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February 27, 2006

Don't know whether to laugh or cry

Long-time colleague Bob Hill sent this to me and I felt it had to be shared.

A Japanese company and an American company decided to have a canoe race
on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their
peak performance before the race. On the big day, the Japanese won by a
mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate
the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior
management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

Their conclusion was the Japanese had eight people rowing and one person
steering, while the American team had eight people steering and one person
rowing.

So American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large
amount of money for a second opinion. They advised that too many people
were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing.

To prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management
structure was totally reorganized to four steering supervisors, three area
steering superintendents, and one assistant superintendent steering
manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give
the one person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was
called the Rowing Team Quality-First Program, with meetings, dinners
and free pens for the rower. There was discussion of getting new
paddles, canoes and other equipment, and extra vacation days for practices
and bonuses.

The next year the Japanese won by two miles. Humiliated, the American
management laid off the rower for poor performance, halted development
of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and canceled all capital investments
for new equipment.

The money saved was distributed to the senior executives as bonuses, and
the next year's racing team was outsourced to India.

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February 21, 2006

Most RSS users don't even know they use it

According to MarketingSherpa (open access through March 2nd) there are about 75M RSS users in the US and the UK. Of those, nearly 50M have no idea that they are actually subscribing to RSS feeds - and most would never click on the little orange RSS button.

So who are those people - they are the users of MyYahoo! and MyMSN. And according to Nielsen, even though they may be unaware of use - they are influencers nonetheless.

The article also mentions a best practice related to this. When Travelocity announced the availability of an RSS feed to their users that have Yahoo! or MSN accounts, 2/3 signed up for the feed.

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February 20, 2006

Is this transparency?

Besides the bad pitch blog, which highlights poor PR behavior, we now also have the bad hack blog, which highlights the bad behaviors of journalists.

Is this really adding to transparency in the industry? How about adding a blog exposing some of the industry analyst behaviors? That should make for some juicy stories.

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February 18, 2006

links for 2006-02-18

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February 17, 2006

links for 2006-02-17

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February 16, 2006

[shameless self-promotion] #18 on BlogBridge top 100

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That's what this blog ranks on Blogbridge's Top 100 Users' Favorites...

Not bad! we're not too evil...favored by readers...

Seriously now, if you have not checked out BlogBridge recently, you should do so soon...their latest reading list feature is pretty powerful!

(disclosure - I am an unpaid advisor to BlogBridge)

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Are you suffering from Overactive Adrenaline Disorder

Ford Marketers believe that you may feel good about being associated with this fictional disorder.

Indeed, according to ClickZ Network, Ford launched this invented disorder as part of an integral campaign designed to reach out to casual racing fans and to build an affinity between them and the Ford Racing team.

Rick Ross, the account director for JWT on the Ford Cars account, explains the underlying strategy as follows : "This was supposed to really make a connection with the fans and the drivers themselves. If you are a fan, you have an enjoyment of speed and thrills, and so do our drivers."

Building a campaign based on associating the shared values of the fans and the racers makes sense - but building it around a shared disorder may not be something that fans will feel good about. Would you feel good about being tagged with a disorder just because you like watching Ford racers?

Time will tell...this is clearly a good one to put on the watch-list...

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February 14, 2006

The effects of blogging and email on a marriage...

In yesterday's All Things Considered on NPR, Julie Zickefoose had an interesting commentary on the effects of blogging and email on marriage.

Both she and her husband maintain a blog and the way she describes the obsessive quests that come with that is just hilarious. Maybe they should try using Autoblogger.

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February 13, 2006

Do we really have any privacy left?

privacy.jpgThe Financial Times today reports the story of an Ohio company that started tagging its employees with RFID tags for security reasons (via IFTF). The chips are implanted in the upper arm.

While this will likely raise serious civil liberty issues - you have to ask yourself how much privacy is still left in this day and age.

Google, Yahoo and a bunch of other companies have records of every web page you ever visited, every email you sent and received through their email services, and who knows, maybe even every chat you've had using their instant messenger app. Pretty soon, and if their newest service takes off, Google will have copies of every file on your desktop. Using embedded GPS technology, telephone companies and car manufacturers can track all your whereabouts. And when satellite image services become real time, anyone will be able to watch who comes and goes at your house.

