Create Broken Windows


    In the comments section, Mark Lewis shares how Employees cause broken windows. While my theory synopsis didn’t touch upon the Employee variable in causing broken windows, Michael Levine, author of BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS, dedicates a chapter to this issue and has some pointed advice for repairing broken windows caused by Employees.

    Levine says employees often create the worst broken windows by writing,

    “When an employee – any employee – becomes a detriment to the company, for any reason, that employee has become a broken window, and the ripple effect from his or her failure, however slight, can be devastating to your business.”

    Levine continues his smart thinking,

    “Your employees are human beings, and as such, they are given to human frailty. They will make mistakes, and those are not broken windows. Employees who learn from their mistakes, who become better at their jobs because of those errors, are the best possible workers you can employ.”

    It is Levine’s contention that businesses are too slow to fire employees who continuously create broken windows. He advocates the quick dismissal of employees who can’t do their job properly because if left unchecked, poor-performing employees act as a sign to other employees that careless work behavior will be tolerated and accepted. Since broken windows are telltale signs that a business doesn’t care, poor performing employees can make for the worst, most destructive broken windows within a business.

    December 07, 2005

    Broken Windows. Broken Business.


    If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s TIPPING POINT, then you are probably familiar with the Broken Windows theory and its impact on helping to reduce crime in New York City during the 1990s. Gladwell writes,

    “Broken Windows was the brainchild of the criminologists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. Wilson and Kelling argued that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge. Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes.”

    Michael Levine, author and media/PR expert, has just published a book, BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS, applying the broken windows theory to business. Levine’s premise is that a broken window in business happens when someone isn’t paying attention to details. Levine writes,

    "A broken window can be a sloppy counter, a poorly located sale item, a randomly organized menu, or an employee with a bad attitude. It can be physical, like a faded, flaking paint job, or symbolic, like a policy that requires consumers to pay for customer service. When the waiter at a Chinese restaurant is named Billy Bob, that’s a broken window. When a call for help assembling a bicycle results in a twenty-minute hold on the phone (playing the same music over and over), that’s a broken window. When a consumer asks why she can’t return her blouse at the counter and is told, “Because that’s the rule,” that is a broken window. They’re everywhere. Except at the really sharp businesses." [SOURCE LINK]

    According to Levine, broken windows are telltale signs to customers that a business doesn’t care, that it is poorly managed, and or it has become too big and arrogant to adequately deal with little details.

    He warns businesses that customers draw wide-ranging conclusions based upon their perceptions of the broken windows they find. These negative perceptions will undermine a business as they can turn once highly-satisfied customers into very-dissatisfied customers who choose take their business elsewhere.

    Levine contends the best time to fix a broken window is the moment they occur. He continues by saying the only sustainable way to avoid and repair broken windows is to foster a culture where obsession to detail and a compulsive drive to fix broken windows permeates throughout a business.

    I love the broken windows in business premise! It meshes totally with the Starbucks Tribal Knowledge of EVERYTHING MATTERS.

    However, BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS is a BROKEN BOOK. Why? Because this reader’s perception is what Levine says in 162 pages, could be said in less than 5 pages. Heck … you’ve already learned the book’s premise, gist, and proposed solution which took about 400 words.

    My advice is to heed the BROKEN WINDOWS BROKEN BUSINESS message by reading and acting upon Levine’s well-written introduction (pdf) to his broken book.

    November 05, 2005

    Getting Back in the Box

    “… if you always have to think outside the box, maybe it’s the box that needs fixing.”

    That’s one of my favorite quotes (albeit paraphrased slightly) from Malcolm Gladwell [source article link].

    And now, the forward-thinking Douglas Rushkoff has written a business book seemingly riffing off that profound line.


    Over the next few weeks, Rushkoff will be posting short excerpts on his blog from his to-be-published book -- GET BACK IN THE BOX: Innovation from the Inside Out. Sure, Rushkoff is preaching to this choir of one … but that’s cool … cause what he is preaching sure is tasty. Here’s an excerpted excerpt:

    American companies are obsessed with window dressing because they’re reluctant, no, afraid, to look at whatever it is they really do and evaluate it from the inside out. When things are down, CEO’s look to consultants and marketers to rethink, rebrand or repackage whatever it is they are selling, when they should be getting back on the factory floor, into the stores, or out to the research labs where their product is actually made, sold, or conceived. Instead of making their communications less [Saatchi & Saatchi] and more [Craigslist], they should be reinventing their core enterprise. >>MORE

    September 27, 2005


    Welcome to the second stop on the Business Blog Book Tour #10. We’re discussing Darren Rovell’s FIRST IN THIRST: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon.

    Betcha hadn’t thought much about the business success story of Gatorade … I hadn’t. However, Darren Rovell has and he has unearthed a great business story in Gatorade.

    In FIRST IN THIST, Darren traces the roots of Gatorade from a University of Florida laboratory to being recognized as one of the 100 best brands of the 20th century. To get a taste for the Gatorade story, I highly recommend you read the book’s introduction [pdf].

    For this tour stop, we’ve prepared an audio blog and two posts. Enjoy…

  • Inside the Bottle | an audioblog interview with Darren Rovell
  • Bathing in the Gatorade Bath | learn why Gatorade had the discipline not to over-market the iconic Gatorade Dunk
  • You Gotta Seed to Believe | learn how Gatorade seeded the market with influentials
  • August 17, 2005

    A Radical Careering Preview

    Updated to refresh the Preview PDF link

    Click here for a preview PDF of Sally Hogshead’s to-be-published book -- RADICAL CAREERING: 100 Truths to Jumpstart your Job, your Career, and your Life.

    Sally’s book is an expansion of her well-regarded article “14 Radical Truths” which appeared in Ad Age’s CREATIVITY magazine (Sept. 2002). An abridged version of this article about proactively taking control of one's career was later published in Ad Age (Oct. 21, 2002).

    I remember reading the abridged version while I was contemplating leaving Starbucks in the fall of 2002. Much of the article resonated with me then and I was compelled to distribute photocopies to a few 'on the edge of wanting to leave' co-workers. I dug up the article from my archive (yes, I keep a paper archive of worthy articles) so I could digitally distribute it to you on the Brand Autopsy blog [download article PDF (1.4MB)]. I ended up leaving Starbucks for Whole Foods Market in January 2003. Can’t say for certain Sally’s article pushed me to act, but it did encourage me to make a career change.

    RADICAL CAREERING, the book, is a lot like UNSTUCK … only more focused on inspiring you to transform your 'current self' into your 'ultimate self.' (I expect Tom Peters to gush all over this book.) While the book is overly-designed and overly-hyperbolic, there are some chewy radical truths within the list of 100 to ponder. Some of which include:

    ## | Radical Truth
    09 | Forget What Your Business Card Says, You Are an Entrepreneur
    15 | Aspire to Be the Dumbest Person in the Room
    18 | Invent Option C
    26 | Circumstances Can’t Cripple Your Career as Much as Doubt Or Passivity
    32 | It’s Impossible to be Happy Without Momentum
    40 | Go for Nervous
    57 | You are Not Done Paying Your Dues
    71 | The Antidote to Fear is Action
    87 | Your Job Description Is Not Your Self Description
    97 | Do What You Are

    [Blogger's admission ... I received an early copy of RADICAL CAREERING for being a member of the Penguin BzzChannel (on the BzzAgent BzzNetwork.)]

    August 15, 2005

    WOMMA Membership has its Privileges

    Big_mooWOMMA has given me something to talk about -- a preview copy of THE BIG MOO, Seth Godin’s new collaborative book effort. Gotta hand it to the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association for practicing what they preach. I reckon membership really does have its privileges.

    I rifled through THE BIG MOO last night and found it to be a breezy read. Breezy because each of the 72 short and snappy stories elicit winds of change ideas. Seth invited 32 business thinkers who inspire him to inspire us. The group of 33 contributed essays to encourage us to remarkabalize whatever it is we do.

    Confused by the name THE BIG MOO? According to Seth, “A big moo is the extreme purple cow, the remarkable innovation that completely changes the game. Yes, a purple cow is what you need, but the big moo goes a step further. In order to grow at the pace the markets demands, you and your colleagues must find the big moo, the insight that is so astounding that people can’t help but remark on it.”

    Since remarkable things get remarked about … learn how Seth is remarkabalizing THE BIG MOO.

    August 10, 2005

    Worthy Reads. Worthless Reads. (#5)

    For the fifth edition of Worthy Reads & Worthless Reads (WRWR), I decided to do it off-the-cuff audioblog style. For this edition, I riff on 16 business books I've read since WRWR #4. Below you'll find the download link, books mentioned in the audioblog, worthy/worthless ratings, and purchase/information links.

    [26:32 minutes | 18.2 MB]


  • The Macintosh Way | Guy Kawasaki | WORTHY READ (@ 1:25)
  • Rules for Revolutionaries | Guy Kawasaki | WORTHY READ (@ 3:15)
  • Selling the Dream | Guy Kawasaki | WORTHY READ (@ 3:50)
  • How to Drive Your Competition Crazy | Guy Kawasaki | WORTHY READ (@ 4:24)
  • The Cult of Mac | Leander Kahney | WORTHY READ (@ 5:04)
  • Revolution in the Valley | Andy Hertzfeld | WORTHY READ (@ 5:04)
  • Buzzmarketing | Mark Hughes | WORTHLESS READ (@ 6:42)
  • Brand Sense | Martin Lindstrom | WORTHLESS READ (@ 9:03)
  • Fast Company Magazine article| Smells Like Brand Spirit | WORTHY READ
  • Branded Customer Service | Barlow & Stewart | WORTHLESS READ (@ 10:36)
  • Marketing Playbook | John Fox | WORTHLESS READ (@ 13:14)
  • Brain Tattoos | Karen Post | WORTHY READ (@ 14:30)
  • Secret Service | John Dijulious | WORTHY READ (@ 14:30)
  • Brewing Up a Business | Sam Calagione | WORTHLESS READ (@ 14:58)
  • The Radical Leap | Steve Farber | WORTHY READ (@ 17:07)
  • Improv Wisdom | Patricia Ryan Madson | WORTHY READ (@ 18:58)
  • The War of Art | Steven Pressfield | WAY WAY WAY WORTHY READ (@ 21:53)
    More Worthy Reads/Worthless Reads:
  • Edition #1 | April 4, 2004
  • Edition #2 | May 28, 2004
  • Edition #3 | October 22, 2004
  • Edition #4 | January 29, 2005

  • May 22, 2005

    LIES and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them


    Welcome to the first stop on the ALL MARKETERS ARE LIARS Business Blog Book Tour.  Before we explore the book with you, we should all get on the same page as to the gist of the LIARS story. 

    Lifting author Seth Godin's words directly from the book, below is the Brand Autopsy mash-up [marketing club remix version] synopsis of LIARS.

    All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. Successful marketers don’t talk about features or benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we want to believe.

    Marketing is the story marketers tell to consumers and then maybe, if the marketer has done a good job, the lie consumers tell themselves and their friends. Some marketers focus so hard on the facts of their offering that they forget to tell a story at all and then wonder why they’ve failed.

    Stories are shortcuts because we’re too overwhelmed by data to discover all the details. Marketers tell the stories, and consumers believe them. Some marketers do it well. Others are pretty bad at it.

    Great marketers tell stories we believe. The marketer tells a story about what the consumer notices. The story changes the way the consumer experiences the product or service. Storytelling only works when the story actually makes the product or service better.

    Storytelling isn’t Seth’s idea.  It’s the idea of customers. It’s customers who want to be told stories. It’s your prospects who will walk away if you obsess about the last sigma of this or that without bothering to tell a story about it.

    There are no small stories. Only small marketers. If your story is too small, it’s not a story, it’s just an annoying interruption. Make your story bigger and bigger until it’s important enough to believe.

    Paul and I each connected with Seth’s worldview of marketing being all about storyselling … we mean … storytelling.  Below you’ll find a jump-list of seven posts where we frame up our observations/impressions from LIARS and from an email exchange we had with Seth.

