October 31, 2005
What's inside your chicken?
The ever enlightening Robin Good has posted a truly frightening story about chickens and the crap (literally, as you you see when you read his article) they eat. Go here and be prepared to be really upset.
Why smart people defend bad ideas
Francois' post about how people react to flawed reasoning (from the intro to Tom Asaker's new book) reminded me of an article by Scott Berkum: "Why Smart People Defend Bad Ideas." You can read/download it at changethis.com. Here's a quote from the article that describes a person we have all run into in our lives. "Smart people often fall into the trap of preferring to be right even if it's based in delusion, or results in them, or their loved ones, becoming miserable. (Somewhere in your town their is a row of graves at the cemetery called smartypants lane, filled with people who were buried at poorly attended funerals, whose headstones say 'Well, at least I was right.'
Most business concepts are "simple" to understand
I immediately connected with the book. Just reading the intro (which you can download here in pdf) made me chuckle. He basically describes a psychological study designed to see how people would react to flawed reasoning. Here is how it went:
"In the study two people, A and B, were seated on opposite sides of a dividing wall, looking at a screen. Each person was instructed to learn by trial and error how to recognize the difference between slides of healthy cells and sick cells. For each slide, they had to push one of two buttons in front of them, “Healthy” or “Sick,” at which point one of two lamps, labeled “Right” and “Wrong,” would light up.
Person A received true feedback, meaning that his “Right” lamp would light up when he was correct and his “Wrong” lamp would light up when he was incorrect. These people—the A’s—learned to tell the difference between healthy and sick cells with a high level of accuracy. Person B’s situation was quite different. His right or wrong lamps lit up based not on his own guesses but on Person A’s guesses. He didn’t know it, but he was searching for an order where none could possibly exist.
A and B were then asked to work together to establish the rules for determining healthy vs. sick cells. The A’s told the B’s what they had learned and what simple characteristics they had looked for to tell the difference. Bs’ explanations, by necessity, were subtle and quite complex—and completely bogus. Here’s the amazing part. After their collaboration, all B’s and nearly all A’s came to believe that the delusional B had a much better understanding of healthy vs. sick cells. In fact, A’s were impressed with B’s sophisticated brilliance, and felt inferior because of the pedestrian simplicity of their assumptions. In a follow-up test, the B’s showed almost no improvement, but the A’s scores dropped because the A’s had incorporated some of B’s completely baseless ideas."
This is too funny - you too must have met those people that are trying to cloud what they do behind nonsense or unnecessarily complex explanations. In reality - most business concepts are simple. People that use gobbledygook language to describe what they do are either incapable or they know that they are frauds in their jobs and try to protect it with a smokescreen of complexity.
I did get further than the intro and it looks like a great read! More on it later...
October 30, 2005
[personal] We did not expect to be doing this over the weekend...
Does your perception change when the voice changes?
Try reading your favorite RSS feed, blog, or any other information source on the web with the gender of the writer switched. Yes, I thought this was a bit wierd. Until I tried it. When you expect your perception of a male source to be reinforced by the pronouns "he" and "him", and instead read "she" and "her", strange things begin to happen. First you laugh at how incongruous it seems. But soon, your mind actually hears what you are reading in the opposite gender's voice. In some cases by simply by shifting pronouns, you react very differently to what you are reading. And, in some cases it is just a lot of fun. Try it yourself. The regender translator will automatically do the pronoun switching for you.
October 28, 2005
Human's don't change
Tom Asacker has a great post on the changing nature of humans...
So true...we don't change...all changes are less than skin deep.
October 27, 2005
Marketing to the triune brain
While aimlessly surfing the web last night (Law & Order was a re-run) I stumbled on research by neurologist Paul D. Maclean. According to Maclean we have not one but three fairly independent brains. He describes them as follows: a lizzard brain, a dog brain, and a human brain. (I was surprised there was no bird brain, but that could be a variation of the lizzard brain that causes people to do really dumb things).
The lizard brain evolved first – it is very small and just controls the basics such as breathing, vision and bodily movements and very elemental emotions such as anger or lust.
Then came the dog brain (limbic system) which grew on top of the lizard brain – and controls the basic functions (in a more advanced way) and adds in emotions such as love and loyalty.
Then finally came the human brain (neo-cortex) and with it all the sophistication with goes with languge.
