Archive for 'brand'

Smokin' Hot

As I waited to see the doctor I referenced in a previous post, I skimmed through the complimentary copy of Bicycling Magazine (which I have a personal subscription to) which was sitting in the lobby area. I had time to kill so I figured I’d browse through it to make the time go by a little quicker.

About halfway through the magazine there is an ad with a smokin’ hot blond depicted wearing Shimano clothing. Quick 4-1-1 for the uninitiated: Shimano is a popular component maker for bicycles, fishing equipment, etc. which is obviously trying to expand their presence into apparel and gear. Upon further reflection, I realized I hadn’t even noticed the brand until well after scrutinizing “Miss Thing.” It’s not like I have any “shot” with this girl, and I’m perfectly content with the girl I’m presently dating. It’s a total guy thing though—it’s who we are and how we’re wired. Our human nature, if you will.

Stop and think for a moment: what is Shimano really selling in this ad with the gorgeous blond? Clothing, right? Hell no—they are selling HER! They are selling the ideology that somehow buying their product gives you a shot with the model or someone much like her. It’s that subliminal message connecting some strangely placed dots within the male ego that has worked for years and will continue to do so because that’s how we’re wired. It may work on women, too, but I’m not as sure about that. Any women care to chime in to lend some “expertise?”

A majority of cyclists are men so this is likely an effective ad because guys will undoubtedly talk about the girl which will invite other guys to check out the ad. Shimano is a secondary component to the girl, but they know that. She definitely grabbed my attention so the ad worked (on me at least). All heterosexual guys will almost always notice gorgeous women (and make comments to their buddies) because we’re extremely visual. It doesn’t matter if they are single or married either—it’s the very basics of advertising to men, and it won’t go out of style. We warm blooded guys won’t let it. I’m not so sure “taken” (married or seriously involved) women would have the same reaction would they?

Seth Godin's Louisville Seminar Review

Seth Godin paid Louisville a visit today to speak in the newly opened Waterfront Park Place, a truly beautiful building that serves as a posh residency for some of Louisville’s wealthier people. I had the fortune to attend the seminar, and I figured this is as good a place as any to share a little review along with some thoughts creeping into my dome during and after the seminar.

Brief Background 4-1-1 on Seth Godin
For those of you who don’t know about Seth, he’s an author of seven bestselling books on marketing, business, and entrepreneurship. His published titles include: Unleashing the Idea Virus, Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, Survival is Not Enough, All Marketers are Liars, and The Big Red Fez. Did I get all of them? Oh yeah, he also edited and published a follow up book to Purple Cow titled The Big Moo which is a series of essays and articles centered around the “Be Remarkable” theme much like most of his books.

My Overall Impression (if you care)
For those who know me, they know I’m not a big believer in hyping someone because we’re all merely human, but I truly like Seth’s work and thoroughly enjoyed the seminar. I feel as if we think quite a bit alike–not so sure if that’s good or bad for Seth. Ha! It must be all right if he’s produced seven bestsellers because people “vote” strongest with their wallets. Anyway, maybe I’ll be a best-selling author before long and will get the opportunity to work with Seth on some projects someday.

Seth’s Approach
Seth isn’t controversial or far out in his approach, but he’s thought provoking and interjects humor into his message throughout. That was my number one takeaway. Most people today suggest stirring up big time controversy to gain massive exposure or publicity (see Ann Coulter), but I disagree with that approach. If you can make people really think, you’ve affected them in a positive way even if they don’t necessarily agree with your initial theory. Making someone engage in deep thinking is a smarter way to do things versus making them want to ring your neck, wouldn’t you say?