    1. Getting the Most Out of LIARS | insights into how to approach reading LIARS
    2. "Liar" Stories Worth Repeating | some key learnings from LIARS
    3. Smart Customers Hear the Whisper | Seth talks about the importance of subtlety
    4. Buying the Sizzle, Not the Steak Knives | what x-ray specs and the ThighMaster share in common
    5. Strategies Smart Marketers Follow | why Miller Brewing will fail in its attempt to live the glamorous marketing life
    6. Getting Big, Staying Small | keeping the story alive as you grow
    7. Seth’s New New Marketing Journalism | Seth shares the approach he took in writing LIARS
    Look for more insightul commentary about Seth's ALL MARKETERS ARE LIARS all week long as the Business Blog Book Tour continues at these way worthy blogs:
  • HELLO WORLD (Tue., May 24)
  • METACOOL (Thur., May 26)
  • BRAND MANTRA (Fri., May 27)
  • May 13, 2005

    Business Book Smarts

    Wander over to the 800.CEO.READ blog for my review of three books which will help you communicate better at work. Books mentioned include:


  • WHY BUSINESS PEOPLE SPEAK LIKE IDIOTS (Fugere, Hardaway, & Warshawsky)
  • May 10, 2005

    Passionate & Profitable

    Passionate_and_profitable_1 I just finished reading Lior Arussy’s latest biz book, PASSIONATE & PROFITABLE. It’s an HBR article on steroids going deep into how companies can better develop passionate and profitable relationships with customers.

    Much of the book stems from a Customer Experience Management Study (.pdf) conducted by Lior’s Strativity Group in 2003. One mind-boggling finding from this study is 45% of surveyed executives felt their company didn’t deserve the loyalty displayed by their customers. (WOW!)

    One idea from the book I’m going to implement with my clients is the notion of writing a Customer Job Description. On page 75 of PASSIONATE & PROFITABLE Lior writes,

    ”Imagine that your customer works for you. Just like an employee, the customer will do what you tell him or her to do and be measured accordingly. Imagine that you can assign roles and responsibilities that you will expect him or her to live up to. This is the essence of defining your expectations from the relationship.”

    A Customer Job Description … nice idea Lior.

    April 18, 2005

    Marketing Lessons Learned from FREAKONOMICS


    This weekend I read FREAKONOMICS with rapt attention. The authors, economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen Dubner, apply economic measuring tools to reveal, in a fascinating way, how and why conventional wisdom is oftentimes wrong.

    The material covered in FREAKONOMICS could serve as Malcolm Gladwell book fodder for eons to come. And just as with Gladwell’s writings, the takeaways from FREAKONOMICS are not readily apparent, nor immediately applicable in a business sense.

    While there are many lessons to be learned from FREAKONOMICS, I came away with four lessons learned I plan to use as a marketer.


    Marketing lesson learned #1demystifying the assumption the amount of money spent by political candidates matter greatly in an election.

    What really matters for a marketing campaign is not how much you spend on tactics. What matters most is what your product/service can do.


    Marketing lesson learned #2demystifying how monetary incentives (and disincentives) results in changing one’s behavior in an unintended manner. [LINK: book excerpt on incentives and the dark-side of cheating]

    Don’t think a customer loyalty program which doles out monetary incentives will alter consumer behavior for the better. Instead, find ways to base so-called customer loyalty programs on social currencies like recognition and admiration.


    Marketing lesson learned #3how the diffusion of information eradicates the power of knowledge being a leverageable asset in business. [LINK: book excerpt on how experts try (and have tried) to use knowledge as leverage]

    The abundance and availability of information today makes storytelling more important than ever for marketers. Storytelling, not information, is the new leverage-able asset in business. (This ‘storytelling’ story is one Seth Godin tells in his to-be-published book ALL MARKETERS ARE LIARS.)


    Marketing lesson learned #4how conventional wisdom is a powerful story most people want to believe even when shown sound analysis to the contrary. [LINK: book excerpt on why drug dealers still live with their Moms]

    Don’t try to change one’s conventional wisdom by marketing how your product/service upends one’s thinking -- it’ll take too much money and time. Instead, success will come truer if you focus on telling your product’s story to people who are more inclined to believe your story from the get-go. (Again, this marketing lesson learned has been shaped by Godin’s LIAR thinking.)

    April 12, 2005

    Resistance is Futile

    The_war_of_art_1Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start may serve as a guide for starting anything. But ... Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art will help you finish what you started by inspiring you to overcome the self-sabotaging power of Resistance.

    After all as Steven writes, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” (pg 12, The War of Art)

    If you, like me, are turning your avocation into your vocation, read this book. Don't resist. Read it now.

    Further Learning:

  • Excerpts of The War of Art | from stevenpressfield.com
  • Audio Interview | audiomotivation.com

  • April 07, 2005

    Never Blog Alone

    Through blogging I have been able to address an opportunity area of mine -- NETWORKING. I could be better at meeting new people and making meaningful connections with them. However through this blog, I have become more proactive in reaching out to meet new people and make meaningful connections with them.

    Recently I read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone and it helped to me to redefine what real networking is. According to Keith, "... real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful. [It’s] about working hard to give more than you get.” (Given that definition, maybe I'm not such a poor networker.)

    Never Eat Alone is a way worthy read as it gives practical advice on how to make the most out of attending conferences, how to expand your circle of contacts, and how to build your network BEFORE you need it.

    I recommend you buy the book, but you can also get the gist of Never Eat Alone from these links:

  • INC Magazine | The 10 Secrets of a Master Networker | January 2003
  • SUMMARY | Notes from David Moradi (.doc) | website
  • Never Eat Alone Blog
  • EXCERPTS | from the FerrazziGreenlight website
  • March 24, 2005

    BOOK REVIEW: A Whole New Mind

    Whole_new_mind_book_cover_1Dan Pink's A Whole New Mind is an important book which deserves the immediate attention of every cubicle monkey and corner-office executive working in business today. It'll teach you how to thrive in the emerging Conceptual Age where "... the 'right brain' qualities of inventiveness, empathy, joyfullness, and meaning -- increasingly will determine who flourishes and who flounders." [READ MORE of my review on the 800-CEO-READ Blog.]

    March 07, 2005

    Things Great Managers Do

    Marcus_buckingham_1As mentioned earlier, Marcus Buckingham has written an outstanding Harvard Business Review article outlining the traits of great managers. The article is a synopsis of his recently released book titled, The One Thing You Need to Know … and below is a scalpel/suture of my takeaways from the article.

    However, I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE you to go beyond reading this article outtake and purchase the entire article online or buy the March issue of the Harvard Business Review at any number of offline retailers.


    Great managers play chess, not checkers
    Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. You need to plan and coordinate their movements, certainly, but they all move at the same pace, on parallel paths. In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves.

    Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.

    Being a Manager is different than being a Leader
    Great leaders discover what is universal and capitalize on it. Their job is to rally people toward a better future. Leaders can succeed in this only when they can cut through differences of race, sex, age, nationality, and personality and, using stories and celebrating heroes, tap into those very few needs we all share.

    The job of a manager, meanwhile, is to turn one person’s particular talent into performance. Managers will succeed only when they can identify and deploy the differences among people, challenging each employee to excel in his or her own way. This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.

    This doesn’t mean a leader can’t be a manager or vice versa. But to excel at one or both, you must be aware of the very different skills each role requires.

    Great Managers capitalize on people’s unique abilities
    All that said, the reason great managers focus on uniqueness isn’t just because it makes good business sense. They do it because they can’t help it.

    Like Shelley and Keats, the nineteenth-century Romantic poets, great managers are fascinated with individuality for its own sake. Fine shadings of personality, though they may be invisible to some and frustrating to others, are crystal clear to and highly valued by great managers. They could no more ignore these subtleties than ignore their own needs and desires. Figuring out what makes people tick is simply in their nature.

    Identifying a person’s strengths …
    To identify a person’s strengths, first ask, “What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months?” Find out what the person was doing and why he enjoyed it so much.

    Remember: A strength is not merely something you are good at. In fact, it might be something you aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something you find so intrinsically satisfying that you look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time. This question will prompt your employee to start thinking about his interests and abilities from this perspective.

    Identifying a person’s weaknesses …
    To identify a person’s weaknesses, just invert the question: “What was the worst day you’ve had at work in the past three months?” And then probe for details about what he was doing and why it grated on him so much.

    As with a strength, a weakness is not merely something you are bad at (in fact, you might be quite competent at it). It is something that drains you of energy, an activity that you never look forward to doing and that when you are doing it, all you can think about is stopping.

    Great Managers recognize great performance
    The most powerful trigger by far is recognition, not money. If you’re not convinced of this, start ignoring one of your highly paid stars, and watch what happens.

    Most managers are aware that employees respond well to recognition. Great managers refine and extend this insight. They realize that each employee plays to a slightly different audience.

    To excel as a manager, you must be able to match the employee to the audience he values most. One employee’s audience might be his peers; the best way to praise him would be to stand him up in front of his coworkers and publicly celebrate his achievement. Another’s favorite audience might be you; the most powerful recognition would be a one-on-one conversation where you tell him quietly but vividly why he is such a valuable member of the team. Still another employee might define himself by his expertise; his most prized form of recognition would be some type of professional or technical award. Yet another might value feedback only from customers, in which case a picture of the employee with her best customer or a letter to her from the customer would be the best form of recognition.

    Great Managers find ways to amplify a person’s style
    Great managers don’t try to change a person’s style. They never try to push a knight to move in the same way as a bishop.

    They know that their employees will differ in how they think, how they build relationships, how altruistic they are, how patient they can be, how much of an expert they need to be, how prepared they need to feel, what drives them, what challenges them, and what their goals are. These differences of trait and talent are like blood types: They cut across the superficial variations of race, sex, and age and capture the essential uniqueness of each individual.

    Great Managing is about releasing not transforming
    To excel at managing others, you must bring that insight to your actions and interactions. Always remember that great managing is about release, not transformation. It’s about constantly tweaking your environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each employee can be given free rein. Your success as a manager will depend almost entirely on your ability to do this.

    February 12, 2005

    The HB Way

    BeharKnown simply as HB, Howard Behar has had an enduring and endearing impact at Starbucks.

    Howard Schultz, Starbucks demigod, openly credits HB with making the company more customer-driven. My Starbucks Tribal Knowledge tells me it was HB that popularized the now often quoted line of: “Starbucks is not in the coffee business serving people. Starbucks is in the people business serving coffee.”

    HB is also known for spreading the gospel of Servant Leadership throughout Starbucks. Last night while perusing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble I noticed James Autry’s book, The Servant Leader, is now available in paperback and the foreword is written by Howard Behar.

    For those not in the know, Servant Leadership eschews the classical definition of a leader being a stand-alone hero. Instead, Servant Leadership asks leaders to focus on creating a shared vision for all employees, fostering a spirit of interdependence, and managing with respect, honesty, and empathy.

    In the foreword, HB shares the story of how in 2001, he returned to Starbucks to find the company leadership culture different than what he had experienced before.

    “The pathway of Starbucks phenomenal achievement has been full of twists and hurdles, some of which were unwittingly created by the very partners (Starbucks employees) who were working so hard to make us successful! I retired from Starbucks in 1999, and was enjoying the good life – no meetings, no deadlines – it was great. But in 2001 there was a change in the leadership in our North American business unit, and Starbucks President and CEO Orin Smith asked me to come back to work on an interim basis as president of the business unit.

    Servant_leader_2Orin had notice something different at Starbucks. The passion and values were still there, but sometimes we spent more energy on our individual or department goals than focusing on the greater good. Not just what we could do within the four walls of our offices or our stores, but the greater good that our now-expansive organization was binging to the world – how could we serve each other and people around the globe.

    From an outsider’s perspective, there was nothing to complain about: the company’s financial achievements, growth and innovation were chugging ahead full steam, and partners devoted near-obsessive attention to quality and ethics. But could we sustain our success for the next 10, 20, 50 years without taking a hard look at our leadership practices? We didn’t think so.

    Orin and I began to evangelize the principles of servant leadership … we held trainings, read books, and more importantly, we lived it. And we are still living it. You can see it today as people meet in the hallways. You can feel the power behind the change, and the power that servant leadership gives to everyone it touches, in every aspect of our lives. Servant leadership is truly alive at Starbucks.”

    Besides spreading the gospel of Servant Leadership throughout Starbucks worldwide, HB is also known for spreading weathered truisms, known affectionately as HB-isms, throughout the company. Some of the more memorable HB-isms include:

  • We think rules make us safe. They don’t. Don’t give me rules, give me tools.
  • Where we have a problem, we have a problem leader.
  • Profit is what comes when you do everything else right.
  • Customers don’t think about rules. They want what they want.
  • Your customer will tell you whether you are right or wrong – just try it.
  • I’m not smart. I’m just not stupid – I learn.
  • Don’t be lulled into complacency – we will hit the wall.
  • There is no conflict with doing the right thing and making money.