James Thornton, over at The Bumble Bee, had this to say about the human brain :“This neo-cortex is functionally semi-independent from the lizard and dog brains. That is why our experience is so odd. Consider this: language lies in the human brain, but emotions lie within the separate dog and lizard brains. So the emotions are in a different world from language entirely. Not only that, reason too lives in the new human brain while emotions live in the older brains. The lizard and dog brains are running their emotion programs while the human brain is running its thinking programs. They don’t have too much to do with each other. “
So from a marketer's point of view, the independence among the three brains proposed by Maclean, helps explain why so few messages delivered by language alone stick in the minds of the intended audiences, and why there is no emotional connection to the messages.
October 26, 2005
Companies shutting down access to blogs?
Shel Holtz over at a shel of my former self has a great post on the stupidity of companies and schools stopping access to blogs in the name of productivity and safety.
Just ridiculous! If I were ever to find myself in such a company - I would quit on the spot. How can people be so short-sighted?
...oh well, like my mother used to say: "if all stupid people would fly, it would be permanently dark."
I found this at Jim McGee's blog and liked it a lot...
October 25, 2005
Advertising Age does not get it...
According to Advertising Age, US workers will "waste" the equivalent of 551,000 reading blogs. The details of their "best -guess" extrapolation of existing studies is that work time spent on blogs will be 2.2% of US labor force hours, and work time spent on non work related blogs will be a whopping 1.65%.
...ever though about the fact that reading non-work related stuff may actually increase your creativity in work-related activities? I think Tom Peters said that...oh, maybe 20 years ago.
...bummer - I just wasted 10 minutes on non work related stuff...time to get back.
Sex in ads does not sell
While almost half of the man said that they liked sexual ads, less than 10% of those that were exposed to the sexual ads could recall the brand that was advertised (compared to 19.8% for non-sexual ads). MediaAnalyzer calls that the "vampire effect" - with the sexual object sucking up all the attention. On the women side, 28% of them said there were too many sexual ads, and while they tend to avoid the sexual imagery when looking at sexual ads, their brand recall with sexual ads was less than half that of non-sexual ads (10.8% vs. 22.3%). The study hypothesizes that this might be attributable to a general numbing effect that sexual stimuli has on the brain.
...general numbing effect?
Search Engine "miss"-optimization
Forgive my ignorance with SEO techniques and the like, but as we are starting to get a fair amount of Google search referrals to our blog I noticed some strange things worth mentioning.
First off - the largest number of searches that result into a hit to our blog come from a misspelled word - "funy". While I caught the spelling error early on, Movable Type software had decided to archive the page as "/too_funy_devolu.php" - so even though I fixed the spelling error, the search engine is still categorizing the page under "funy". It is funny to watch how many people misspell the word funny - or why anybody would look for "funy innovations". Maybe a good seo trick would be to go look for the most misspelled words and then have two separate page entries on your site for those terms - that way you never loose the search traffic from those bad spellers. Ok - as I said before, I am no SEO expert - so try this at your own risk...I am not doing it.
Next is the bagel chain that I wrote about in this post. I do not want to increase the Google juice for this one by mentioning their name in this post (and maybe I am doing just that by linking to it)...but to me it was amazing to realize that if you search for their name using Google my post shows up in second place...talk about the influence of a small dissatisfied blogger. The other intriguing part is how many people are searching on that bagel chain's name - Gabe thinks it's all the people from their legal department...yikes.
One last thing for which I have no explanation is the high amount of referrals we get from Google images - if anyone can shed some light on that - that would be great.
October 24, 2005
Unbelievable customer service
In trying to help the family of my friend, who passed away this weekend, I offered to arrange for the ticket of her brother for him to attend the funeral later this week. What followed is pretty astonishing.
First I checked fares online and settled on a Delta flight. I went through the complete registration only to find out at the end that the passenger must present the credit card with which the ticket was purchased. Figuring this was just a glitch and that I could get around that I called Delta and explained the situation. Not only did the agent not acknowledge the situation, she said that this problem could be solved by paying an extra $100. I said, "you must be kidding me - how can $100 fix this situation and how can it not be fixed with $0?" Upset, I added "this is theft." She proceeded to repeat the exact same sentence as if I was some kind of moron who did not understand English. I hung up...
Then I called American. Not only did the attendant acknowledge the situation, she offered me an emergency fare that was $100 cheaper than what they had on their web site, and she was also very patient while I was placing other calls to get the funeral home information. Go figure...
