Not really. While it's true that most agency pros couldn't wrap their minds around that concept if a hundred diamond-encrusted Addys were at stake, those of us who have done it know how simple it actually is. Sure, you have to manage a lot of moving parts and you have to live in a lot of different worlds (design, engineering, finance, manufacturing, quality control, marketing, advertising, PR, sales) but it can be done, and done well - at least by certain types of people. Sadly, the business world's tendency to compartimentalize skills into finite job descriptions (yes, even in ad agency org charts) makes it nigh impossible for anyone with the proper skills to a) market themselves properly, b) capitalize on their talents, and perhaps worst of all c) help their firm and their clients capitalize on those talents.
Want To Put Agencies Out of Business? Make Better Products.ClickZ had a party on Wednesday night to celebrate 10 years of innovation and excellence in online marketing and advertising.
They invited author and academic Douglas Rushkoff to speak.
Rushkoff exhorted marketers to convince their clients to come up with compelling products. "Teach them how to get back into the business they are in," he said. "Then you don't have to make up a story about them."
I'm attracted to this kind of lofty message. Yet, I can't help but chuckle. Most agency pros are unable to help their clients grasp the intricacies of marketing communications. Trying to help them reinvent their product or service offerings seems, at least on the surface, an esoteric idea that could only be cooked up in a school.
"If customers feel like they have discovered a brand themselves, they become much more loyal."
- Ray Kelvin
Not everything is at it seems or as is claimed and omissions of lucky breaks and familial connections often hide real insights.There's emphasis on speed and the race to raise angel capital, and the thrill of marketing campaigns just to earn the right to take a running jump into the giant pool of companies exactly like yours with clever names and cool logos and posh zipcodes...
I was reminded of this while reading John Grant's latest book in which he refers to the brand bandwagon phenomenon by which advertising agencies take credit for building a brand that was already building by itself.
This goes to the heart of the myth that marketing is synonomous with advertising. If you need further proof, I've watched a local two-person business grow slowly by selling their clothes from their own store. After eighteen years, there was still no marketing department and not one advertisement had been run in print, radio or TV. But the turnover had risen to the vicinity of £100 million.
There had been much truth in the founder's gleeful description of seeing her first delivery van (stylishly furnished in the company colours) on the road and thinking it looked like a giant mobile shopping bag. Your retail outlet, be it physical or virtual (and everything that supports it) is a great marketing tool.
Indeed the more of the value chain that your business can isolate and/or commandeer, the greater the possibilities because it is under your control and is directly measurable. You're not shouting at amorphous crowds through mass media. You're whispering, enticing and listening and thus approaching a prolonged conversation with live prospects and actual customers.
Now not all businesses will have their own retail outlet, but they should act as if they do. Setting out your stall is what marketing is all about.
Ray Kelvin founder of clothes retailer Ted Baker (market capitalisation £250 million) declares a similar approach in a very rare interview.
..we don’t do valuations and market research; we have an attitude rather than a target market and we don’t advertise. We have a Ted Baker culture instead; people come into the shop and get Ted-ucated. If customers feel like they have discovered a brand themselves, they become much more loyal.
"It's very easy to collaborate with someone who has lots of ideas. (...) This is because people who have lots of ideas are constantly trading up: You have and idea; I have and idea; your ideas is better, let's go with that. So ideas don't have this enormous currency. They are just the material that you're working from.
The worst people to work with are people that — every now and then, once a year — have an idea, because they build a temple around it. And it becomes THE idea."
- Screenwriter/Director Tony Gilroy
This is so true. If you have ever worked on a project that requires some creative input, then being surrounded by people who either have lots of ideas, or rarely an idea at all, can make or break the flow of the project. This is because ideas are NOT the finish line. They are not something to hold as a trophy. The important thing should be the final product, the execution. As Gilroy said, the ideas are just material to work from.
Of course, the other end of this spectrum is that the generation of ideas can become so fast and fevered that it's hard to take a step back and focus on one thing and execute it. At some point you need to gather your source material and actually begin to make something. Any additional ideas can be used for the next iteration.
This balancing act is the key to managing projects that require a lot of creative fuel. If you can put together (or stumble upon) a team who has the right mixture of ideas and focus, you should have a nice foundation. This is often why it's recommended that people looking to form a start-up do a few projects together first, before they officially become partners.