  • January 31, 2005

    Even More Leftovers from the Category Killers BBBT

    Continuing the Wal-Mart|P&G|Gillette conversation ... today’s Wall Street Journal front page story (sub. req’d) focused on the role Wal-Mart may have played in the P&G/Gillette merger. Snippets from the story include:

    For P&G and Wal-Mart, "it's a lot like a marriage," says Lou Pritchett, who, as P&G vice president of sales, met with Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton to establish the companies' relationship in 1987. "Sometimes you want to slice each other's throats, and there are other times when it's a love-in."

    Fully 17%, or $8.7 billion, of P&G's $51.4 billion in sales come from Wal-Mart's 5,100 stores world-wide. The companies link their computer systems and share sales data and marketing plans. One of P&G's largest offices outside its Cincinnati headquarters is in Fayetteville, Ark., down the road from Wal-Mart headquarters. The two companies cozy up to each other, only at times to pull back and compete fiercely.

    Being the best-selling brand is always a goal for consumer-products companies. But it has become a matter of survival as Wal-Mart has become a bigger player in the world of retail. Wal-Mart is brutally focused on stocking only a few brands on its shelves. Moving products quickly through its stores is crucial to the company's profitability, so Wal-Mart swiftly abandons products that aren't selling well.

    For both P&G and Gillette, Wal-Mart is the largest single seller of their products. It accounts for 13% of Gillette's $9.25 billion in annual sales. P&G's sales at Wal-Mart traditionally have grown faster than its total company growth rate, which was 19% in its last fiscal year, ended June 30.

    P&G's acquisition was not driven by a desire to have greater leverage with Wal-Mart, Mr. Lafley said in an interview Friday. Asked if the balance of power has shifted to suppliers, he likes to reply, "The power has shifted to the consumer." P&G says it offers the same programs to all its suppliers and doesn't give any special treatment to Wal-Mart.

    Wal-Mart has even lately worried about suppliers becoming too reliant on it, noting that any time companies rely too much on each other, they inherit all the risks of the other.

    Further Reading:
  • Category Killers Business Blog Book Tour stop at Brand Autopsy
  • First serving of Category Killers leftovers
  • Second serving of Category Killers leftovers
  • More Leftovers from the Category Killers BBBT

    In our “Being the Biggest, Not the Best” post from the Category Killers Business Blog Book Tour, we discussed why big box retailers are producing more and more private label goods.

    With the recent merger announcement between Proctor & Gamble and Gillette, the New York Times speculates the rise of private label goods (especially Wal-Mart’s store brands) and the loss of pricing power from packaged good producers played influential roles in P&G's decision to buy Gillette.

    Constance L. Hays, of the NY Times, writes …

    For 15 years, giant chains - Wal-Mart chief among them - have increasingly dominated their relationships with manufacturers, flexing their market muscle and seizing pricing power by showing a willingness to sell their private label products.

    One industry expert said the Procter deal reflected a desire by P.& G. to take back some pricing power from Wal-Mart and other retailers, who have increased their leverage by consolidating, and eliminating rivals, starting in the mid-1980's.

    "The big consumer product companies need to rebalance power a bit between themselves and the big retailers like Wal-Mart," said John D. Sicher, publisher of a beverage newsletter that tracks the growth of private-label soft drinks. "It's important for them, their brands and their consumers," he said, adding that the consumer products companies need to bolster their pricing power if they are going to keep shoppers buying by innovating, improving marketing, and developing brands.

    But some specialists think P.& G.'s acquisition may be too little and too late to curb Wal-Mart's power.
    Procter generates about 17 percent of its annual sales through Wal-Mart, and Gillette about 25 percent, but that still represents less than 10 percent of the discounter's total sales, said Bruce Cohen, a principal with Kurt Salmon Associates in San Francisco, a consulting firm that has advised Gillette in the past but did not participate in the deal announced yesterday.

    "Wal-Mart will continue to be a major part of P.& G.'s thinking," said Dan Stanek, executive vice president of Retail Forward, a consulting group based in Columbus, Ohio, that publishes weekly reports about Wal-Mart. "It shifts things a little bit, but Wal-Mart is still Wal-Mart. The ball is still clearly in Wal-Mart's court."

    "At this point, there is a real question about whether P.& G. will actually increase in power, or whether Wal-Mart owns the consumer," Professor (Ed) Fox (Southern Methodist University) said.

    So will Wal-Mart now respond to the Procter-Gillette marriage by producing more private-label goods? Professor Fox predicted Wal-Mart will not do so unless a category is large enough to warrant the effort. "The categories don't grow because of the merger," he said.

    Leftovers from the Category Killers BBBT

    While prepping for the recently held Business Blog Book Tour VI for Category Killers, I asked Robert Spector (the author) which ‘killer categories’ were ripe to become the next category killers. Besides mentioning Metal Supermarket and Lightbulbs Unlimited, Spector mentioned the Container Store, a Dallas-based privately held company specializing in boxes, bins, and everything in-between to help consumers organize all their stuff.

    Recently, The Dallas Morning News ran a profile (reg. req’d) on The Container Store and how they are experiencing tremendous sales success with their 14-month old Manhattan location.

    According to the article, this Container Store, located in the Chelsea neighborhood, is generating 2½ times the sales of its next highest grossing location. And if that doesn’t impress you, then maybe the fact the store is producing $1,100 in sales per square foot will. It’s no wonder the Container Store will be opening up a second Manhattan location in March 2006.

    Container_storeThe Container Store is a prototypical JumboShrimp company because they have gotten bigger by being smaller. As with all JumboShrimp companies, The Container Store isn’t trying to become the biggest storage/organization retailer … they are trying to become the best.

    In its quest to become the best, The Container Store relentlessly cultivates a company culture where employees are inspired to go above and beyond in delivering great customer service. Nearly every product sold at The Container Store can be found at other category killers like Bed, Bath & Beyond, Linen & Things, and Storables. These companies can replicate the products The Container Store sells, but they can’t replicate the people that sell the products to customers.

    JumboShrimp companies, like the Container Store, recognize competitors can replicate products, but they can’t replicate people.

    For the last six years, The Container Store has been named by FORTUNE magazine as being one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” ranking in the top five in five of the last six years. That's remarkable. In a press release, The Container Store’s CEO/President, Kip Tindell, summed up their employee-first focus by saying,

    "We know that our unbelievably great people are the reason behind The Container Store's success over the past 27 years and the FORTUNE honor is just one indicator that they feel trust and pride in the company – something that I'm very proud of. Each day, we're committed to making The Container Store an even better place to work – more training, benefits, communication, empowerment, FUN – it's a never-ending journey."
    To learn more about The Container Store, I recommend reading Discovering the Soul of Service by Leonard Berry. Throughout the book, Berry highlights the people practices that have made The Container Store a respected and admired business.

    January 29, 2005

    Worthy Reads Worthless Reads IV

    This has ended up becoming business book week on Brand Autopsy so to further the theme, I present the latest installment of Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads (WRWR). As with WRWR I, WRWR II, and WRWR III, I’m rating each recently read business book on a five point-scale based upon the following categories:

  • IDEATIONhelps me generate new ideas
  • INTELLECTIONgives me a new perspective on a business topic
  • MAXIMIZEincreases my current understanding of a business topic
  • I am also including my Dog-Ear Score for many of these books. (For those needing a primer on the Brand Autopsy Dog-Ear Scoring System, click here.)


    Worthy Reads Worthless Reads IV

    Branded Nation (James Twitchell)
    Twitchell examines how the seemingly non-commercial worlds of colleges and universities, churches, and museums have become commercialized by embracing the religion of marketing. The book reads like a series of long-form white papers with general and somewhat interesting observations, but no actionable takeaways. I should warn ya … Twitchell is extremely verbose … he carries on from page-to-page like a know-it-all who doesn’t know when the reader has had enough.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 10:301 (3.3%)

    The Marketing Playbook (Zagula & Tong)
    Hmm … this book should have been titled, “The Category Management Playbook” as Zagula & Tong offer great strategic advice on how to dominate a product category. Their five plays (drag race, platform, stealth, best-of-both, and high-low) are easy-to-understand and applicable to any market situation. Plus, their ABC Gap Analysis is a more simplistic way to engage in backcasting strategic planning. As a marketer, I learned very little from this book and found the heavy reliance on high-tech/computer-related analogies obtuse. Had the book been titled “The Category Management Playbook,” I would be more apt to recommend it.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 19:306 (6.2%)
    WORTHLESS READ for a Marketer.
    WORTHY READ for a Category Manager

    The First 90 Days (Michael Watkins)
    A must read for anyone starting a new job with a new company or a new position with your current company. Watkins systematically breaks down the process for how to set yourself up for success from day one on the job. He shows you how to hit the ground running, how best to climb the cultural and functional learning curves, and how to secure early wins (and avoid early losses). If you are a manager responsible for getting new hires up-to-speed, read this book so you can better develop a 90 day plan for your direct reports. This is one of the most actionable business books I have read.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 25:240 (10.4%)

    The Book of Yo! (Simon Woodroffe)
    Simon is a chronic entrepreneur who, when not on the speaking circuit, is attempting to turn his stable of Yo! brands/concepts into the next Virgin uber-brand. His Book of Yo! is full of his hard-earned entrepreneurial gusto-rich ‘Yo-isms’ designed to inspire you professionally and personally to make things happen.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 3/5
    Dog-Ear Score – n/a

    Lucky or Smart (Bo Peabody)
    This may be the first reality fable business book. While I loath fable biz books, I LOVED this reality fable biz book which shares entrepreneurial lessons Bo Peabody learned from starting six successful business ventures. In a mere 58 pages, Bo shares engaging stories, gives poignant perspective, and offers a trove of sage business advice that will benefit any entrepreneur and entrepreneur wannabe. Lucky or Smart is an early contender for the best business book of 2005.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 14:58 (24.1%)

    The Little Red Writing Book (Brandon Royal)
    Have years of writing in succinct bullet-points for PowerPoint decks caused you to struggle writing in complete and compelling sentences? If so, I highly suggest you pick up The Little Red Writing Book. The author, Brandon Royal, gives timeless and actionable advice in an enjoyable manner that comes off as instructional and never pedantic. His 20 basic writing principles on structure, style, readability, and grammar will not only make you a better ‘long-form’ writer, it might even improve your ‘short-form’ PowerPoint writing.

    IDEATION – 3/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 22:160 (13.8%)

    Funky Business (Nordstrom & Ridderstrale)
    In nearly every Tom Peters PowerPoint deck he includes some line from Funky Business. So it was only a matter of time before I read it. Well … after reading it, I was disappointed. Disappointed because it is 245 pages of intellectual foreplay. The author’s sexy ideas for designing businesses to compete in the ‘future of now’ look good, read good, and sound good but I was left wanting ‘call-to-action’ next steps. Unfortunately, their ‘call-to-action’ next steps are hidden within their densely layered prose. At least with Tom Peters, you can easily tell where the ‘call-to-action’ points are because of all those exclamation points.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    MAXIMIZE – 3/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 9:245 (3.7%)

    Category Killers (Robert Spector)
    In today’s United States of Generica, we have seen the face of retail change from small mom and shops which gave way to department stores which have given way to so-called category killers. Spector’s book is a well-researched and very informative historical look at big box retailers which specialize in a given product category (books, electronics, office supplies, etc). And because of their focus and efficiency, these retailers offer consumers a broad selection of goods at intoxicatingly low prices. Unfortunately, Spector glosses over the rich societal implications that have resulted from the market share dominance of category killer retailers.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 19:191 (10.0%)

    The Cult of Mac (Leander Kahney)
    Okay … many stories have been told about the Macintosh cult and how Apple and Steve Jobs are masters at branding. Yada. Yada. Yada. However, Leander Kahney tells the same story but in a different and more emotional way. In this design-rich book, Kahney eschews branding babble rhetoric for bottom-up stories from within the Mac community. This book is just as much about the Mac cult as it is about the cult of Mac. The breadth and depth of the fanaticism from the Mac community is astounding. If you’re a marketer seeking to create loyalty beyond reason with consumers, read this book to learn the extremes to which Mac evangelists go to share and show their devotion to all things Mac.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 31:259 (11.9%)

    Blink (Malcolm Gladwell)
    Blink suffers from lofty expectations. How could it not … Gladwell’s The Tipping Point was pure genius so why shouldn’t we expect genius again from Blink. While Blink is not as actionable as The Tipping Point, it is just as informative and just as well written. My takeaway from Blink was I need to develop the expertise and the discipline to focus my decision-making on critical factors and not get bogged down in inconsequential minutia. My other takeaway from Blink was Malcolm has become intoxicated by his ability to impact vernacular. He seems to relish in his ability to infect the language of today. The 'tipping point' has become a buzzword so much so that Malcolm clings to 'thin slicing' and 'rapid cognition' in hopes they can become as buzz-wordy as 'tipping point.'