AARP ad on marketing to older people
The importance of "suspending" stories on innovation
No, this is not another post on the importance of stories that fit into people's mental framework to get your message accross - but rather on the constricting effects that stories can have on our worldview and our ability to see differently.
This weekend I started reading the book Presence - co-authored by Peter Senge (MIT), Otto Scharmer (MIT), Joseph Jaworski (Generon Consulting), and Betsy Sue Flowers (U of TX) - a fascinating book on many levels.
One of the things that really struck a cord with me was how stories can have a very limiting effect on what we can see around us. Our mental frameworks - from who we are, to how we are supposed to interact with one another and nature, to what an economy is , a firm, a job - are all based on single stories or scenarios, acquired through education, culture, and various other sources, which we accept without thinking. Unless we can suspend those believes and evaluate alternative stories and scenarios, it is very hard to innovate, change, or see things differently. Having a group of people that share those same basic stories leads to groupthink - which as we have witnessed over and over again - can potentially lead to dangerous situations.
Examples given in the book are that of Brian Henry's - an economist who came up with the law of increasing returns by challenging what an economy is - or that of the South African Government - which was successfully able to transition from apartheid to a multicultural democracy with little bloodshed, based on developing and evaluating collective alternative stories and scenarios about their future.
The book is illuminating in many other ways as well. As a trained engineer in systems dynamics it was not surprising to read about the need to understand the whole system or process - rather than it's parts. What was a little bit more counter-intuitive is their recommendation to try to understand the system from within rather than from the outside.
Another, rather intriguing fact, that I picked up from the book is that we have three neural nets - one in the brain, one in the heart and one around our gut. So thinking from the heart and having a gut feeling are realities after all...
October 23, 2005
[personal] Life lessons learned...
The process of helping a very good friend die (no matter how obnoxious it might sound to suppose that I was indeed able to “help”) is one of the hardest things I have ever been through.
I am not sure what the hardest part was – whether it was seeing her body literally shrivel away in front of me, or whether it was witnessing a beautiful, strong and clear mind fight a unsuccessful battle with a nasty disease that destroys the body, or whether it was reminiscing about old times, or whether it was listening to her dreams about what she wanted to do with her children to celebrate fall and feel close to everything earthly, or whether it was thinking about all her successes and hardships, or whether it was the conversations on how to tell the small children that she was “going away”…or perhaps it was just the fact that it is too hard to accept that some of us have to go early…
Hopefully my level of consciousness is too immature to realize how this all works…and there is some good purpose in all of this…
One little side-note I learned – make sure that your administrative side of life is always in order – you do not want to deal with that stuff, nor do you want to argue over these things when the end is near.
Goedele – farewell…
October 22, 2005
ASME's top 40 magazine covers in the last 40 years
You can see all 40 here.
October 20, 2005
Human advertising space
I just ran across this article in Entrepreneur Magazine (sorry not online yet) - where they talk about this guy who sells temporary tattoos on his forehead. He made good money so far and has gotten a lot of press - which is of course good for his clients. But Entrepreneur Mag goes so far as to say that the media coverage is probably helping his self-promotions as well - and that I am not so sure about...
This is a good one...
(from gaping void)
...and so is fear of death itself!
October 19, 2005
Long Tail or Barry Diller?
Here's Barry Diller at his provocative best (or worst, depending on your point of view):
"There aren't that many people in that many closets who are really talented and can't find their way out." "Making a television program or a movie or a song — there are going to be relatively few who do that because there's simply not enough talent. Maybe that's an utter birdbrained statement, but there you are — it's mine."
Mr. Diller was sharing his insights about the future of new media. In a nutshell his take is that "real talent" is rare, and the proliferation of user-generated media such as blogging and podcasting is much ado about nothing, The way he sees it, the real game is to match high-quality content (and the A-list talent that creates it) to new-media delivery systems.
So, is Diller right? According to him, hits drive media consumption and a small core of high-quality; i.e., not user generated, content will get it done. Maybe I'm guilty of drinking the web 2.0 CoolAid, but I think he is about to be proven wrong. Yes, professionally produced content will dominate, but the old 20/80 ratio of percent of available content to percent of total consumption can't last. Key to its demise is the long tail of content made available to us by the internet.
Companies embrace blogs
Unfortunately I could not make it to BlogOn this week - but via Shel Hotz I learned about the latest Guidewire Group’s BlogOn 2005 Social Media Adoption Survey that was released there.