The Savvy Marketing of Waterfront Park Place
Ok, onto the seminar itself. As mentioned, the setting inside Waterfront Park Place is very nice, but I wanted to attend this seminar to hear Seth as much to see how they were going to link selling the real estate within the building with his speech. I knew it was coming, and they didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t over the top or in your face though. It was not totally subtle, but I’d say it was tastefully done. Wonder what they paid Seth to come down for this? Looking at it from a business perspective, they’d likely dwarf whatever they paid him if they end up selling only one condominium (prices start at $350k) to an attendee today. Not a bad ROI if it works out for them. It’s definitely a different approach, but it was well thought out because they had a lot of wealthy business people in attendance that are their likely target–mid 30s to late 40s of which many own their own company. I have considered checking out owning a condo there so the opportunity was worth the effort in my opinion.

“It’s Not About Improving on Yesterday”
Seth started his speech talking about how growth is not about doing better than yesterday and shared a story about the greatest thing ever–sliced bread. The truth of the matter is sliced bread didn’t make the creator any money. Wonder Bread took the idea once it came off of patent and capitalized the most. That story set the table for the remainder of the conference, and the theme was “ideas which spread are the winners;” not some hair brained marketing campaign. If you’re truly remarkable, simply meaning you do something that is worth making a remark, you’re onto something. For far too long, it’s been more about who has the most money because that person can control the messages you see and hear whether it be television, radio, billboards, or whatever–the person or company with the most dough could afford the most exposure. It’s not about exposure anymore–we’re overexposed!!!! This I agree with wholeheartedly. SIDE NOTE: I’m preparing an article on video ads and how they’re going to be everywhere before long that I should be able to share early next week so please look for that.

Average Stuff for Average People
We’re in a society today where the mass market is summarized by average stuff for average people. Things that standout, one way or another, garner the premium dollar. GM loses money on every mid-consumer product they produce, but they make a ton on Hummers. Why? It’s a polarizing product. You either love it or you hate it. Those that love it will pay a premium for it. Same with the Mini-Cooper–BMW can charge a premium for the product because they’re in demand, and they’re targeting a niche market. GM is competing with Toyota and Honda for the mid-market (or the average market as Seth called it), but Toyota and Honda can make a better product for cheaper so they win. Everything in the middle or which appeals to the masses costs about the same.

Coke Japan produces a new product every 21 days! How mind boggling is that?

For the most part, everything is good enough today.
Think about this–when you go out of town and are forced to rent a car, do you demand a specific brand of car or model? Not likely because whatever they have is good enough. As long as the car will get you from point A to point B without crapping out on you, that’s good enough. Whatever is close and cheap is what appeals to the masses, and there are so many choices which target the masses that everything becomes cluttered.

Nobody cares about you; be remarkable!
So many firms today market for themselves and not FOR the audience. That’s what’s typical so the firm that truly does something FOR the consumer can gain an edge. That’s being remarkable. People will take notice of remarkable and spread the word extremely quickly. I am going to spend some time thinking about this to come up with a way to make this consulting firm remarkable instead of imitating someone else’s formula. Any ideas? Please share them with me.

“Era of Emotional Marketing”
Do you LOVE a product? If so, how many people have you told? Seth didn’t say this directly, but I believe that’s how Starbucks has grown so quickly–people love it so they spread the word to the point Starbucks has been able to create a mystique about it and people go out of their way to pay a premium just to have that cup of whatever from Starbucks. Personally, I haven’t been hooked by Starbucks, but I admire the business they’ve built. McDonald’s does much the same by appealing to little kids–the kids will kick and scream to get McDonald’s, but they won’t think twice about Burger King. Why is that? They identify with the brand and it becomes one of those things where people feel privileged to have purchased something from there, and they brag about it to their friends. I can hear the kid now saying “I had McDonald’s today!” That’s a pretty powerful hook. Same with the girl who walks into work carrying a cup from Starbucks–the others in the office will generally comment about “eww, you got Starbucks? You lucky dog!” That’s emotional marketing at it’s finest.

“We’re All Fashion Designers”
Seth drew a comparison to everyone being a fashion designer because we often take something that is already working and try to make it bette
r. There’s always something coming along, too. I won’t go into great detail or thought sharing on this statement, but let it sink in for awhile, and let me know what you think.