Unlike some other charitable music-player-selling schemes that only donate a measly 5% of their proceeds to charity, when you buy a 30GB Zune from Warriors in Pink, 100% of the purchase price goes to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, thanks to the generosity of Ford and Microsoft.
The pink 30GB Zune is $250 ($50 more than retail for a 30GB Zune), but it's for a worthy cause.
Read the entire post here. (The post is about the music industry. I took the liberty of adding the (blank) elements to make Seth's argument more... universal.)
Most industries innovate from both ends:
- The outsiders go first because they have nothing to lose.
- The winners go next because they can afford to and they want to stay winners.
- It's the mediocre middle that sits and waits and watches.
The mediocre (blank) companies, mediocre (blank) guys and the mediocre (blank) are struggling to stay in place. They're nervous that it all might fall apart. So they wait. They wait for 'proof' that this new idea is going to work, or at least won't prove fatal. (It's the impulse to wait that made them mediocre in the first place, of course).
So, in every industry, the middle waits. And watches. And then, once they realize they can survive the switch (or once they're persuaded that their current model is truly fading away), they jump in.
The irony, of course, is that by jumping in last, they're condemning themselves to more mediocrity.
“It astounds me how people are afraid of so many things, but mediocrity never seems to be one of them.”
Mediocrity - noun
Ordinariness as a consequence of being average and not outstanding [syn: averageness]
"In thinking about the future of collective intelligence, we need to make sure that we not only think about systems that lead to convergence of opinion, but also ones that ensure divergence, and fresh inputs. The surest way I know to get this is not to pay attention to the breaking news in your own pond, but to find the next community over, and to create new cross connections."
The Design Probe projects carried out by Philips Design are part of a wider strategy aimed at improving the innovation hit rate. Growth through innovation is high on corporate management agendas throughout the world yet, according to figures in Business Week, "up to 96% of all new projects fail to meet the targets for return on investment."
Many companies try to drive innovation by using a 'funnel model' in which research results, new technologies or user insights are filtered in a very linear way, with the concepts that are left - those deemed most feasible - being quickly forced into business cases. Given the pitifully low success rate of innovations in general, it is obvious that such a model has its limitations.
Philips Design proposes an alternative view; that imaginative ideas should be explored on a case-by-case basis, rather than trying to impose a business 'straitjacket' too early. The Design Probes are fully in line with this philosophy, because they can produce valuable input for the innovation process through structured exploration of weak cultural signals and non-mainstream topics.
Read the rest (including two pretty interesting probe samples) here.
*The Dutch Design week will run from October 20th to 28th in approximately 40 locations throughout Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The probes presentation is part of a Philips Design exhibition in on the 4th floor of the Witte Dame. Daily at 17.00 Philips Design will organize a workshop around a theme of a currently project Philips Design is working on.
Traditional advertising is not the place to be these days. Not only is it losing relevance, it is also not the best tool to accomplish a myriad of business goals. Generate engagement with core consumers, build loyalty, drive interaction rates, these are just a few of the things that traditional advertising, especially TV, just doesn’t do well in comparison to other marketing disciplines. It’s not dead by any means, but it’s not the universal answer either.
AdPulp posted this article about Nike that gives further support to my argument, in case you don’t a take a no-name blogger at his word.
Advertising has ceased to be the go-to answer when it comes to marketing questions. With that in mind, how much longer until other agencies begin to drive the brand, be they online, promotions or PR?
And you know that PR is just itching to do it and get us back for years of condescention.
"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."-Steve Jobs
"I believe that when you know too much—it takes away from your creativity and your ability to see things from different perspectives. I've been thinking about this quite it bit. I've been having mixed feelings regarding the specialized degrees that are being marketed to us, promising to turn us into design thinkers, creative strategists etc. Steve Jobs, the original design thinker was a college drop out. What does this tell us?
"I'm happy to see the business world take creative problem solving seriously and I'm certainly not against higher education or any of the new programs. But I'm also wary of what happens when we perceive ourselves as experts who have been trained in the black art of [insert profession here].
"I started this blog because I was hungry. I was most certainly foolish. I had no idea what on earth I was doing—and that sense of wonder freed me from any restrictions or limitations I might have otherwise been put upon myself. There was no "Guru-sim" involved, and no formal education or even work experience could have taught me to open a Typepad account and make the transformation from spectator to participant.