The stats are unbelievable - 55% of companies use blogs - for both internal (91.4%) and external (96.6%) purposes. More than half launched in the last year and most of those in the last 3 months.
Here are some other noteworthy stats from the survey:
- 60% of those with external blogs have more than one - 17% have more than 5!
- Expected benefits from external blogs are improved brand recognition (78%), improved external communications (78%), and improved customer feedback (66%)
- Of those not blogging 70% are positive about starting one
- the biggest challenges are maintaining enthusiasm and encouraging adoption
What strikes me is that there is nothing new coming through those numbers - companies are trying to force-fit the same old business models on this new social platform instead of looking at new ways to interact with the marketplace...a typical behavior when new innovations get adopted.
October 18, 2005
Early adopters are everywhere
Sorry for the light blogging - as I have been dealing with an ill friend in the past few days...
But that resulted in me reading the USA Today yesterday where they reviewed a study that concluded that early adopters are all over the US - not just in the spots you would expect them to be.
The study's numbers on early adopters were a bit out of whack - you just cannot have 29% early adopters - but that was partly due to the fact they measured early adopter status by looking at people who bought technologies that I would now consider mainstream.
October 14, 2005
When systems stand in the way of good customer service...
I have always been a big champion of Vistaprint. using them for business cards, over-sized postcards and datasheets. I tell all my friends about it and I know for a fact that many others have used their service because of my recommendations. But then came my latest order...
It started out fine, with me ordering 500 copies of a 2 page datasheet to distribute at an upcoming conference. The person I dealt with was pleasant and helpful and even did a reorder last Friday after I had discovered a minor error. I paid to have my package delivered on Wednesday - but it did not arrive on Wednesday. On Thursday I emailed, and they confirmed that while it should have been here on Wednesday it would get delivered on Thursday. That still gave me enough time as I had to have it in the conference organizer's hands by Friday or Saturday at the latest.
When I received the box however, I noticed a major color problem on the front page - some color was either missing or had been tuned the wrong way - resulting in everything looking deep purplish. I emailed and was told that they could not ship any faster than within 3 business days. I begged and pleaded asking them to reprint overnight and then ship overnight for Saturday delivery - but no go! While I got the standard apologies, I was really upset - as this will not only reflect bad on us, but I have now been wasting all kinds of money and opportunities as well (I did get a refund - but that still results in me wasting money and opportunities).
The bottom line is this - I am convinced that the reason they could not help me is because their stupid order entry system does not allow for deviations from the normal ordering procedures. While physically it would have been possible for them to help me, their IT infrastructure stood in the way of delivering awesome customer service.
And in a world where the product is a commodity, and the service/price ratio is the differentiator - they not only lost a customer, they also lost a real champion. All because of poor IT planning...
October 13, 2005
Creating a brand before there is a product...
Grant McCracken - who I had the pleasure to talk with recently - has a really interesting post on his blog about a startup idea for a consultancy that specializes in the creation of brands...brands that are product free that is. The idea is that once the brand is created, you sell it to companies.
He believes that companies that would buy pre-launched brands like that could shave months off their go-to-market time.
Now, I was one of those guys that believed that there must be an organic connection between the product and its brand - actually between product "usage" and its brand. But then again, throughout my career as a marketer I have also always preferred marketing/selling the vision/idea about the product without showing/demoing the product itself - believing that I could create a stronger impression in people's mind without the constraints of the actual product. Am I mixing things up? How do you get through to early adopters and innovators if you have no products? Don't they love to tinker with the innovation, not just the concept?
Considering that Grant is an expert on branding and I am not - I am really intrigued about this and will noodle on this one for some time to come.
If you haven't read it before, his blog is *very good* - talking about branding and marketing at the intersection of anthropology and economics (and complexity theory).
[personal] How fast we can become totally powerless…
Today I got one of those dreaded calls – a good friend of mine for 25 years called me to tell me that not only she had cancer, but that she had been in the hospital for two weeks undergoing radiation and that she was basically paralyzed from the waste down as the cancer has metastased to her spine.
Now here is this smart, beautiful, fun and driven woman; who just recently had been offered the CEO job at her company. She is also a proud and happy mom of two small children. Like me, she immigrated to this country after college, and she achieved all this with little more to start than a degree and a couple of thousand dollars. She also went through a lot of hardship – being the first one to discover her younger sister after she committed suicide, witnessing her dad whither away due to Alzheimer’s disease, and supporting her mom, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease - but none of that was ever enough to dampen her optimism on life.