“Businesses are Consumers Spending Other People’s Money”
This made me think because it’s true if you ponder on it. If we’re spending someone else’s money, we don’t tend to think about it as much as we do if we’re spending our own money, but we do like to spend the money on what we like anyway. Marketing to businesses is no different than marketing to consumers.

“Sell to People Who are Listening”
As marketers, and we’re all marketers of something even if it’s ourselves, we spend massive amounts of time and money trying to appeal to the masses when we’d be far better off if we simply focused on those willing to listen to our idea/message which will help spread that idea/message.

“Why Aren’t You Dating Your Prospect?”
An interesting view taken by Seth that suggests we put a lot into dating yet we attempt to enter business relationships without much thought. Get to know one another before deciding a business venture is worth pursuing. If it’s worth pursuing, it may last a lot longer and produce a lot more fruit if there’s proper effort invested at the outset.

“Anticipated, Personal, & Relevant”
This should be your focus on any marketing message you produce. People don’t care about YOU when you’re trying to sell them something–they care about themselves. Make it something they truly desire, and they’ll reward you with their money.

Hunter vs. Farmer
In the old days, man used to hunt for food to survive. Then came the farmer that produced massive amounts of food without requiring a lot of “hunting.” When someone cultivates a farm, they know where to find the food and the product. When someone hunts, they have to go out and find the food, kill it, haul it back, prepare it, and then they can eat. The farmer steadily produces where the hunter produces sporadically and unpredictably. Targeting = hunting (one-on-one approach); Spreading an idea = farming (more matrix like approach). Which mentality do you think will produce better results over time? The same applies to business.

Marketers Sell Stories We Sell Ourselves
Good marketing involves telling a story that differentiates a product or service from its competition that we can in turn sell ourselves as a reason to buy. It gives us something to identify with; something we can share with others; an emotional tie. Get permission to tell your story then encourage others to tell your story for you. That ties into . . .

“Flip Funnel Over to Turn it Into A Megaphone”
This is a very interesting concept that I hadn’t thought too much about before today. It makes perfect sense–let your idea/message spread like mad versus throwing a bunch of prospects into a “hopper” and hoping they come out the other end as customers. Let others do your marketing and create that buzz–that’s the megaphone approach. I never liked the funnel concept in business anyway!

The Final Takeaway
The “1st person to develop an asset wins!” In other words if you develop something that people truly want, and you’re the first to do it, you win! That doesn’t mean the game is over by any stretch, but you’ll have a pretty good sized lead. It’s easier to get a lead than it is to overtake an established leader in today’s business world. Look at Apple with the iPod and Microsoft with the Zune–which product do you identify with and desire to have? The majority would rather have the iPod because it was first and created the iPod “culture.” Microsoft developed the Zune to improve their income statement and balance sheet. The iPod has made that critical emotional tie in–people are fanatical about their iPods! That’s good for Apple, but it’s also good for the consumer because they continue to develop products to go with the iPod and expand its capabilities.

That’s more or less the entire seminar in a large nutshell from my perspective. If you attended the seminar and have a differing point of view or want to expand on anything shared here, please post it. If you didn’t attend but have a thought or comment on any of this posting, I’d love to hear it.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this stimulated some brain activity.

Yahoo! Memo from Brad Garlinghouse (SVP)

This is a memo leaked to the public written by Brad Garlinghouse, a higher ranking management official of the company. It’s been referred to as the “Peanut Butter Manifesto.” It’s an interesting read that further demonstrates you can have a successful company yet still need a LOT of help strategically. Think they could use some of our services? 😉
——————————————————————

Three and half years ago, I enthusiastically joined Yahoo! The magnitude of the opportunity was only matched by the magnitude of the assets. And an amazing team has been responsible for rebuilding Yahoo!

It has been a profound experience. I am fortunate to have been a part of dramatic change for the Company. And our successes speak for themselves. More users than ever, more engaging than ever and more profitable than ever!