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 32:265 (12.0%)

    Massive Change (Bruce Mau)
    95% of this book on the future design of the world and its societal and environmental aspects went WAY OVER MY HEAD. I found the essays and interviews on ‘Urban Economies’ to be interesting and thought-provoking. But the discussion on topics like biomimicry, rural electrification, and tissue engineering bored me into oblivion. But the pictures sure were pretty.

    IDEATION – 0/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – N/A

    January 26, 2005

    Best/Worst Book Title

    While at Bookpeople today I came across the best book title I’ve seen a long time … Murphy’s Law Repealed. Ahh … delicious satire.

    And while perusing the CEO-READ blog today I saw the worst book title of the year … Who Let the Blogs Out. Ouch … I thought blogs were about realizing the future of meaningful conversations today and not about meaningless sloganeering from yesteryear. Makes one appreciate Scoble/Isreal’s draft book title of Blog or Die … right?

    Brand Autopsy Discusses Category Killers

    Category_killers_6Welcome. It’s day three of the Business Blog Book Tour VI and Category Killers from Robert Spector is on the Brand Autopsy examination table.

    When you think about it … you’re hard pressed to find a retailing concept that has been as disruptive as category killers (big box retailers) have been in reshaping the shopping landscape and in contributing to the United States of Generica we Americans live in today. Robert Spector’s Category Killers: The Retail Revolution and Its Impact on Consumer Culture is a very informative and well researched study into how and why these big box retailers have come to enjoy their market dominance and cultural significance positions.

    Below you’ll find a jump-list of our Category Killers blog entries and Robert will be adding his perspective throughout the day to answer any additional questions these posts may create.

  • Book Report – Category Killers: A brief summary of Category Killers
  • Master Retailers … No Matter the Era: Find out which old school retailer would compete best in today’s new school retailing world
  • Being the Biggest, Not the Best: The path to bigness is through the smallness of low prices
  • The Deal and The Dealer
  • : Is it the deal or the dealer that creates loyalty for Category Killers?

    The Business Blog Book Tour VI continues at the Brand Experience Lab on Thursday (1/27) and at Learned on Woman on Friday (1/28).

    January 05, 2005

    Lucky or Smart? Which is it?

    BLOGGER'S NOTE: The following evangelism is 100% genuine and 100% unprovoked. 'Nuff said.

    Lucky_or_smart"The number one killer of start-ups is when entrepreneurs confuse ‘being lucky’ with ‘being smart.’ You must possess the humility to distinguish one from the other.

    Lucky things happen to entrepreneurs who start fundamentally innovative, morally compelling, and philosophically positive companies."

    That’s a snippet from Bo Peabody’s Lucky or Smart? Secrets to an Entrepreneurial Life - an early contender for the best business book of 2005.

    Bo Peabody is best known for co-founding Tripod, a personal publishing Internet site. Since selling Tripod to Lycos in 1998, he has co-founded five other businesses. Bo’s recently published book, Lucky or Smart?, shares lessons he has learned from his entrepreneurial business life.

    In a mere 58 pages, Bo shares compelling stories, gives poignant perspective, and offers a trove of sage business advice that will benefit any entrepreneur and entrepreneur wannabe. (So in this case, size doesn't matter.)

    The premise of Lucky or Smart? is simple … entrepreneurs are not more lucky than smart or more smart than lucky. Instead, successful entrepreneurs are smart enough to know when they are getting lucky.

    I loved his perspective that entrepreneurs are better off being B-students and not A-students. (Hmm … where does that put a C-student like me?) In a chapter titled, “Entrepreneurs are B-Students. Managers are A-Students.,” Bo writes …

    "B-students don’t know everything about anything and are excellent at nothing. B-students, however, know something about a lot of things, and they can complete almost any task with some modicum of success. Entrepreneurs are B-students. There is no one thing they do well. But there are many thing they do well enough.

    A-students, on the other hand, know a lot about one thing, whether it is technology or marketing or sales and finance. And they do this thing extremely well. If they don’t do it well, it bothers them. A-students want to do things perfectly all the time. This is a very bad trait for an entrepreneur, but a very good trait for a manager.

    The most important thing to realize when you’re a B-student entrepreneur is that you need A-student managers. You must listen to them. You have no choice. The good news is that A-students must also listen to B-students, because B-students know about aspects of life and business that A-students know nothing about. While most A-students are really good at one thing, they tend to be completely out to lunch when it comes to most everything else. On the other hand, B-students are really good at being sort of good at everything.

    The sooner the B-students and the A-students understand and appreciate each other, the more productive everyone will be."

    Good stuff, eh? I think so and so does Jack Covert of 800-CEO-READ. Jack recently gushed about Lucky or Smart? So there, take it from us … go buy it ... go read it ... go dig it.

    December 14, 2004

    2004 Marketing Books of the Year Awards

    It’s that time of the year where anybody and everybody ranks the best of this and the best of that. Last year while serving as co-guest host for the Fast Company blog, I compiled my list of Best Marketing Books for 2003. So I reckon this is now my Second Annual Marketing Books of the Year Awards blog posting.


    Best Book Title
    Rules of the Red Rubber Ball (Carroll)
    I’m a sucker for great analogies and linking the carefree creative and playful spirit of childhood to a red rubber ball is bloody brilliant. (And the book is also bloody brilliant.)

    2003 Recipient:
    Your Marketing Sucks (Stevens)


    Golden Raspberry Award for Insignificance in Business Book Publishing
    Bang! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World (Thaler and Koval)
    Hated it. Ego-driven drivel from two ad execs on how to trick, deceive, and manipulate clients. For more on why I so hated this book, click here and scroll.

    Clued In (Carbone)
    A totally worthless read. Besides being god-awful boring, it does nothing to advance the notion that delivering great customer experiences is important. Nothing.

    2003 Recipients:
    Beans (Yakes and Decker)
    Making Dough: 12 Ingredients of Krispy Kreme’s Sweet Success (Kazanjian & Joyner)


    Best Marketing Advice Book
    Renovate Before You Innovate (Zyman)
    Why are so many companies transfixed on transformational marketing ideas when incremental ideas have more cumulative impact? With real-world examples galore, Sergio Zyman eloquently and effectively makes the case for marketing incrementalism.

    2003 Recipient:
    Lessons from a Chief Marketing Officer (Kirk)


    Best Marketing Book to Generate Tactical Ideas
    Ideas Are Free (Robinson & Schroeder)
    Okay, Ideas are Free is not really a marketing book. But the tactical ideas the authors share on how to generate ideas from within inside a company make this book a must read for marketers.

    2003 Recipients:
    Meaningful Marketing (Hall)
    How to Become a Marketing Superstar (Fox)


    Surprise Book of the Year
    Art of the Start (Kawasaki)
    This is the best book I have read on how to turn a business concept into action. Besides giving sensible advice on everything from positioning to pitching to bootstrapping to writing business plans to recruiting to branding, Art of the Start will motivate you to make your new business happen.

    Unstuck (Yamashita & Spataro)
    Every team leader and every team member should have this book. Hmm … that means EVERYONE should have this book. Why? Because UNSTUCK is not really a book. It is a tool to get each of us thinking differently in order to get out of our personal and professional ruts.

    2003 Recipients:
    The Brand Gap (Neumeier)
    Creating Customer Evangelists (McConnell & Huba)


    The Philip Kotler Vanguard Lifetime Achievement Award
    Sergio Zyman
    The End of Advertising as We Know It, The End of Marketing as We Know It, and Renovate Before You Innovate are all enduring and endearing marketing book classics. (Disregard Brandwidth. We all make mistakes as Sergio did with Brandwidth and New Coke.)

    2003 Recipient:
    Al Ries and Jack Trout


    Best Business Strategy Book
    We the Media (Gillmor)
    The Revolution Will Not Be Television (Trippi)
    The Wisdom of Crowds (Surowiecki)

    No matter if you call it bottom-up marketing or open-source marketing or participatory marketing … businesses that learn to relinquish top-down control over customers and instead choose to empower customers to co-collaborate with them will be rewarded with customer loyalty beyond reason.

    We the Media explores the impact, the motivation, and the potential for citizen journalism. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised illustrates how the Howard Dean presidential campaign empowered ordinary citizens to assume the marketing leadership within a political campaign. The Wisdom of Crowds shows how the power of collective wisdom is more right than wrong.

    All three books serve as the foundation for a monumental marketing movement that will shake the tectonic plates of corporate marketing forever.

    2003 Recipient:
    Double-Digit Growth (Treacey)


    Best Marketing Book of the Year
    FREE PRIZE INSIDE (Seth Godin)
    Yes, I am a Seth Godin groupie. I have all his albums, including bootlegs only released in the Netherlands. If you need to be convinced to buy FREE PRIZE INSIDE, click here to read Brand Autopsy postings on the book.

    2003 Recipient:
    Purple Cow (Godin)

    December 08, 2004

    Strategy+Business Best Business Books of 2004


    The Winter 2004 issue of Strategy+Business lists their top 35 business books of 2004. The list was compiled with the help of business professionals, academic scholars, and journalists. For those needing expert guidance on which current biz books to consider reading … read this article.

    You can click here to download the full 44 page PDF article. (It’s a worthy read but a hefty download [1.72MB].) Or, click here for a link-laden index of their list (registration may be req’d).

    December 05, 2004

    Ben Franklin. America’s first CMO.

    Ben_franklin_cmoThe History Channel is airing a biography on Ben Franklin tonight and their promotional campaign includes the following tagline:

    Ben Franklin.
    Inventor. Patriot. Playboy.

    Besides being an inventor, patriot, and playboy … Benjamin Franklin was, in essence, America’s first Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).

    Simon Anholt proposes the idea of Ben Franklin as America’s first CMO in this radio interview which aired recently on The World. He furthers this idea of Franklin being America’s first master marketer in his book, Brand America: The Mother of All Brands.

    In Brand America ... Simon expertly points out that as an American Ambassador in Paris, it was Franklin’s job to evangelize America’s brand essence of ‘liberty’ to the French in order to persuade them to join the colonists’ uprising against Britain. Beyond gaining support for the colonial war abroad, Franklin also succeeded in sprinkling America’s ‘brand DNA’ across the world – resulting in laying the ‘branding’ foundation that positioned America as being an aspirational brand.

    Simon also thoroughly examines how America’s once pristine brand image has become tragically tainted and how America is “… no longer the ultimate aspirational brand.”

    In addition to proposing Ben Franklin being America’s first CMO, Simon also suggests Thomas Jefferson was America’s first copywriter. Brilliant observation! After all, it was Jefferson who was responsible for distilling the ‘brand promise’ of America into the Declaration of Independence.

    Good stuff. Thanks Simon for making this marketer think differently.

    Brand_americaYou can learn more about Simon Anholt by visiting his website, his company’s website, or the journal he edits. His book, Brand America, is out in the UK now and is due to be published in the US during Spring 2005.

    October 22, 2004

    Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads III

    I had free time over the summer and filled it with books … lots of books. The last time I read as many books over the summertime as I did this past summer, I was in the fourth grade and competing in the Fretz Park Public Library Summer Reading contest.

    While I didn’t receive any Gold Stars for reading books this summer, I did receive golden business insight which will hopefully serve me well in the days, months, and years to come.

    I'm not including all the books I read this summer in this Worthy Reads Worthless Reads (WRWR) post, just the most noteworthy of the bunch. As with my WRWR I and WRWR II, I’m rating recent reads on a five point-scale based upon the following three categories:

    IDEATION – helps me generate new ideas
    INTELLECTION – gives me a new perspective on a business topic
    MAXIMIZE – increases my current understanding of a business topic

    I am also including my Dog-Ear Score for most of the books.
    [For those needing a primer on the Brand Autopsy Dog-Ear Scoring System, click here.]