So you get the picture – she is the type of person for whom everything has always been possible! Barriers? What’s that?
But in an instant her whole future became a set of question marks. When she called me, I was floored – literally. She asked for me to go visit her down in Atlanta – she thinks that she can draw some strength from me and use it to make whatever miracle she needs happen. Of course I will go, but strength?…I am not sure that I have any right now – as I am just as ill prepared to deal with these issues as she was.
I know I will find it and be able to support her in her battle – but to me this was a major wake-up call. Heck - I am not ready for this!
Shit – this sucks!
Sorry – had to get this off my chest….Wish her strength and luck - she deserves it!
Are you ready for the Gen Y workforce?
Fast Company has a funny article about the Generation Y hitting the workforce - and the interesting consequences of over-involved boomer parent.
"Like, say, after Johnny gets a not-so-glowing performance review, Johnny's mom calls his boss: "The best way to motivate Johnny is not through negative feedback!" reprimands Mom"
Are you ready for that? Or is it all a load of hyped up generalizations?
The comments are funny too...universities having to ban parents from campus...or the GenX'er seeing some opportunity "Well maybe these little brat Gen Yers will annoy the old fart Baby Boomers into retiring so us loafing Gen Xers can start moving up the ranks of management"...
Talk about a marketing challenge - VoIP vs. traditional Telco's
According to Telephai - more than half of high-tech households subscribing to an Internet-based phone service have disconnected their traditional landline phone (here - via Center for Media Research) . In fact the study shows that the number is almost 60%!
Talk about a tectonic shift in a traditionally slow-moving industry! It must be interesting to work for a traditional telephone company at this point...there is virtually no escape for them in the dial tone business - they cannot fight the battle on features, nor on price, nor on cost - so they have to morph into something else.
October 12, 2005
Shocking kids with advertising
Being from Belgium, and having grown up with the smurfs, this one came as a bit of a surprise.
In an effort to raise money to rehabilitate the children soldiers from Burundi, Unicef decided to create a short episode of the smurfs where the whole village get's annihilated by war planes. Apparently the short film pulls no punches - the final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably...
hmm...I am not sure how this will work. How about the kids that will get to see this?
Thoughts about being acquired by Microsoft...
Not surprisingly, two of the main drivers are people and the ability to enter new markets.
WOMMA responds to AdAge questioning legality of Buzz Marketing
WOMMA says that they have a code of ethics that addresses the stealth marketing issues that were brought up in the article and that thy developed this early to avoid going down the same path as email marketers.
Convinced? I think they need to should go a step further in self-monitoring themselves.
Marketing accountability anyone?
According to MediaDailyNews, the Association of National Advertisers and Enterprise Marketing Management Group have released best practices for marketing accountability.
So what did they find?
"90 percent of what most companies spend on marketing is measurable, but providing the right metrics is a process that takes dedication and money." and also that "The task force also found that the pursuit of accountability can be difficult--especially demonstrating the effect of short-term marketing expenditures on brand equity".
According to the CEO of ANA: "The study aims to provide marketers with "strategic direction" for their accountability practices."
Why is it that I do not feel good about this? I have not seen the whole study, but to me it sounds like we are measuring discrete programs again instead of overall impact on customer buying behavior and most importantly - repeat buying behavior.
October 11, 2005
More thoughts on "touchology"
After living through Francois' ongoing saga of his love/hate relationships with Starbucks and Brueggers, I got to thinking about my own experiences at various Starbucks and similar establishments such at Peet's in Harvard Square and Seattle's Best in I don't remember where. In particular I was trying to recall how effective the "touchology" (the term coined by Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz) was. It has been my experience that a key individual that can make or break the experience for me is that often under-appreciated person known as the Barista. This is especially true if what you want is your basic high octane espresso. No frills, no steamed milk, just a perfect expresso with a nice crema on top. So I surfed over to coffeegeek, a great site about all things coffee. And here I came to realize just how seriously some baristas treat their position. Go here to read about the South East Region Barista Competition. Here is an excerpt of a review of one of the contestant's performances:
" Her distribution technique was a brief North-South sweep followed by three (or four) tamps, the last two (or three) with twists. The set of espressos appeared to have nice dark colors with red reflections. As she prepared her four cappuccinos, she explained that she intentionally overfilled the milk to help keep the temperature down and prolong the stretching phase. Like a few other competitors, she prefers to swirl the two bell-shaped pitchers flat against the countertop, plus a few thunks. She explained that her competition style isn't like her usual work routine because four single cappuccinos isn't a typical order."