I proudly bleed purple and, yellow everyday! And like so many people here, I love this company. But all is not well. Last Thursday’s NY Times article was a blessing in the disguise of a painful public flogging. While it lacked accurate details, its conclusions rang true, and thus was a much needed wake up call. But also a call to action. A clear statement with which I, and far too many Yahoo’s, agreed. And thankfully a reminder. A reminder that the measure of any person is not in how many times he or she falls down – but rather the spirit and resolve used to get back up.

The same is now true of our Company.

It’s time for us to get back up.

I believe we must embrace our problems and challenges and that we must take decisive action. We have the opportunity – in fact the invitation – to send a strong, clear and powerful message to our shareholders and Wall Street, to our advertisers and our partners, to our employees (both current and future), and to our users. They are all begging for a signal that we recognize and understand our problems, and that we are charting a course for fundamental change, Our current course and speed simply will not get us there. Short-term band-aids will not get us there.

It’s time for us to get back up and seize this invitation.

I imagine there’s much discussion amongst the Company’s senior most leadership around the challenges we face. At the risk of being redundant, I wanted to share my take on our current situation and offer a recommended path forward, an attempt to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Recognizing Our Problems
We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything – to everyone. We’ve known this for years, talk about it incessantly, but do nothing to fundamentally address it. We are scared to be left out. We are reactive instead of charting an unwavering course. We are separated into silos that far too frequently don’t talk to each other. And when we do talk, it isn’t to collaborate on a clearly focused strategy, but rather to argue and fight about ownership, strategies and tactics.

Our inclination and proclivity to repeatedly hire leaders from outside the company results in disparate visions of what winning looks like – rather than a leadership team rallying around a single cohesive strategy.

I’ve heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular.

I hate peanut butter. We all should.

We lack clarity of ownership and accountability. The most painful manifestation of this is the massive redundancy that exists throughout the organization. We now operate in an organizational structure – admittedly created with the best of intentions – that has become overly bureaucratic. For far too many employees, there is another person with dramatically similar and overlapping responsibilities. This slows us down and burdens the company with unnecessary costs.

Equally problematic, at what point in the organization does someone really OWN the success of their product or service or feature? Product, marketing, engineering, corporate strategy, financial operations… there are so many people in charge (or believe that they are in charge) that it’s not clear if anyone is in charge. This forces decisions to be pushed up – rather than down. It forces decisions by committee or consensus and discourages the innovators from breaking the mold… thinking outside the box.

There’s a reason why a centerfielder and a left fielder have clear areas of ownership. Pursuing die same ball repeatedly results in either collisions or dropped balls. Knowing that someone else is pursuing the ball and hoping to avoid that collision – we have become timid in our pursuit. Again, the ball drops.

We lack decisiveness. Combine a lack of focus with unclear ownership, and the result is that decisions are either not made or are made when it is already too late. Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis.

We end up with competing (or redundant) initiatives and synergistic opportunities living in the different silos of our company.
• YME vs. Musicmatch
• Flickr vs. Photos
• YMG video vs. Search video
• Deli.cio.us vs. myweb
• Messenger and plug-ins vs. Sidebar and widgets
• Social media vs. 360 and Groups
• Front page vs. YMG
• Global strategy from BU’vs. Global strategy from Int’l

We have lost our passion to win. Far too many employees are “phoning” it in, lacking the passion and commitment to be a part of the solution. We sit idly by while – at all levels – employees are enabled to “hang around”. Where is the accountability? Moreover, our compensation systems don’t align to our overall success. Weak performers that have been around for years are rewarded. And many of our top performers aren’t adequately recognized for their efforts.

As a result, the employees that we really need to stay (leaders, risk-takers, innovators, passionate) become discouraged and leave. Unfortunately many who opt to stay are not the ones who will lead us through the dramatic change that is needed.

Solving our Problems
We have awesome assets. Nearly every media and communications company is painfully jealous of our position. We have the largest audience, they are highly engaged and our brand is synonymous with the Internet.

If we get back up, embrace dramatic change, we will win.