    Rules of the Red Rubber Ball (Kevin Carroll)
    Kevin is a Katalyst helping others turn personal creativity into reality. He is also a sought-after speaker inspiring folks to find excitement, passion, and purpose in their lives. Paul wrote about Rules of the Red Rubber Ball on Brand Autopsy last August and was kind enough to send me a copy. I’m glad he did. Having not been fortunate to see Kevin speak, his book reads like a pocket-sized version of what I would image his keynote presentations to be like. It’s an engaging and inspiring read.

    IDEATION – 3/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – n/a



    Writing the Breakthrough Business Book (Tom Gorman)
    If you are a business-minded blogger who aspires to write a business book … GET THIS BOOK. I’ve read a few books on writing book proposals and I derived the most from Tom’s insider perspective on the business of getting a business book published. He shares tips on the ins/outs of being a business book author and on what publishers look for in business book proposals that get the green light.

    IDEATION – 5/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 12.9% (32:248)



    MBA in a Box (edited by Joel Kurtzman)
    The title "MBA in a Box" promises far more than it delivers. Sure, the contemporary business essays from experts and academics compiled in this book address timely topics, but the knowledge expressed is "too fleeting" and "too now" to be considered strong enough for lasting MBA-like lessons. MBA in a Box is built for now and not built to last. Furthermore, MBA in a Box over-promises and woefully under-delivers.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – n/a



    Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business (Alex Frankel)
    It is obvious Alex Frankel aspired to write as compelling a book on the naming business as Malcolm Gladwell did with explaining how word-of-mouth works in The Tipping Point. While not as compelling a read as The Tipping Point, Wordcraft succeeds in personalizing the game of how brands get named. His breakdown of how BlackBerry and Porsche’s Cayenne were named is bound to be fodder for college marketing classes for years to come. Good stuff.

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 10.5% (23:218)



    Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brand (Kevin Roberts)
    Lovemarks was a much discussed book on marketing blogs during the summer. Johnnie Moore (UK) had a whole lotta hot marketing opinions on it as did Chris Lawer. I added my two cents on Lovemarks with my book review on the 800 CEO READ Blog and with a “Peace, Lovemarks, and Misunderstanding" blog on Brand Autopsy.

    IDEATION – 0/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – n/a



    Secret Service: Hidden Systems That Deliver Unforgettable Customer Service (John Dijulius)
    If you are a small business owner … BUY THIS BOOK. Dijulius is much better small business owner than he is a writer. However, he shares great real-world tactical ideas for imprinting a customer-first culture in a small business. Dijulius also gives actionable insight on how to empower front-line employees, how to turn infrequent customers into frequent customers, and how to deliver remarkable customer experiences. It’s a great read for small business aspiring to get bigger and for big businesses needing to act smaller.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – n/a



    Clued In: How to Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again (Lou Carbone)
    If you are an executive who has been hiding out in a Tibetan monastery for the last ten years, then you are the target audience for this book. Seriously … this is a book in search of an audience. Who needs to be convinced that delivering a great customer experience is something a business needs to do? And yet, that is just what the author, Lou Carbone, does in the first six chapters. (Ahem … didn’t Pine & Gilmore clearly make the case for “the experience” with “The Experience Economy” published in 1999? Hello Lou … it’s 2004. Wake up and drink a Red Bull.) The book is horrible. Don’t bother reading it. Complete waste of my time. Don’t even bother picking it up off the shelf to look at the dust cover.

    IDEATION – 0/5
    MAXIMIZE – 0/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 0.0%

    The most WORTHLESS business book I have ever read!


    Creative Company: How St. Luke’s Became “the Ad Agency” to End All Ad Agencies” (Andy Law)
    Good book … albeit dated … nevertheless, a good book. Andy tells the story of how and why the Chiat/Day London office mutinied when Jay Chiat sold the Chiat/Day Ad Agency to TBWA in the late 90s. Following the mutiny, the London office of Chiat/Day morphed into a new kind of advertising agency … an agency in St. Lukes that has an interdependent trusting culture and is owned not by a megalithic entity, but owned fully by its employees. The book really shines when Andy recounts the fantastic story of a remote office standing up for its beliefs and refusing to sell out and join a merger with a company that didn’t share the values the London office held so true.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 8.3% (21:252)



    Mass Affluence: 7 New Rules of Marketing to Today’s Consumer (Brian Nunes, Brian Johnson)
    The authors have written an academic take on how marketers can appeal to customers willing to pay extra for products that are more special and more remarkable. My biggest gripe with the book is that it lacks soul. The authors are content with recommending marketing strategies that are more about finding ways to gouge consumers than to appeal to consumers. Instead of reading this book … read Trading Up (to learn about the “new luxury” consumer) and Purple Cow (to learn how to make products more remarkable).

    IDEATION – 2/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 5.5% (13:234)



    We the Media: Grassroots Journalism, By the People for the People (Dan Gillmor)
    We the Media is THE most important book of 2004. Yes. You read that right – THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK OF 2004. Open-source has revolutionized software (Linux). Open-source is revolutionizing journalism (blogging). Open-source will revolutionize marketing. We the Media is a must-read for mavens. Read it today or risk being a laggard tomorrow. Folks … I ain’t kidding … this is an important read. Do not pass go and do not collect $200 until you read this book.

    IDEATION – 6/5
    MAXIMIZE – 6/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 14.8% (38:257)



    Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters to Get Things Right (Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan)
    Too academic. Too irrelevant. Too many pages. Too much like a bad Hollywood sequel. Too bad … because their first book, Execution, was too dang good. For more comments, you can read my review on the 800 CEO READ BLOG.

    IDEATION – 1/5
    MAXIMIZE – 2/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 6.6% (15:226)


    October 20, 2004

    Seeing Evil. Speaking Evil. Hearing Evil.

    Transparent_leader_1I’m fifty pages into The Transparent Leader and am so far enjoying it and learning from it.

    Transparency seems to the business buzzword du jour and this book is maximizing my understanding and appreciation of what transparency is and how to infuse the culture of transparency in all aspects of a business.

    The author, Herb Baum (current CEO of the Dial Corporation), makes his case that sustained success in today’s competitive and ever-networked environment is dependent upon businesses, business leaders, and business employees being open, honest, and forthright about everything.

    On page 47, he sums up all the recent opaque business dealings by writing:

    "In the eighties, there was a bronze desk statue that was popular with some executives – it displayed three monkeys covering their eyes, mouth, and ears.


    The caption beneath the monkeys read: See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil.

    It was a sign of the times, in an old corporate landscape when what you didn’t hear or see didn’t exist, and what you didn’t say couldn’t get you in trouble. But times have changed!

    Today it’s all about seeing, saying, and hearing. Turn on any news channel and you’ll see plenty of examples of executives who didn’t see the things they should have, didn’t say the things they should have, and didn’t hear the things they should have.

    They learned the importance of seeing it all – even when it’s not good news – but they learned it too late.

    By the time they figured out how essential it is to be transparent and cultivate transparent employees, their own employees were being investigated, their documents subpoenaed, and in some cases their companies shut down."

    Herb’s* lucidity is illuminating … eh?

    * Tammy Kling should probably get the credit for the smooth writing as she is Herb's writing collaborator.

    October 12, 2004

    BOOK REVIEW: Confronting Reality

    Confronting_reality_2My latest book review is up on the 800 CEO READ blog.

    Along with some other bloggers, we are reviewing Confronting Reality: Doing What Matters Most to Get Things Right.

    Here's a tease of my review ...

    Does Confronting Reality suffer from sequelitis?

    I ask because a few years back Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan wrote Execution, a business book best seller that focused on execution being THE critical element between strategic plans and their tactical outcomes. But now, the authors have come to the understanding that baking realism into a company’s business plan is more important than execution in achieving effective results.

    [Click here to continue reading my review of Confronting Reality on the 800 CEO READ blog.]

    September 07, 2004

    Pirates of Persistence

    Hugh, of gapingvoid and Hughtrain Manifesto fame, brings up a valid point for companies, project teams, and individuals seeking to take on a “pirate”/challenger brand mentality.

    The hard part is getting your clients on board. They spent the last 20 years in the Navy (status quo/same as it ever was), they'll be damned if they let you get away with all this pirate nonsense. Damn, it's hard enough getting colleagues on board, let alone clients.

    To better address Hugh's point and to build upon my first Pirate Marketing Uprising post, here is another excerpt from Adam Morgan’s The Pirate Inside: Building a Challenger Brand Culture Within Yourself and Your Organization.

    “… I should make it clear that I am not proposing to endlessly play out the pirate analogy throughout the book; although I am sure there is a book that could be written that draws entertaining parallels for marketing with every dimension of parrots and planks, it is not this one. Nor is the intention here to hopelessly romanticize organized crime, or to suggest in any way that Pirates were noble and honest and misunderstood.

    On the whole, we are simply using Jobs’ notion of being a Pirate ('It's more fun to be a Pirate than to join the Navy.' - Steve Jobs) as a metaphor for being a certain sort of person who finds themselves wanting or needing to be a Challenger, working on a Challenger brand (and in this regard I will be using the terms ‘Pirate’ – or ‘Necessary Pirate’ – and ‘Challenger’ interchangeably in the book).

    The move from being the Navy (i.e. behaving like everyone else in our company, or category) to being a ‘Pirate’ (i.e. doing what is imperative for the task we have set ourselves, regardless of the ‘wisdom’ we are offered from those around us) is frequently a matter of necessity, not fun or iconoclasm.

    As such, the need to be a Pirate in this sense is not in itself an act of defiance, let alone aggression. It is about recognizing that things need to be done in a different way if the opportunity is to be grasped, and getting a team together to start setting that new way of doing things in motion. At the same time this new way may lie outside what your superiors apparently want you to do, and the historical best practices of the brand or company.

    Success in being a Pirate (i.e. an individual or group who chooses to seek their fortune along a path other than that of the Navy) does not lie in having no rules. It is about moving from one set of rules, one model, to another. One that is more suited for the task in hand."


    For those suffering from time fatigue and haven't read the full excerpt, I'll be posting Adam's six excuses for joining and remaining in the Navy this week.

    September 04, 2004

    Pirate Marketing Uprising

    CAUTION: The excerpt below may inspire you to (a) buy/read yet another marketing book and or (b) motivate you to go to the corporate dark side and become a Marketing Pirate fixated on changing the marketing culture that binds the branding at your company.

    (As a part-time marketing gadfly and a full-time believer in meaningful marketing, I get the feeling I am going to love this book. Enjoy!)


    The Pirate Inside: Building a Challenger Brand Culture Within Yourself and Your Organization [author: Adam Morgan]

    “It’s more fun to be a Pirate than to join the Navy.”
    - Steve Jobs -

    Enough. I have had enough.

    I have had enough of corporate rules. Of enforced mediocrity. Of doing it this way or that way, because this way or that way is the way we always do it round here. I have had enough of being a prisoner of my category’s history. Of being handcuffed by my company’s culture. Of being hamstrung by benchmarks and processes and so-called ‘best practices’ into becoming just another kind of establishment brand.

    I read the most depressing article in the Harvard Business Review this morning. Apparently some study looked at 340 prime time commercials and found that there was a differentiating message in only 7% of them: 7%. Is my brand really any different? Really? My God, what am I doing in this job? And why do I feel that much of the time my company’s culture is dampening, rather than igniting my ability to change those statistics?

    So I want out. Well, kind of out. I want to take the brand out and see what it could do if I had a little open water. I want to try doing things a different way. Try a little liberating lawlessness, frankly. Find my piss and vinegar, and see where that takes me. I look at the great marketing pirates like Jobs and Branson, and I think, yes, I’d like some of that. Some freedom – I could do something with that. The freedom to make up my own rules for a change.


    Click here to read the entire excerpt from The Pirate Inside: Building a Challenger Brand Culture Within Yourself and Your Organization.

    August 05, 2004

    Commit to your Passion...

    ...and adversity won't derail you.

    Just one of the many pieces of wisdom made clear in "Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life's Work" by Kevin Carroll.

    Carroll, Nike katalyst and storyteller turned author, shares his inspiring story about motivation. He found freedom in the playground as a kid and describes how that same fuel can drive dreams as an adult.

