Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can Goliath become David?

Can a large established company start over? As the economy evolves, more and more companies are finding themselves in situations where the model they have been using to become so profitable is literally dropping out from under their feet. For example, Blockbuster once Netflix came along.

It's impossible to see where and when these market trends will change but more companies are trying to gauge for it. But can they really start over or is their too much baggage?

Some larger companies are setting up remote groups that work in different locations and are autonomous from the rest of the organization. The hope is that these groups are free from the traditional company bureaucracy to create something truly creative and new.

The idea is valid, the execution is flawed. When GM decided to take everything they knew and start over, they came up with Saturn. Some people think that it was successful because of customer loyalty and things like that, but overall it is not held up as a huge success.  That's because they weren't a true start-up. They all received paychecks, they all knew they had the backing of the mothership. They were missing some key elements in order to truly be creative. When you take away the panic, and people aren't facing success or failure, you have just eliminated the creativity you need to evolve.

Like it or not, that kill or be kill mentality is necessary for true innovation. There is chaos in start-ups and that is where the innovation lies.  Large companies spend millions of dollars a year to "streamline" or "create efficiencies" around chaos, which makes real innovation impossible.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Avoid the Airport

Traveling through the airport yesterday afternoon I started to think about the "Airport" as a brand.  If you stop and think about it, "The Airport" is a microcosm for what your brand faces in the real marketplace.

There are high-end and low-end brands right next to each other, the owners of each airport have their own way of running things so the customer experience is always different, your luggage gets lost and no one seems to care, the food you eat at the airport (any food) is awful, the bathrooms seem like something out of a refugee camp, the weather can ground you and it's not "their" fault, cab drivers are yelling for you to get in their car, etc...  I hope you get the point.

When people say "I hate airports", they mean the whole package. It's this way because over time a lot of small decisions have been made and the result is a bad stew. No one can pinpoint the cause, but no one likes the taste.

No matter how much you try to manage your brand image, the delivery system that is the airport, makes it a wasted exercise. When brands try to build distribution quickly by using sales networks, independent reps and outside facilities, you may end up as the "Airport". Band-aid after band-aid work for a while, but at some point you have to sit down and say it's time for major surgery.  Your delivery system is the way consumers see your brand and you have no control over 90% of their experience.

As marketers we have to find a way through the clutter,  but working day in and day out in a broken system is futile.  Think of new ways to deliver your message and your product. It's an uphill climb but at some point you have to change what isn't working around you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Can Social Media Unite Washington

Washington has a problem!!!!! I'm not trying to be the master of the obvious, but they need social media in a bad way.  Not to announce events or upcoming votes, but to listen.

Major brands over the past few years have learned a valuable lesson that they can teach Washington. They have learned that talking at consumers doesn't work anymore.  You have to engage them in a two way conversation and be willing to listen to the good and the bad.  Show them that you are listening and watch them come back.

Washington is stuck and hasn't realized how to listen.  When a politician gets up to say " I think the American people want this," it's misleading.  They can't know what we want unless they start listening.

Both parties are responsible and both have to solve it. In order to do that, they have to learn to listen and social media is the best, real time, way to do that.   Ask brands that have adopted this model, they are stronger and better for having opened themselves to outside opinions.

Good luck, Washington. I hope someone inside the beltway is listening!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Diamond on my soles: Ahnu Shoes

Don't you love it when someone says to you, "Nice shoes"? 
Every single time I wear my Ahnu shoes, whether they are sneakers, boots or shoes, I get that great compliment. 
But I shouldn't be surprised - this is the same team that brought us Tsubo. Don't know Tsubo? Well, there you go - Two diamonds to check out! and

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Diamond in the Rough, with room for cream: Bicycle Coffee Co.

Locally roasted in one, open flame, 20-pound drum, every single pound of this organic, fair-trade, family-farmed coffee is delivered - get this - by bicycle! Yes, Bicycle Coffee pedal their weekly deliveries up the hills of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. Even their stand, with propane burners brewing over 500 cups for farmers market shoppers is biked to its destination.

And here's the kicker: their coffee is so good, I'd ride 20 miles for a cup! Not really, but they do make great coffee.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Where's my wallet?

Earlier today Google announced that is releasing Google Wallet. A mobile app that turns your phone in your wallet. It holds your credit cards, your coupons, your plane tickets etc... We all knew this was coming, but is this for real? It will take time to tell, but it should give you a glimpse of the future. The companies that think different, not just big, win. It used to be that the big companies sat in a tall tower and the small guys had to wait their turn in line. Now startups are showing us every month that if you can't compete with what is out there, recreate the market. Even though they are a big company, Google is trying this with Google Wallet. Let's give them credit (pun intended) for being innovative and forward thinking, but I think they could have gone further. Partnering with MasterCard and Chase and the other big guys in a few months doesn't recreate the model, it perpetuates the existing model that is broken. Big banks don't work and people don't trust them, so why jump in bed with them on this project. We all know there are a ton of reasons, but Google is big enough to take on the big banks and they could have used Square or SimpleBank as their partner, giving a leg up to a couple startups. It would have sent a message and given the banks a real competitor who could have encouraged change. If we do use Google Wallet as our day to day payment tool, we don't what it to look like what we have already, we want it to be better. Google should know that, and if you are thinking different

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Birth of a Brand

Where do brands come from? They come from inside and the good ones remain authentic. Branding is Non-fIction, ok it isn't always true, but the ones you remember and believe in are real. They have stories that have to be true because no one could make them up. Take Teton Gravity Research (TGR for you skiers). Here were a couple of brothers from Cape Cod that worked on commercial fishing boats in Alaska, saved up their money, moved to Jackson Hole, WY and started filming their friends skiing. Now 15 plus years later, they are on top of the outdoor industry with more traffic to their website then many other outdoor brands. They got there by living the brand. They hiked the mountains, they skied the cliffs and sacrificed other things in their life to do it. When they tell you about great places to ski, you should listen because they have skied a lot of places. When they recommend a jacket, listen, they probably wore that jacket for two weeks of outdoor camping last season and they know it works. When you look at your brand, are you passionate, are you the target demo or are you just faking it. If your passion isn't real, if you don't live the brand, people will know. Take the time to sit down and understand who uses your brand and why. Are they your age, are they younger, are they older. What do they say about you on Twitter? Do they tell their friends about you or not? Brands come from inside of all of us. What is your brand and how are you going to live it?