I don’t pretend there is only one path forward available to us. However, at a minimum, I want to be pad of the solution and thus have outlined a plan here that I believe can work. It is my strong belief that we need to act very quickly or risk going further down a slippery slope, The plan here is not perfect; it is, however, FAR better than no action at all.

There are three pillars to my plan:
1. Focus the vision.
2. Restore accountability and clarity of ownership.
3. Execute a radical reorganization.

1. Focus the vision
a) We need to boldly and definitively declare what we are and what we are not.
b) We need to exit (sell?) non core businesses and eliminate duplicative projects and businesses.
My belief is that the smoothly spread peanut butter needs to turn into a deliberately sculpted strategy – that is narrowly focused.
We can’t simply ask each BU to figure out what they should stop doing. The result will continue to be a non-co
hesive strategy. The direction needs to come decisively from the top. We need to place our bets and not second guess. If we believe Media will maximize our ROI – then let’s not be bashful about reducing our investment in other areas. We need to make the tough decisions, articulate them and stick with them – acknowledging that some people (users / partners / employees) will not like it. Change is hard.

2. Restore accountability and clarity of ownership
a) Existing business owners must be held accountable for where we find ourselves today – heads must roll,
b) We must thoughtfully create senior roles that have holistic accountability for a particular line of business (a variant of a GM structure that will work with Yahoo!’s new focus)
c) We must redesign our performance and incentive systems.

I believe there are too many BU leaders who have gotten away with unacceptable results and worse – unacceptable leadership. Too often they (we!) are the worst offenders of the problems outlined here. We must signal to both the employees and to our shareholders that we will hold these leaders (ourselves) accountable and implement change.

By building around a strong and unequivocal GM structure, we will not only empower those leaders, we will eliminate significant overhead throughout our multi-headed matrix. It must be very clear to everyone in the organization who is empowered to make a decision and ownership must be transparent. With that empowerment comes increased accountability – leaders make decisions, the rest of the company supports those decisions, and the leaders ultimately live/die by the results of those decisions.

My view is that far too often our compensation and rewards are just spreading more peanut butter. We need to be much more aggressive about performance based compensation. This will only help accelerate our ability to weed out our lowest performers and better reward our hungry, motivated and productive employees.

3. Execute a radical reorganization
a) The current business unit structure must go away.
b) We must dramatically decentralize and eliminate as much of the matrix as possible.
c) We must reduce our headcount by 15-20%.
I emphatically believe we simply must eliminate the redundancies we have created and the first step in doing this is by restructuring our organization. We can be more efficient with fewer people and we can get more done, more quickly. We need to return more decision making to a new set of business units and their leadership. But we can’t achieve this with baby step changes,
We need to fundamentally rethink how we organize to win.

Independent of specific proposals of what this reorganization should look like, two key principles must be represented:

Blow up the matrix. Empower a new generation and model of General Managers to be true general managers. Product, marketing, user experience & design, engineering, business development & operations all report into a small number of focused General Managers. Leave no doubt as to where accountability lies.

Kill the redundancies. Align a set of new BU’s so that they are not competing against each other. Search focuses on search. Social media aligns with community and communications. No competing owners for Video, Photos, etc. And Front Page becomes Switzerland. This will be a delicate exercise – decentralization can create inefficiencies, but I believe we can find the right balance.

I love Yahoo! I’m proud to admit that I bleed purple and yellow. I’m proud to admit that I shaved a Y in the back of my head.

My motivation for this memo is the adamant belief that, as before, we have a tremendous opportunity ahead. I don’t pretend that I have the only available answers, but we need to get the discussion going; change is needed and it is needed soon. We can be a stronger and faster company – a company with a clearer vision and clearer ownership and clearer accountability.
We may have fallen down, but the race is a marathon and not a sprint. I don’t pretend that this will be easy. It will take courage, conviction, insight and tremendous commitment. I very much look forward to the challenge.

So let’s get back up.

Catch the balls.

And stop eating peanut butter.

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