    Amid the uncertainty of my childhood, the playground became my sanctuary, a magical environment where my worries, shame and low self-esteem disappeared. There I discovered my gift of speed. Despite my size, I could outrun most other kids and speed became my ticket onto the field

    To Kevin, the red rubber ball represents play. Any activity that makes you excited about the day.

    Akin to Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Carroll uses clever typography, eclectic paper stock, illustration, and photos to creatively outline how to discover your own red rubber ball. He then provides rules for what he considers the more difficult (yet satisfying) part of the dream - keeping it alive.

    Your red rubber ball is what grabs you by the soul. It's what captures your imagination. It's what you do when no one tells you what to do, when you're alone in your room, on the playground or in your head. It's what you daydream, and that dream can be come your life's work... if you let it.

    He then provides seven rules to help you follow your red rubber ball, your source of play.

  • Commit to It
  • Seek out Encouragers
  • Work Out Your Creative Muscle
  • Prepare to Shine
  • Speak Up
  • Expect the Unexpected
  • Maximize the Day
  • Follow these links to see excerpt pages from his book...

    one | two | three

    While this book may be sit in the personal growth section of your bookstore, it may as well sit in the business and management section. The seven rules of the red rubber ball can also apply to your workplace, your career, your home life...

    This book is currently only available via the Red Rubber Ball website and is priced at $22.95 (ISBN: 0975333100).

    What's your red rubber ball?

    June 21, 2004

    Luvin’ Lovemarks?

    lovemarks_cover Over at the 800CEOREAD blog this week, a couple bloggers, including myself, are posting reviews of Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands.

    Below is bite-size chunk of my review ...
    What comes after brands? Lovemarks do. So says Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi Saatchi Worldwide and author of the recently published book, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands.

    According to Roberts, Lovemarks are brands that have evolved from simply being bigger, brighter, stronger, and cheaper to being a brand that uses mystery, sensuality, and intimacy to emotionally connect with consumers. Apple is a Lovemark while Gateway is a brand. Lexus is a Lovemark but Pontiac is a brand. Container Store? A Lovemark. Storables? A brand. In other words, brands merely fulfill needs while Lovemarks fulfill needs and desires.

    Enticed? Click here for my full review.

    My HMOs on Lovemarks run thick … so expect to read more Hot Marketing Opinions on Lovemarks this week on Brand Autopsy.

    June 18, 2004

    Trading Up Update

    Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske, the authors of Trading Up: The New American Luxury, recently published an update reinforcing their findings that consumers will gladly “trade up” and purchase more expensive goods/services so long as they are of higher-quality and have greater emotional benefits than their less expensive counterparts

    To reinforce their findings, the authors have created The New Luxury 15, an index of 15 companies that produce upscale goods in a diverse range of product categories. According to their findings, companies in the New Luxury 15 performed significantly better in delivering Total Shareholder Returns (TSR) versus the S&P 500 from the years 1999 through 2003. The New Luxury 15 delivered a 16% median annual TSR for the five year period versus a 5% median annual TSR for the S&P 500.

    Their updated research indicates the Trading Up phenomenon is not limited to the United States. Japan, United Kingdom, Spain, Scandinavia, and most other Northern European countries are also experiencing similar shifts in consumers trading up to new luxury goods.

    Throughout this update, Silverstein and Fiske continue to make their case that, “… it is clear consumers around the world are willing to pay a premium for goods they believe deliver better quality and higher performance, along with emotional benefits, than do conventional goods.”

    Furthermore, the authors contend, “Consumers today have more discretionary income, more cash, more product knowledge and more sophisticated tastes, and have far more product choice than ever before. We believe that consumers will only grow more discriminating in their purchases. They will trade up and trade down, with great care, in every category of goods."

    For the full report, click here.

    If you need a Trading Up primer … read Jon Strande’s excellent book summary.

    June 14, 2004

    Worthy Abstract – 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation

    A few weeks ago I reviewed Ronald Alsop’s 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation on the 800CEOREAD blog site as well as including it my latest list of Worthy Reads.

    For an excellent abstract of the book, visit the Cyber Alert site. William J. Comcowich, pres and ceo of Cyber Alert, succinctly shares Alsop’s key points on establishing a good corporate reputation, maintaining a good reputation, and repairing a damaged corporate reputation. Click here for the abstract.

    Thanks to the PR Machine blog for originally posting the link.

    May 28, 2004

    Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads II

    As I did with my first Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads post, I’m rating eight recent reads on a five-point scale based upon the following three categories:

    IDEATION – helps me generate new ideas
    INTELLECTION – gives me a new perspective on a business topic
    MAXIMIZE – increases my current understanding of a business topic

    I am also including my Dog-Ear Score for each read. For those needing a primer on the Brand Autopsy Dog-Ear Scoring System, click here.


    It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be (Paul Arden)
    For those working in a creative field, especially advertising and marketing, this book will inspire you to be more passionate, teach you to be more responsive to clients, and inform you to be smarter. It’s a small book with big impact.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 4/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 9.5% (12:127)

    How to Make Big Money in your Small Business (Jeffrey J. Fox)
    I’ve come to expect simplistic brilliance from Fox’s books. Because he has set the bar so high with his other books (notably, Don’t Send a Resume, How to Become a Great Boss, and How to Become a Marketing Superstar), my expectations are lofty … unrealistically lofty. Fox doles out easy to understand advice for how to get the most out of a small business -- making this a good book, but not a great book. Then again, my expectations may be unrealistically high.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 3/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 14.0% (21:150)

    UNSTUCK: A Tool for Yourself, Your Team, and Your World (Keith Yamashita & Sandra Spataro)
    I am an evangelist for this book. It is the most engaging and most useful book to dislodge a team of many or a team of one to overcome challenges in work and in life. The advice given in this book for how to improve teamwork, facilitate consensus and to inspire action is priceless. You don’t read this book … you use this book. (The design alone of the book merits buying it.)

    IDEATION – 5/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – N/A

    Free Prize Inside (Seth Godin)
    We’ve given Seth lots of positive digital ink for this book. Here's the link to our Free Prize Inside digital ink.

    IDEATION – 5/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 18.0% (43:239)

    Art of Innovation (Tom Kelley)
    Brand Examiner Paul evangelized this book to me. Paul digs ideating, brainstorming, PEZ Candy, and he digs this book. IDEO is a creative hothouse having designed thousands of breakthrough products from the first Apple mouse to Polaroid's I-Zone instant camera to the Palm Pilot V and to Crest's Neat Squeeze standup toothpaste tube. However, for all IDEO’s talk about how they brainstorm and prototype their way to creating breakthrough designs and products, there is nothing innovative in the design of their book. It looks and reads like every other business book. Shouldn’t a book written by the world’s leading design consultancy specializing in product development and innovation deliver a book that improves the reading experience? Big miss. Nevertheless, the book’s content on how to develop whiz-bang ideas and how to foster a company culture that thrives on innovation makes it a worthy read.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 3/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 12.8% (38:297)

    Ideas Are Free (Alan Robinson & Dean Schroeder)
    This is the quintessential book on how to foster and leverage free ideas from employees. It’s a must read for any project manager responsible for delivering programs designed to increase sales, increase productivity, increase customer satisfaction, and increase company employee morale. Read it today. Use it tomorrow. This book truly deserves my 22.5% Dog-Ear Score.

    IDEATION – 4/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 22.5% (49:218)

    The 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation (Ronald Alsop)
    This book gave me a great “A-Ha” moment when I began to think of brand management as reputation management. Let’s face it, branding is a nebulous term that not everyone fully understands, including marketers. However, everyone understands the term ‘reputation’ and all the emotional and rational feelings associated with a solid reputation and with a tarnished reputation. Alsop gives sound advice on how to manage, measure, and nurture the reputation of a corporation. A worthy read for anyone working for a Fortune 500 company or for an up-and-coming Fortune 500 company. (For a more complete review, click here.)

    IDEATION – 3/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – 10.8% (31:286)

    Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow (Larry Greiner)
    (Harvard Business Review article #98308)
    This vintage HBR article (first published in 1972) is still highly relevant today. Greiner proposes that companies experience organizational growth through evolution phases and revolution phases. Evolutionary phases are prolonged periods of time where no major changes take place in organizational structure. Revolutionary phases are periods that follow evolutionary growth where substantial turmoil in organizational structure exists. Greiner also advises how management, through understanding its organizational history, can better prepare for future developmental crises.

    IDEATION – 3/5
    MAXIMIZE – 5/5
    Dog-Ear Score – N/A

    May 26, 2004

    Samples Need to Taste Good

    Who else caught the full-page ad in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal for an upcoming book titled, On the Up and Up: Achieving Breakthrough Performance Through Insight? It’s a book commissioned by Hyperion, the leader in enterprise software and services for business performance management, that gathers perspective and practical advice from business and academic leaders.

    Sounds intriguing, right?

    Well … the marketing tool Hyperion has decided to use to generate interest in the book is to make the foreword (penned by Jeffrey R. Rodek, chairman and chief executive officer of Hyperion) available for download. (In customer evangelist speak, this is a bite-size chunk.)

    Being the business book junkie that I am, I made my way over to the download site, smacked down my email address, and received my fix.

    Or so I thought.

    The bite-size sample foreword was tainted … tainted with insipid egotism and vacuous drivel by Hyperion’s CEO.

    In the foreword, this CEO openly refers to his management/leadership style as being worthy of Jim Collins Level 5 status, he uses ‘I’ nearly 90 times, and he takes supreme credit for seemingly insignificant accomplishments all to build up his pedigree. (It should be noted ... "Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company." source: Jim Collins website)

    Hyperion may know something about business performance management, but they know little about marketing performance management.

    If you are going to sample a product, make sure the sample tastes good. Samples that taste good will manage to enhance the marketing performance of the product you are selling. Hyperion's bite-size sample left a bad taste in my mouth and it managed me out of wanting to buy the book.

    Want to taste the Hyperion sample for yourself? Click here. You have been warned.

    May 22, 2004

    I love small ideas with BIG impact

    I’m now up to page 169 of Ideas Are Free and my dog-ear score is still at a 20%+ clip.

    Ideas Are Free is the quintessential book on how to foster and leverage free ideas from employees. It’s a must read for any project manager responsible for delivering programs designed to increase sales, increase productivity, increase customer satisfaction, and increase company employee morale. Read it today. Use it tomorrow.

    The following story is a brilliant example of how a small idea can have a big impact.

    Kacey Fine Furniture (Denver, CO), initiated an Ideas Campaign with their employees to develop ideas on how to reduce their 10% furniture return rate. An assistant truck driver submitted a novel idea after noticing a trend developing for why customers were not happy with their just-delivered furniture.

    EXCERPT (slightly abridged)
    “The assistant truck driver realized that the reason the furniture looked more attractive in the showroom was that it was arranged by professionals. His idea was to give the company’s nineteen truck drivers and their assistants some of the same training in interior decorating that was given to the salespeople.

    The idea was given the go-ahead, and the truck drivers and their assistants were given the training.

    Now, when delivering a sofa, for example, the delivery crew does not simply ask, “Where do you want it, lady?” Instead, before bringing it in, they find out why the customer bought the new furniture, visit the room it will go in, and look for appropriate accessories.

    Together with the customer, they develop a plan. When the crew retrieves the sofa from the truck, they are able to position it nicely and accessorize it stylishly. With their decorating help and willingness to please, these truck drivers greatly improve the chances that customers will like their new furniture and generate considerable word-of-mouth advertising.

    The other furniture companies in the area contract out the delivery process. Their delivery people still knock on the door and ask, “Lady, where do you want it?”

    It is worth nothing that the idea of giving drivers training in interior decorating could only have been successful if it had come from a driver. Imagine the response from the drivers if the idea had come from management.”
    (source: Ideas Are Free, pgs 163, 164)

    May 19, 2004

    Advanced Course in Free Prize-ology

    I’m seventy pages into Ideas Are Free and I’m enamored with all I have read. After reading Free Prize Inside and learning how Seth Godin views soft innovations (small ideas) as a catalyst for making things happen, I have found Ideas Are Free to be an advanced course in Free Prize-ology.

    The authors of Ideas Are Free, Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder, make a compelling case for how employee-generated ideas enable a company to experience transformative change and enduring success.

    Notable passages from the initial seventy pages include:

    Ideas are free. Employees become allies in solving problems, spotting opportunities, and moving the company forward, to the benefit of all. And when managers decide to let their employees think alongside them – and no longer seek to go it alone – they will have joined the Idea Revolution.