Now that is what I would call a "high-touchology" experience. Haven't experienced anything quite like it at a Starbucks but I did come close to it at a small independent coffee house in Acton MA. And yes, as Seth Godin would put it, the lie I told myself about the quality of the espresso was definitely influenced by the showmanship of the barista (who happened to be the proud owner).
A great customer service experience
After writing about so many bad customer service experiences, I felt like I should document this positive one as well.
I have been hosting this blog at 2M Host. Their service comes with Movable Type, 500MB storage, 25,000MB monthly transfer 20 sub-domains with FTP 50 pop 3 email addresses and some more stuff - all for $6.95/month.
Having increasingly been the subject of SPAM lately, I thought of upgrading to MT3.2 with the new spam plug-ins. I logged a support ticket on Saturday asking if they could upgrade me. They responded almost instantaneously instructing me to do a site backup first. Since they use cpanel as their user admin console, it took me two clicks to get my full backup. I emailed support again on Sunday telling them that I was ready with my backup and got another quick response to inform me that they were working on it, followed by a message the next morning that my site had been upgraded.
To me, that's an awfully smooth customer service experience for a product that only costs $6.95/month! Forgive me for being impressed...
Boston Globe on Web 2.0
Following the Web 2.0 conference last week, Scott Kirsner wrote a good review article in the Boston Globe yesterday on web 2.0.
He thinks that the term web 2.0 is in danger of being overused, and talking about the current hype cycle he says:
" When Silicon Valley gets excited about a meme -- a Web 1.0 term for a new concept or idea -- like Web 2.0, everyone gloms on and dozens of copycat companies sprout up like Tribbles. There's also lots of wreckage, as we learned during the aftermath of Web 1.0."
October 10, 2005
links for 2005-10-10
Interesting analysis of the weblogs inc acquisition
October 9, 2005
Some supporting material for the new innovation wave
Business 2.0 has some interesting stats that support the new dynamics of innovation which I wrote about last week. You can find it in their hottest new trends article - specifically in the 5th trend: Everything Old Is New Again (may require subscription).
Think about this - web server hardware that cost $25K in 1995 can now be bought for $1K. One terabyte of storage that used to cost $1M can now be had for $30K. They do not mention labor cost - but I know that many people involved with this wave are working well below market rates.
October 8, 2005
links for 2005-10-08
cool animantion design shop
October 7, 2005
Outsourcing innovation - of course!
I came across an entry on outsourcing innovation over at EDS' Next Big Thing Blog.
If you want to be innovative as a company, I think you have no choice but to externalize all your innovation processes and outsource some pieces of it. You have to look at innovation as a layer on top of every single process that your company has. Some processes are core competencies for your company and some are not - but they are for others.
If a process is not one of your core processes, outsourcing innovation there should be a no-brainer. And if you happen to innovate yourself in those spaces - try selling the innovation. But don't let it go to waste as most companies do - or try to build on it yourself.
Even if a process is core to your business, say product innovation for products that you bring to market, you should still try to involve outsiders - customers, partners, suppliers, competitors, etc. - into your innovation processes. And you should constantly be on the lookout for outside innovations that could be bought or innovations from within that may not fit some of your minimum business criteria - i.e., minimum market size - but that might have value for outsiders.
October 6, 2005
HR 2.0 - when will companies get it - employees are not disposable!
Jeffrey Pepper - Professor at Stanford University and columnist for Business 2.0 - has a great article in the current issue of business 2.0 entitled: "The Myth of the Disposable Worker" (here - may require subscription)
He posits that companies that forcefully rank their people to get rid of those near the bottom are doing something akin to running a factory that produces lots of defective widgets and announcing the solution as “(We) have created a high-performance manufacturing system by throwing imperfect items in the trash.” - it's just ridiculous!
I especially love this quote - talking about an incident when the dean at the Stanford Business School complained that he did not give enough low grades -
"When he asked why the grades in the class were, on average, higher than those awarded by my peers, I replied (only partly in jest), “Maybe I’m a better teacher.”"