Our privacy is the price we're paying for technology advancements.


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Automatic Valentine letter generator

For those of you who are trying to minimize the amount of work required to survive valentine's day without too much hassle - here is another great tool: the automated valentine letter generator (via coolz0r)

A word of advice - don't go for the overly passionate version. When I tried it, it started my letter with: "A fire inside me burns with fiery passion to unleash what I am about to say to you! And only the sweet nectar from your lips may vanquish this fiery inferno." Then went on with: "I wish you a happy Valentines Day with every burning spark of lust, fired by flames of passion from my tender bleeding heart."

:)

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February 11, 2006

links for 2006-02-11

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February 9, 2006

This blog is not too evil...

I just ran the site through the germatriculator and it turns out that we are not too evil (via Zoli's blog)

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At least someone is having more evilness

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It must feel pretty bad, when even Playboy is less evil...

evil playb.png

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360 degree review

This is cool (via Johnnie Moore) - what do you think that might do to his business?

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February 8, 2006

A new blog every second of every day

I knew it was big, but not this big. I just read Dave Sifry's latest report on the state of the blogoshere over at the Technorati Weblog. And I was truly amazed at the current size of the blogosphere, its rate of growth, and perhaps most important, the near-instantaneous response of blog coverage to world events. Listed below are major takeaways from Sifry's report Go here to read it for yourself.

* Technorati now tracks over 27.2 Million blogs
* The blogosphere is doubling in size every 5 and a half months
* It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
* On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day
* 13.7 million bloggers are still posting 3 months after their blogs are created
* Spings (Spam Pings) can sometimes account for as much as 60% of the total daily pings Technorati receives
* Technorati tracks about 1.2 million new blog posts each day, about 50,000 per hour
* Over 81 million posts with tags since January 2005, increasing by 400,000 per day

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Interesting marketing project at Bentley College

Bentley College marketing honors looks like an interesting college project - with the following mission:

"The students in the honors seminar in marketing at Bentley College have created a multiple author blog in order to complete a class assignment as well as to introduce other marketing students to cutting-edge ideas and principles by monitoring and commenting on some of the best marketing blogs in the blogosphere.

So, each student will monitor a particular blog and post a commentary on a particular blog posting every week. A few of the Corante Marketing Hub contributors got adopted as blogs to follow, and there are already interesting commentaries on posts from those blogs - including the brandbuilder, marketing to women, diva marketing, and brand autopsy.

When Melissa reviewed a post on Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)from this blog she raised some interesting questions. Why is that when people disclose that they work for a company for which they are recommending products, the rate at which the message gets passed along is 70% higher than when the relationship is not disclosed? This is a very counter-intuitive result after all. She also says: "Francois does not offer any insight into the real significance of this finding. Rather, it just states the results of the study. It would have been helpful to see what he saw as implications from this study." - good point!

Walter Carl, the author of the original research paper, offers some possible explanations for the results of the survey. One is that the average length of time that the agent and their conversation partner knew one another in the study was 6 years. That is a long enough period to build a lot of trust so that the conversation partner feels that the agent has his or her best interest at heart - no matter what the commercial relationship is between the agent and the company for which products are being recommended. His second reason is that credibility is either unaffected or increased by the disclosure.

While these are plausible explanations for why a commercial message would get passed along after disclosure, they are not really reasons for why the pass-along rate would increase with disclosure. If the average length of time that people knew one another was indeed six years, then perhaps one reason might be the motivation of the conversation partner to help the agent out. Just like with some of the better referral incentive programs, which work on the premise that is better to give an incentive to the person who is being referred, rather than the person who is making the referral - it plays off a basic human need to "give." Another possible explanation, which Melissa alludes to in her post as well, is that the conversation partner sees the fact the the agent is willing to associate with the product/company as an extra endorsement for that product. If the agent is willing to get into a commercial relationship with the company that makes the product that is being endorsed, and is willing to disclose that relationship, that means that the agent must feel really good about himself or herself in the presence of that brand - and that is maybe what adds to the contagiousness.