"That was an act of foolishness on my part. I was foolish enough to believe that people would come here. I was hungry enough to spend my downtime producing content and talking to people vs. watching the tube. So, you can call me whatever you like—but for my own sanity check, I'm going to stay hungry and foolish."
"My advice to clients is to spend dollars to make the product more remarkable, not to make the word of mouth tactic more remarkable. Otherwise, all people will be talking about is what your company did and not what your company does.
When working with clients, I stress the importance of TELLING THE STORY and not Making Up a Story.
TELLING THE STORY is about designing marketing communications to deliver on the promise all the while being clever, savvy, authentic, and true to the brand. It’s about treating consumers as being interesting and interested.
While, Making Up a Story is when marketers engage in outrageously gimmicky attention-grabbing antics that over-promise and woefully under-deliver. These marketers treat consumers as being boring, indifferent, and brainlessly gullible.
I find it pleasurable to offer you my partnership in business.
I am contacting you regarding a brief for the Investment of Twenty Five
Million Dollars (US$ 25,000,000.00) in your country, as I presently
have a client who is interested in investing in your country, but have
never done business in your country before. I find it imperative to
solicit for a partnership.
Hence upon receipt of this letter, I implore you to kindly respond and
let me know how possible it is to work with you in mutual partnership
under the conditions that:
. My client's fund is held in cash.
. My client is willing to invest immediately.
. My client will pay you a commission of 10% of the investment fund for
initial logistics and protocols.
. My client will pay to you a further 7% of profit earned over capital
annually as long as you manage the investment fund.
. My client desires absolute confidentiality in the handling and
management of this brief.
I must draw your attention to the fact that I have kept the
information's herein this letter stated brief; as I do not know if you will receive this letter and or what your response will be, If you do have the interest and the capability to partner with me under the above stated
conditionality, I will appreciate your response sent back to me by fax or
call me immediately. I will appreciate that you include a brief profile
of your self and your company for me to better appreciate your
I look forward to your response and our partnership.
Have a nice day.
Jack O. Shmuck
"The maximum effective range of excuses is exactly zero meters."
"The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century.
"Setting the right policies for science in the US will prime and drive the nation's economic engine for decades to come. At a time when economists agree that innovation fuels growth, the US finds itself importing more high-tech goods from the rest of the world than it is exporting. More low-tech than high-tech jobs are being created in this country; other nations, like South Korea, Singapore, and China, are producing a far higher percentage of natural science and engineering graduates. Bill Gates expresses this broad concern when he says: "When I compare our high schools with what I see when I'm traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow."
"Indeed, the economic centrality of science and technology overlaps inextricably with international affairs. In the coming decades, China and India in particular are forecast to grow into major centers for innovation. China, powered by a leadership determined to achieve scientific advancement, is now second only to the US in its annual investment in research and development. India, meanwhile, is churning out 2.5 million science and engineering graduates per year. To successfully guide the US into the 2010s, the next president must understand the trends that are transforming these nations into key US competitors and have a plan for keeping pace with them—while simultaneously avoiding shallow nationalistic rivalry. The advancement of science is not a zero sum game."
Consulting Firm’s Client Base Profile:For once, I am not going to be all verbose and whatnot. This company is in trouble, and there is a lot of work to be done before we can get back to a fun and insightful conversation about differentiation and reaching the next level in its evolution. Here are my top recommendations to get this company out of its hole:
Revenues: $1 million to $25 million
Employees: 150 or fewer
Verticals: High-tech and health care
Location: North America
Challenges: Consumers and other businesses have so many choices, that high-tech businesses as well as their other target audience made up of clinics and hospitals are either showing stagnant growth or they are losing market share.
Client’s Problem: They don’t know how to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Consulting Firm’s Challenge: As a small marketing firm, they are losing contracts to lower pricing and to bigger firms. The consultancy after three years has stopped growing and most of its clients buy one project and don’t return for more assistance for several years, if at all.
"AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries."
An AT&T spokesperson tells Ars Technica that the company has no interest in engaging in censorship but stopped short of saying that AT&T could not in fact exercise its ability to do so.