But that's what it is all about - isn't it? Sure, you will always end up with better and poorer performers (and some real duds) - but you got to remember that as you grow, the profile of your employee pool will start reflecting the profile of the population as a whole around you. And it's what you do with that talent that will set you apart from the competitors. Sure there are star companies that can attract and hire superior talent, but for most companies - thinking that you will outdo the averages is like thinking you will succeed in timing the stock market - it just won't happen that often.
Why cannot most companies unleash the passion that can be found in open source projects, web 2.0 type companies and other environments? Is it because we have organizational structures and procedures that choke all communications up and down the chain and in between organizational silos? Or is it because we measure people on goals that are too granular for them to get excited or passionate (i.e., measuring a marketing person on click-through rates only instead of on their ability to impact the quantity and quality and cost of new customer acquisition)? Or is it because we allow cultures to flourish that cause people to behave differently than they do in the outside world? Or are we just bad teachers?
And don't forget, like Jeffrey says in his article - high turnover is expensive:
"First you have to give out severance pay, and then you have to find and hire replacements, invest in their training, and suffer shortfalls in customer service and productivity until the new people get up to speed. Since you are probably going back to the same labor pool to hire again, odds are you’ll fire a lot of your replacements too. That’s because relative turnover rates tend to stay constant -- low-turnover organizations that know how to hire and develop talent keep doing so effectively, while high-turnover organizations continue to churn through bodies."Bad business...
Another survey - how much do bloggers make from advertising
Qumana has a blog earnings survey - the answer - not much money there!
Edleman/Technorati blogger public relations survey
The study was meant to better understand the interactions between bloggers and corporations and guess what - there is a disconnect between how companies communicate with bloggers and how bloggers expect to be approached by them.
Some interesting results from the study include:
- 34% of bloggers blog to increase their visibility as an authority, 32% do it to create a record of their thoughts - so a majority do it for their personal image
- 51% blog about a company at least once a week - yet only 16% ever get a personal email inviting discussion
- Executive bloggers are only half as believable as employee blogs - that makes for an interesting argument against CEO bloggers and in favor of employee blogs!
links for 2005-10-06
Social bookmarking site - another toolbar...
user driven link-pub
Great NYT article on folksonomies
October 5, 2005
Great post on how to use tagging in marketing communications
Recommendations go from the basic use of tags to pretty interesting ones involving remixing feeds, tagging your employee profiles and more.
links for 2005-10-05
Application development platform
October 4, 2005
Great series of posts on marketing lessons learned at Starbucks
John Moore over at Brand Autopsy has a great set of posts (here is one) on what he learned at Starbucks - some which definitely resonate with my high tech marketing background, others which are confirming what goes behind delivering the experiences that I have been enjoying as a loyal Starbucks customer.
Some of the lessons learned include - "rarely, if ever, can you sprinkle magical branding dust to create an endearing and enduring brand." - referring to the fact that you need to first and foremost focus on building your business and not your brand. One will flow out of the other - not the other way around.
Another one is - "remarkable business make the common uncommon" - well Starbucks clearly did that!
And in a third post he quotes Howard Schultz, the Starbucks Chairman as saying “If we greet customers, exchange a few words with them and then custom-make a drink exactly to their taste, they will be eager to come back.” He calls it delivering great customer experiences though "touchology" - brilliant!
Like many of you, I have experienced firsthand how powerful the results of those practices can be - both positive as with Starbucks, and negative, as with Brueggers (update since I last posted this: the last time I went there they had virtually no bagels - their excuse: they ran out of dough - that's like Starbucks running out of coffee beans - unlikely) and many others.
It is amazing to me how many companies are still not focusing on the overall customer experience - which happens through all the customer touch points - advertising, word-of-mouth, product, packaging, service, delivery, repair, etc. It must be too logical for silo-ed companies to understand. Or maybe it's time to redefine the role of marketing!
The possibilities are limitless...innovation at work
While I do not want to join the fray in trying to refine a definition for what web 2.0 is - I wanted to point to an obvious difference between this wave and the web 1.0 wave. Forgive me for stating the obvious, and for repeating what others have said before me (like Jeff Clavier or Joe Krauss), but to me it is absolutely fascinating to see how little resources go into building new products and companies compared to 10 years ago.
Take a look at the richness of iVocalize, Zimbra, Netvibes, thinkfree office, just to name a few. How much money and people do you think went into building those apps? Tens of millions of dollars? I doubt it - and as a matter of fact I know for sure about a few of them.