    This empowerment starts a virtuous cycle. As employees see their ideas being used, they begin to feel valued as part of the team and become more involved.

    Small ideas are the best source of big ideas. A big problem or opportunity frequently manifests itself through a host of smaller signs or symptoms, each of which might be seen individually by different people in different places at different times. What might seem to be a small idea could in fact be addressing a facet of this larger issue. This bigger issue can often be discovered by probing with the right questions.

    Small ideas tend to stay proprietary, since there are no mechanisms for competitors to find out about them, and even if they do, the ideas are often situation-specific and so cannot be copied. Because of their proprietary nature, they accumulate into a considerable cushion of sustainable competitive advantage.

    In case you are wondering what my Dog-Ear Score is so far … it’s 21.4%. Yep, I’ve dog-eared 15 of the first 70 pages. That’s a fast pace to start any book.

    May 04, 2004

    The "Dog-Ear Score"

    We thought a 1,000 words were worth a picture.

    Quantifying the value of a book is difficult. At Brand Autopsy, we have developed a scientific method to do just that. We call it the Dog-Ear Score.

    D-Es = D-Ep/p

    Yep, the Dog-Ear Score (D-Es) is equal to the number of pages with corners folded over (D-Ep) divided by the number of pages in the book (p).

    My copy of Free Prize Inside, with 239 pages, has 23 dog-ear pages. That's a 23:239 or a score of 9.6%. (Some pages in my book have double dog-ears pages. That's dog-ears on the top and bottom pages to account for great information on the front and back of a page!)

    As for johnmoore ... he had 43 dog-ear pages (photo above) for an unprecedented score of 18%.

    Please share your Dog-Ear Score with us after you finish reading Free Prize Inside.

    The Free Prize Inside Business Book Blog Tour continues to a blog near you. Below is the updated schedule:

    May 5 : Decent Marketing
    May 6 : 800-CEO-READ Blog
    May 7 : Brand Mantra
    May 10 : Ensight
    May 11 : WonderBranding
    May 12 : Business Evolutionist
    May 13 : Branding Blog
    May 14 : Thinking by Peter
    May 17 : Bold Approach

    Thanks to Todd at A Penny For... for coordinating the BBBT3.


    Free Seth Inside

    Welcome. It's day two of the Business Blog Book Tour #3 and Seth Godin’s latest marketing book, Free Prize Inside, is on the Brand Autopsy examination table.

    We will not attempt to summarize the book here … Seth has already done that by posting a book summary and comprehensive endnotes online. Instead, we will blog about aspects of the book that either resonated with us or inspired us. We emailed Seth to help clarify some of our thoughts and his comments will be interspersed throughout our blog entries.

    So, take a few minutes to read Brand Autopsy's take on Free Prize Inside and hopefully, after reading our entries and the other entries on the BBBT#3, you will be compelled to buy, read, and use Seth's new book.

    Below is a jump list of our Free Prize Inside blog entries:

  • The Free Prize of Free Prize InsideIt’s more than a marketing book … much more

  • When is it NOT a Free Prize?Use... don’t abuse the term

  • Going Outside The (Pre-Defined Performance) BoxChampions make the best Project Managers

  • People Innovate, Not CompaniesPower to the person and not to the R&D dept.

  • Make Something HappenStop doing boring stuff and start spreading ideas

  • Methods to Seth's MadnessThe answers are in the questions Seth asks

  • Keeping Your Eyes on the PrizeThe conversation only begins with Free Prize Inside
  • ************************************
    If you are visiting Brand Autopsy for the first time , you might be wondering who we are. This blurb should quell your curiosity.

    During the day, Paul works for the world’s largest coffee retailer and johnmoore works for the world’s largest natural/organic grocer. At night, we dissect and discuss all things marketing. As marketing coroners on Brand Autopsy, Paul is the examiner and johnmoore is the investigator. Together, we riff about marketing that thrives and marketing that dies. [Void where prohibited. Not valid with other offers. No purchase necessary. Toe tags not included.]

    April 18, 2004

    Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads

    I’ve been on a business book reading binge of late … some worthy and some worthless. Worthy Reads are those that either: (a) help me generate new ideas ; (b) increase my intellection by giving me a new perspective on a business topic ; (c) maximize my current understanding of a business topic. Worthless Reads are those that do none of the above.

    Taking the lead from the Viral Marketing Blog, I’m rating twelve recent reads on a five-point scale based upon the following three categories:

    IDEATIONgenerates new ideas
    INTELLECTIONgives me a new perspective on a business topic
    MAXIMIZE maximizes my current understanding of a business topic

    Continue reading "Worthy Reads and Worthless Reads" »

    March 17, 2004

    Business Blog Book Tour rolls on...

    The Business Blog Book Tour 2 visited Brand Autopsy yesterday ... Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell really rocked the house. They played all their hits and they debuted a new thought, "Creating Customer Vigilantes".

    It was a pleasure to have them; however, their backstage rider contained a few odd requests that Paul and I had to fulfill. Ben specifically asked for a heaping plate of prosciutto and mozzarella. Not to be out done, Jackie requested Cristal, champagne glasses, and bendy straws. Paul and I obliged but for some reason we were not invited to the after-party. What gives?

    Anyway, the Creating Customer Evangelists tour continues at these blog sites:

    March 17 - Ensight
    March 18 - Business Evolutionist
    March 19 - What's Your Brand Mantra?
    March 22 - Danavan.net
    March 23 - StartupSkills.com
    March 24 - Small Business Blog
    March 25 - A Penny For...

    March 16, 2004

    Welcome - Creating Customer Evangelists

    Welcome to the Brand Autopsy leg of the Business Blog Book Tour 2. Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell, authors of Creating Customer Evangelists, are blog-hopping this week sharing thoughts and insights about their book and about customer evangelists. You will find yesterday's (Mon. Mar. 15) entries on BusinessPundit.com.

    Below is a jump-list of the topics Brand Autopsy discussess with Jackie and Ben. They will be popping in to answer any additional questions these posts may create.


  • Birth of an Evangelist – How williams + moore became evangelists for the book.
  • Blame it on TiVo – Jackie and Ben share what prompted writing the book.
  • Evangelist in the Midst – How to spot a 'customer evangelist.'
  • Hot Evangelist's Now! - How about later? - What happens when doughnuts begin to go stale?
  • If You Could Turn Back Time and If You Could Turn Back Time II – These two post have nothing to do with Cher.
  • Creating Customer VIGILANTES – the UnEvangelist.
  • The Evangelist Responsibility - A call to action.
  • Thanks to Todd at the blog site "A Penny For…" for coordinating this blog tour. Tomorrow, the tour stops at Jeremy's Ensight blog.

    williams + moore

    February 23, 2004

    Cool News about Cool News

    I'll apologize upfront for "preaching to the choir." Cause if you are reading this marketing-related blog, then you most likely also read Tim Manners’ Reveries and receive his daily Cool News of the Day email. (And if you don't, then do not pass go and do not collect $200 until you sign-up to receive the Reveries email.)

    Tim is a marketing godsend. Yes, a marketing godsend. The service he provides to marketers is unparalleled. He scours (for those still with a dot-com hangover, substitute aggregate for scour) articles from around the globe that stimulate his marketing mind. It just so happens these articles also stimulate this marketer’s mind. He doesn’t simply link to the interesting articles, he condenses the articles into an easily digestible three paragraph summary. No fluff, just the crux. For us time-starved marketers ... Tim is a godsend.

    Recently, I received my copy of Tim’s recently published book -- Cool News about Retail: from Warhol to Wal-Mart. (This is Tim's second book from his Reveries writings, his first was Cool News of the Day Volume One.)

    Cool News about Retail is a compilation of 92 retail-focused stories from the past 14 months of his daily Cool News of the Day email. The stories have held up well over the months and all of them are still extremely relevant. And, for some reason, these stories seem to resonate more with me on paper than through email. Maybe its because I can't dog-ear an email like I can a page in a book. Or maybe the act of being able to highlight phrases and scribble notes in the margins makes reading the paper version more meaningful than the email version.

    As I mentioned in an earlier blog, a good marketing book to me is one that helps me generate new ideas that I can implement at work. Cool News about Retail did just that. I dog-eared 21% of the pages in this short book. Yep, 19 of the 89 pages have been dog-eared. And, the blank pages in the back of the book are jammed with notes and ideas.

    I highly encourage you to pick up Cool News About Retail.

    Cool? Cool.

    January 20, 2004

    BANG! – Unfinished Business

    for those that need a BIG BANG! refresher course ... click here.

    It is not my intention to rip on the authors of BANG! , but I did not like the book. Not at all.

    BANG! reads more like a marketing memoir from two advertising executives than it does a marketing book. When I invest my time reading a business book, I expect a positive return on my investment. I expect to generate new ideas that I can implement at work. This book provided me with a negative ROI -- no new ideas that I can implement at work. (Not good.)

    Instead of offering solid advice on how to create, nuture, and implement great marketing ideas, BANG! offers readers a glimpse into the happenings of a happenin’ ad agency. The authors glamorize how so many of their best campaigns were created at the last minute -- sometimes minutes before a presentation to their client. Do you really want to trust your company’s marketing campaign to an advertising agency that boasts about continuously developing their best ideas at the last minute? I understand the spontaneity of creativity, but I do not understand bragging about how your BANG! worthy advertising campaigns are developed at the last minute.

    The authors also wrote about how they trick clients that come to visit their offices by instructing their employees to look busy. On page 169 you will find this story:
    “I (Linda Kaplan Thaler) want all the computers turned on – I don’t care if you are looking at your stock portfolios.” As I would walk the client from the foyer to my office, I’d say, “I’d love to introduce you to everyone, but we’re all so busy.” I’d have people crossing my path, and clusters of people would look up and say, “Oh, hi, can’t talk!” Then, when the client would leave, everyone would scurry back to work and the office would empty out again.”

    My advice is to leave BANG! on the shelf and instead pick up Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands can Compete with Brand Leaders written by Adam Morgan. I guarantee that reading Eating the Big Fish will generate a positive ROI as the book will help you develop ideas on how to better design marketing communications to compete in the crowded brandscape.

    If you still want to read BANG! ... I’ll make it easy for you. The first person who emails me (see left-hand side bar), I will send you my copy of BANG! absolutely free. Yep … free. Just email me.

    (Side note: my blog on the 2003 Marketing Books of Year Awards is still available on FC Now. )

    January 15, 2004

    Few Big Bangs ... lots of "ain't no thangs"

    Big Bang week rolls on at Brand Autopsy....

    On Tuesday I listed four Big Bang advertising ideas that the authors of BANG! highlight in their book as as being marketing ideas that passed their Big Bang test. Paul Williams, fellow Brand Autopsy blogger, posted his take on the matter yesterday. Today, I post mine.

    AFLAC - BIG BANG or small thing?
    BIG BANG all the way.

    The AFLAC Duck has "become an icon" and the AFLAC brand "exploded onto the marketplace virtually overnight."

    The Kaplan Thaler Group (KTG) created a campaign that redefined AFLAC’s identity. Need evidence? Just go to www.aflac.com and see how much the Duck permeates the site. From the Duck Gear that you can buy to the AFLAC Duck screensaver you can download … the Duck is on every page! (Somewhere, Howard the Duck must be smiling.) This campaign has more than solved for AFLAC’s business problem of name recognition. No doubt about it -- this a benchmark BIG BANG advertising campaign.

    How long can (should) AFLAC continue to play the Duck card? I fear not much longer. Just compare the first television spot Park Bench against their newest spot, Looney Tunes. What once was a focused and crystallized idea has degenerated into mayhem of messages.

    Blimpie - BIG BANG or small thing?
    No doubt - small thing.

    This spot did not “expand exponentially in the culture” nor did this idea “become an icon.” And by no means did this spot create “an ever-expanding universe for a product” or “turn occasional Blimpie users into fierce Blimpie loyalists.” The advertisement feels like a bad Bazooka Joe cartoon. How could the Kaplan Thaler Group classify this spot as being Big Bang worthy? How?????

    On the other hand, the Jared Subway spots did "expand exponentially in the culture" and Jared "became an icon." A classic Big Bang idea. (No wonder Blimpie was jealous!)

    Heineken - BIG BANG or small thing?
    Small, very small … a small thing of infinitesimal magnitude.