"AT&T respects its subscribers' rights to voice their opinions and concerns over any matter they wish. However, we retain the right to disassociate ourselves from web sites and messages explicitly advocating violence, or any message that poses a threat to children (e.g. child pornography or exploitation). We do not terminate customer service solely because a customer speaks negatively about AT&T."
- Listen to what users want. Try to make the site faster and better.
- Hire good people. "We work hard trying to get the right kind of folks." It pays off: they hardly ever leave.
- No meetings, ever. "I find them stupefying and useless."
- No management programmes and no MBAs. "I've always thought that sort of thing was baloney."
- Forget the figures. "We are consistently in the black, so if we do better or worse in any given quarter it is absolutely irrelevant."
- Occasionally, give people "a very gentle nudge". This can be done over lunch or on the instant messaging boards.
- He doesn't reply to any of his 100 daily messages, most of which beg Craigslist to do a deal. "I'm not real chatty on e-mail."
- Put speed over perfection: "Get something out there. Do it, even if it isn't perfect."
- "Don't screw it up by doing things that make people feel worse about their work."
Yep, brown was the yummy one. I'm holding on to my 30gb for sure now.The new features in all models, which were leaked early, are wireless syncing with your computer automatically when you're in Wi-Fi range—something users have been clamoring for since even before the first Zune—as well as videos in the Zune Marketplace and new music, some of which are DRM-free. The Zune Pad is actually touch sensitive, much like the iPod's Click Wheel.
Zune Marketplace now has music videos, but no movies. Three million songs total. The 80GB Zune also has a large, 3.2-inch screen, but only comes in black. It's also smaller and thinner than the original Zune. The flash-based Zunes, on the other hand, come in pink, green, black and red, and are the smallest of all. [CNET]
The sharing feature is being expanded so you can send music AND "other media" to other Zunes. The shared songs have no expiration date and can be shared again with other people, but the same 3 play limitation is still there.
Zune's also getting a Zune Social social-networking site. You don't even have to own a Zune to join. You can have Zune Cards to "reflect your musical preferences", based on the music you listen to on your Zune player. The card can have custom pictures and backgrounds. Displays your currently played song. You can also browse other people's cards and sample the standard 30-seconds of the song to see if you like it. There's also going to be community-generated charts to see what's popular right now in the Zune community.
The Zune's got a re-worked navigation button and is no longer has brown as a color. Darn, we liked the brown. [NYT]
This makes me pretty happy, as you may well imagine.
Zune's also getting a feature to automatically import recorded content from Windows Media Center as well, meaning you can take your TV shows to go just by syncing up with your computer.
The 30GB Zune actually isn't being eliminated, and will be offered at $199. Amazon already has it for $165-$185 now. It's going to get Wireless Sync, the upgraded Zune to Zune transfer, and the recorded TV content to go. It's most likely got the same codec support as the 80GB.
"According to Apple, "no software developer kit is required for the iPhone." However, the truth is that the lack of an SDK means that there won't be a killer application for the iPhone. It also means the iPhone's potential as an amazing computing and communication platform will never be realized. And because of this I don't think the iPhone will be as revolutionary as it could be. That's a real heart breaker.
"Steve Jobs initially sold the iPhone as the Next Big Thing from Apple, just like the Macintosh was. The Macintosh really broke the mold. While not as groundbreaking, the iPhone is an intelligent and clean implementation of existing things. Really intelligent, really clean, like the Mac. Unlike the original Mac, however, developers won't have full access to its core features. Without them there won't be the equivalent of PageMaker, Photoshop, Word or Premiere in the iPhone, powerful applications taking full advantage of the unique capabilities of the hardware, the operating system and its frameworks.
"Those applications spawned two revolutions: desktop publishing (including photo editing) and desktop video. It was the Mac and its third-party apps that brought radical changes that have deeply affected us, not the Mac alone.
"On the iPhone, however, developers will be limited to developing Web applications based on AJAX, a set of Internet standards that make software like GMail, Google Maps or FaceBook possible. The iPhone is the real thing, a complete UNIX-to-go with stunning graphic classes, and developers will be limited to do stuff like this.
"So no SDK = no access to iPhone's cool frameworks = no revolutionary apps, no real new concepts coming from third-parties, no eye candy available for anyone but Apple and no possibility for some really crazy games that will fully exploit the graphic and multi-touch power of the iPhone."