Many of the new web 2.0 companies are built by a few passionate individuals - and with budgets that fit on credit cards. And forget about traditional marketing expenses - it's all word-of-mouth, sometimes enhanced with a few dollars worth of search engine marketing - but gone are the days of expensive direct marketing campaigns and traditional promotions. It's all about influencing the influencers - but more on that later...
The fun part is that this trend will only accelerate. Think about when the re-mixing/mashup age goes mainstream - then everybody will be able to become an app publisher - just like everybody already can be a content publisher.
I'd love to see an update on the total amount of outside investment that has gone into building the web 2.0 innovation wave vs. the web 1.0 wave. I remember Business Week quoting a number in the double digit millions vs. double digit billions earlier this spring.
links for 2005-10-04
Beep, beep - bartender, my beer is empty!
October 3, 2005
Is "Silicon Valley" a meme?
This post may wind up making no sense, but stay with me and let's see where it goes. Just finished reading a paper published in 2002 by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid,titled " Local Knowledge:Innovation in the Networked Age." In it, the authors discuss the paradox between the local character of innovative knowledge and the ubiquity of information. Nowhere is the paradox more evident than in Silicon Valley. The valley persists as a densely interconnected innovative region, even though its inhabitants loudly proclaim that the information technology they develop renders distance dead, and place insignificant. The authors argue that the paradox exists because of the local character of innovative knowledge, which flows in social rather than digital networks.
So now we take a step toward thinking of Silicon Valley as a meme. In case you want to brush up on what defines a meme, check out wikipedia here. So why did the young hackers, engineers, MBAs and others go to the valley? According to the authors is it because Silicon Valley is still one of the most significant nodes in the "new" economy, a concentration of inspired ideas, astounding wealth, and the means to turn the former into the latter. So it seems to me that Silicon Valley is as much an idea as it is a place. And the idea behaves much like an organism. As long as the idea can spread, be nourished and mutate to adapt to changing conditions around it, the idea lives on. In the valley, the idea of what it represents is in fact mutating, and adapting to the post-bubble world around it. The communications technology that ought to drive down the reason to congregate, and doom a place like the valley, seems to be having the opposite effect. That seems to be because the technology is supporting the social networks there in new and useful ways, allowing the meme to strengthen and spread.
Does this make sense?
Buzz marketing up for regulatory scrutiny?
According to the latest edition of Ad Age (print edition), word-of-mouth marketers could run afoul of longstanding advertising law.
It is indeed illegal to pay people to spread goodwill without disclosing their connection to marketers and agencies.
At issue is a potential catch-22 - that disclosure could undermine the value of buzz marketing. While some marketers may feel that way - the article quotes BzzAgent, one of the most successful players in the space, as a company that found it beneficial to have its workers reveal whom they were working for.
According to the article it is still a nascent business - putting its total revenue at around $40-$60M last year, up 100% over the previous year.
That is one way of looking at it. I am sure that there are many word-of mouth marketing campaigns that just cannot be measured because they were truly grassroots/viral.
The continued growth of the blogosphere - and its impact on marketing
OMMA Magazine this week has an interesting article (requires registration - which is free) summarizing recent industry studies and projections and reviewing the future of online advertising with industry experts.
Here they are:
- 71% of U.S. Bloggers feel advertising on blogs is ok (according to BlogKits)
- 66.7% have clicked on ads (according to Blogads)
- 22% of business respondents planned to offer a new blog within the next six months (according to a CMO Magazine survey)
- 23.2% of respondents had used blogs to learn about products and services they were considering buying (according to a recent Taylor Nelson Softres study
- 93.7% of those found them helpful in making purchase decisions (Dell are you listening?)
The article is chock-full of great information. If online advertising is anywhere in your job description, it is definitely worth the read.
October 2, 2005
Buzz marketing anyone?
From the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review (requires subscription)
"Instead of relying on buzz, perhaps we should just go ahead and produce something."
Cartoon by Thomas Runyan
links for 2005-10-02
Very interesting article on trend spotting/scanning techniques
October 1, 2005
links for 2005-10-01
Cool application that lets you build documents
Japan is currently the biggest consumer of luxury goods
A comprehensive, kindergarten-to-college curriculum of textbooks that are free and freely distributable
Keynote speech at Indentity 2.0 conference
minipreneurs - multinationals of one
Automated button maker
Charlene Li from Forrester - customers are often smarter than marketers