    This idea was not “ever expanding” and did not have a “dramatic, immediate and irreversible impact.” Sure, the ad received fleeting publicity, but what Heineken problem was the agency trying to solve for? What business problem did this solve? How can a one-off idea be considered a BIG BANG? This idea never accrued to anything bigger than a chuckle amongst the Kaplan Thaler Group creative team during a Friday after-work pub crawl.

    Herbal Essences - BIG BANG or small thing?
    Small thing … oh yeah, small.

    A solid advertising campaign that had positive branding impact for Clairol but the idea is not BIG BANG worthy. This idea did not have "a dramatic, immediate and irreversible impact." Nor did it "expand exponentially in the culture." No “icon was created” and no “disruption of normalcy took place to create a new universe.” The Totally Organic Experience campaign is good, but not great and certainly not close to being a Big Bang idea.

    January 14, 2004

    Big Bang or Small Thang II

    Okay, I’ll bite… after viewing some of the commercials and reading the definition of what a Big Bang is here are MY thoughts.

    I think one of the secrets of effective campaigns is that the average consumer may not realize or care that they are being pitched to. The execution is so compelling you let down their guard and let marketing tell it’s story.

    AFLAC –The latest TV spot features an animated AFLAC duck along with a collection of Warner Brothers animated characters (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Coyote, and Road Runner). (I’m so disappointed in Warner Brothers for loaning out their characters to co-star with the AFLAC duck. What in the name of so-called co-branded synergies is going on here?)

    The AFLAC duck, while successful in repeatedly stating the AFLAC brand name, is a flash in the pan when compared to the enduring and culturally significant Warner Brothers characters. (Does Warner Brothers really need to associate with the AFLAC duck to make their animated stars relevant? Is this a case of Warner Brothers over-licensing their characters? From my vantage point, this commercial did Warner Brothers no favors.)

    While the quacky sounding catch-phrase “AFLAC!” may be more in the minds of consumers I don’t see folks squawking this to each other in the halls at work or on the subway. It gets the name of the product out there, but not in the “expand exponentially in the culture” as outlined as a Big Bang criteria.

    The AFLAC duck's quack is annoyingly catchy, but it does not instill confidence in the American Family Life Assurance Company or drive me to check out their offerings.

    However, talking about it here has built awareness in my mind that they exist as an insurance company and the ads say to “ask about AFLAC at the workplace.”

    AFLAC -> Big Bang duck? No. Kung Pao duck? Perhaps.

    Blimpie – I haven’t seen this creative execution but the idea sounds off-base. I've always tried to follow the path of creating marketing messages that say 'who you are and never who you are not.' In this ad, Blimpie seems to be saying more of who they are not (Subway) than who they are.

    Blimpie -> Small Thing.

    Heineken – I’ll give them points for being in the right place at the right time. This ad makes you grin and think ‘how clever of them to be so timely.’ To me this was more of a flash in pan than a Big Bang.

    Heineken -> Small Thang (with some extra fizz for taking advantage of a situation).

    Clairol Herbal Essences – I tried this shampoo and it didn’t even make me blush. I’m not sure what the big deal is. Ah, but wait… is that the secret? Did I try it because the woman on TV found it so pleasurable? Actually, I liked the way it smelled. I admit that on the first or second viewing the TV spots had me looking twice thinking “what’s going on?” But some of the most recent executions where the woman is surrounded by build men escorting her around her oversized bathroom as if she were in a 50’s musical left me wondering what the true benefit of the product was.

    Clairol Herbal Essences -> I guess they'd want this to be ranked the Big "O" vs Big Bang?

    With all this said, I was able to comment on many of these brands with top of mind awareness of how they advertise. But, the most important measure is purchase. The ads haven’t driven me to purchase, but they do ‘stick out’ among the brandscape. So perhaps if a good friend mentioned the great taste of a Heineken or a co-worker mentions she uses AFLAC and ‘they’re great’ I may consider trial.

    I still refuse to say the words “Can you hear me now?” I’m not going to cave.

    January 13, 2004

    BIG BANG or small thing?

    Big Bang week continues at Brand Autopsy...

    Below are four case study examples from BANG! that the authors celebrate as being a Big Bang. Refer back to the ten-point Big Bang criteria and judge for yourself whether or not these four examples are Big Bang worthy.

    KTG was challenged to create an ad campaign for American Family Life Assurance Company (AFLAC) that would make AFLAC a household name. KTG ultimately created the “AFLAC Duck” campaign. Introduced in 2000, the “AFLAC Duck” campaign has spawned about 15 different television commercials. (Click here to view the commercials.)

    BIG BANG or small thing?
    (You make the call! Cast your vote by replying via the comment link at the end of this blog entry.)

    KTG was approached by Blimpie in May of 2002 to create an advertising campaign. Blimpie was losing market share to Subway and according to the authors, “(Blimpie)… was just furious that Subway was so successful with these ads.” (pg. 94). (Blimpie was referring to “Jared” Subway ads.) KTG created a television spot that portrays a floor mop impersonating a woman telling her friend how she lost weight thanks to “the commercial where the guy loses weight by eating subs.” She (the mop) then reveals the real secret is that she doesn’t actually eat the sandwiches because they are made with pre-sliced meats. The spot closes with her (the mop) craving a Blimpie.

    BIG BANG or small thing?
    (You make the call! Cast your vote by replying via the comment link at the end of this blog entry.)

    Immediately following the announcement that a sheep (Dolly) had been cloned in 1997, Linda Kaplan Thaler (working for Wells, Rich, Greene) received a call from a Wall Street Journal reporter inquiring if she was planning on doing a cloning ad. The reporter went on to say that the first cloning ad she sees will receive coverage in the Journal. Linda replied back, “Well, your story is going to be about us.”

    Linda had her team contact their client roster to see who was interested in doing a cloning ad. Heineken agreed so Linda and her creative team developed an ad at breakneck speed. The print ad developed was “an image of two Heineken red stars, side by side, with the tagline, ‘Which one’s the clone? Scary, isn’t it?” (pg. 60)

    BIG BANG or small thing?
    (You make the call! Cast your vote by replying via the comment link at the end of this blog entry.)

    Clairol Herbal Essences
    To say the Herbal Essences shampoo brand was a brand in decline in the early 1990s would be an understatement. Popular in the 70s, the Herbal Essence brand had been pushed aside by offerings from emerging natural and organic personal care boutique brands like the Body Shop. KTG was challenged to revive the Herbal Essences brand through advertising.

    Instead of following the path paved by other shampoo brands in promoting benefits like shiny and silky hair, KTG went the direction of promoting the “experience” that using Herbal Essences shampoo gives consumers. Inspired by a scene from When Harry Met Sally … you know the one - where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in a diner and a woman at another table tells the waitress that she’ll “have what she’s having” … KTG created the “Totally Organic Experience” television spot that features a woman in a shower having a veritable orgasm while shampooing with Herbal Essences.

    BIG BANG or small thing?
    (You make the call! Cast your vote by replying via the comment link at the end of this blog entry.)

    On Thursday, Brand Autopsy will weigh-in with our thoughts on which concepts are Big Bang worthy.

    January 12, 2004

    Big Bang Explained

    Big Bang week begins at Brand Autopsy...

    The authors of BANG!, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval, run the Kaplan Thaler Group (KTG), an advertising agency based in New York City. Both have enjoyed a storied career in the advertising game having been involved with numerous well-known advertising campaigns. KTG's current client roster include AFLAC, Pilot Pen, Ruby Tuesday, Clairol, American Red Cross, Blimpie, and Gruner+Jahr Publishing.

    Like most advertising/marketing agencies, KTG designs their communication strategies using their own uniquely developed system. This Big Bang theory is KTG's official business strategy to creating ideas.

    In an interview, the authors explained KTG’s Big Bang theory this way: “It's a marketing idea that is wildly successful because it is disruptive and illogical. Big Bangs alter the landscape forever by introducing a way of thinking about a product or service that did not exist previously and that changes our entire pattern and attitudes about it.”

    In the book, the authors outline a ten-point definition of what constitutes a Big Bang.

  • A Big Bang “...expands exponentially in the culture.” (pg. 4)

  • “A Big Bang is designed to help make a brand explode onto the marketplace virtually overnight.” (pg. 6)

  • “A Big Bang creates an ever-expanding universe for a product, and turns occasional users into fierce loyalists.” (pg. 6)

  • “A Big Bang disrupts. It is about ideas that are simply too outrageous, too different, too polarizing to go unnoticed.” (pg. 6)

  • “A Big Bang bucks conventional wisdom and stops people in their tracks.” (pg. 6)

  • “A Big Bang is illogical.” (breaking through conventional thought with illogical thought) (p. 8)

  • “A Big Bang has a dramatic, immediate and irreversible impact.” (pg. 11)

  • “A Big Bang can’t be ignored. Big Bangs are intense ideas. They are intentionally polarizing.” (pg. 13)

  • “A Big Bang becomes an icon.” (pg. 14)

  • “A Big Bang disrupts the norm and creates a new universe.” (pg. 214)

    Our next blog entry, Big Bang or Small Thing?, will ask you if the Big Bang examples mentioned in the book are indeed Big Bangs or ... are they Small Things?

  • January 11, 2004

    Big Bang Week at Brand Autopsy

    Fast Company’s Reader’s Choice Book-of-the-Month for February is BANG! Getting Your Message Heard in a Noisy World. I had rifled through this book on the shelves at BookPeople before, but was not motivated to buy it. On Saturday I found myself with some free time so I decided to pick it up.

    While reading this book I developed a slew of HMOs -- Hot Marketing Opinions. Throughout this week I will be expressing these HMOs and some posts will request blogger participation. (Hopefully you will be inspired to join the conversation.)

    If you haven’t read the book yet… no worries. I will recap the major points in subsequent posts. However, if you are chomping at the bit to learn more about this Big Bang marketing theory, satiate those desires by perusing the Big Bang companion website.

    January 08, 2004

    Book Review – GUTS! Companies that Blow the Doors off Business as Usual

    This is the first in what will be an on-going series of business book review blogs.

    Book: GUTS! Companies that Blow the Doors off Business as Usual
    Authors: Kevin and Jackie Freiberg

    GUTS! is a sequel to the Freiberg's first book, “NUTS! Southwest Airline’s Crazy recipe for Business and Personal Success” and unfortunately, GUTS! falls victim to the sequel syndrome that befalls many successful motion pictures – its not as good as the original. As I read this book I kept thinking that the authors simply picked up literary litter from the editing room floor of their first book. GUTS! relies far too much on regurgitating the Southwest Airlines story told in NUTS!.

    The title of this book (GUTS! Companies that Blow the Doors off Business as Usual) is a misnomer. Inside the book, you find chapters like, “Gutsy Leaders that Blow the Doors off Business,” “Gutsy Leaders Make Business Heroic,” and “Gutsy Leaders Lead with Love.” Yet the title of the book is about companies and not leaders.

    GUTS! is more a book about how by companies can achieve extraordinary results by creating a culture that is caring, employee-focused and fosters a spirit of ownership amongst employees. It is not about how leaders make gutsy decisions. Essentially, this is a case study book on companies whose leaders lead by practicing Servant Leadership principles and by infusing Servant Leadership principles into the culture of the company.

    Primer on Servant Leadership
    Servant Leadership eschews the classical definition of a leader as being a stand-alone hero. Instead, Servant Leadership asks leaders to focus on creating a shared vision for all employees, encouraging entrepreneurialism and creativity throughout all levels of an organization, fostering a spirit of interdependence, embracing humility and promoting a sense of shared fate. For furthering learning, start with the man who first introduced the term Servant Leadership – Robert Greenleaf.

    While I found much of the book to read like an extended magazine article, I did find the guts of the book to come from two very rich chapters that are chock-full of great company culture-related ideas. One chapter details how companies like Semco, Quad/Graphics, Southwest Airlines, Planet Honda are creating a sense of ownership amongst employees. The other chapter that I found worthwhile details how companies such as GSD&M, USAA, SAS and USAA attract talented employees. Those two chapters alone are worth the investment of money to buy the book and of time to read the book.

    The authors researched this book exhaustively but they failed to adequately list their sources. Many of the quotes from the leaders they profiled came from published articles but those quotes were not thoroughly credited. (Failing to credit sources in a business book bothers me to no end.)

    I encourage you to read the reviews from others found on amazon.com because all the reader reviews give GUTS! five stars with nary a disparaging comment. On the other hand, I rate GUTS! as a two-and-a-half star read.