While I am not so sure that there any major implications coming out of this study, I am concerned that marketers will screw up WOM marketing by trying to optimize it and by looking for measurable ROI's. It is and will remain hard to measure, and just like physicist learned a long time ago - you can dramatically disrupt the environment by measuring it.

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links for 2006-02-08

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February 7, 2006

Dee Hock's four priorities for managers

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Talking about the power of self-organization in companies, Dee Hock, himself a pioneer in building perhaps the largest self-organizing commercial entity in the world - VISA - has some recommendations in his book Birth of the Chaordic Age on the single most important responsibilities of any manager.

  • "The first and paramount responsibility is to manage self; one's own integrity, character, ethics, knowledge, wisdom, temperament, words and acts." Not easy to do, and rarely focused on by managers - it is something that he believes we should spend half of our time on.
  • The second most important responsibility "is to manage those who have the authority over us: bosses, supervisors, directors, regulators, etc." " Without their consent and support, you cannot follow you convictions, exercise judgements, use creative ability, achieve constructive results, or create an environment in which others can do the same." He thinks that we should be spending a quarter of our time in managing superiors.
  • The third highest priority "is to manage peers - people who have no authority over us and over whom we have no authority." Customers, suppliers, associates, competitors, and our whole environment fall into this category. "Without their support, respect and confidence - nothing can be accomplished!" He thinks we should be spending one fifth of our time on that. Of course, you cannot "manage" those folks - but you can influence them, convince them, motivate them, etc.
  • After spending all that time on managing self, superiors, and peers, that does not leave much time to manage those we have authority over. "Exactly! One need only select decent people, introduce them to the concept, induce them to practice it, and enjoy the process. If those over whom we have authority properly manage themselves, manage us, manage their peers, and replicate the process with those they employ, what is there to do but see they are properly recognized, rewarded, and stay out of their way?"

This sounds so "right" - so why is it that there are not more people managing this way?

Dee Hock closes this section with another interesting quote - one that many companies, especially start-ups, have tried to live by; but few have been able to sustain - "It is not making better people of others that management is about. It's about making a better person of self. Income, power, and titles have nothing to do with that."

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Prophet cartoons - the power of self-organization and emergence

I do not want to get in the middle of the prophet cartoon controversy as I am an unconditional supporter of free speech and a free press - and I have many good Muslim friends.

But it is worth pointing to this recent upheaval as a possible example of the power of self-organization. According to James Turner Johnson, Professor of Religion at Rutgers University, and as quoted in veteran CIA Michael Scheuer's book Imperial Hubris, each Muslim has a personal responsibility to contribute to the fight against any attack by a non-Muslim on the Islamic faith, on Muslims, or on Muslim territory. This does not require the authorization by a central leader or leadership. Once Islam is attacked, it is each Muslim's personal duty to fight, and he needs no one else's authority, not even his parents to do so. In fact it is considered a sin not to do so.

If that's so, no one has to call for violence for it to happen. As long as the story that Islam is under attack is a believable one, one that fits within the worldview of the followers, this kind of violence will emerge spontaneously. And the more you try to squelch it from the top down, the stronger the movement will become. This is not a command and control type environment - this is cultural/religious DNA-based self-organization at work.

It would be interesting to be able to harness that kind of self-organization power in the governance of societies, countries, and companies.

Related resources:
To see the cartoons in question - check out the Brussels Journal

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links for 2006-02-07

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February 6, 2006

Customer loyalty and profitability

Joe Nocera had an op-ed piece in Saturday's NYT (requires subscription) about Apple's arrogance in not delivering customer service for their iPod.

Sure, it costs a lot of money to provide telephone customer service and to have a repair department - and much of Apple's profits might well be wiped out if they would provide that service. But like Larry Keeley, quoted in the article, says:"Consumers are just not conditioned to believe that a $300 or $400 device is disposable."

With Apple not having a serious competitive contender to deal with, they can afford to follow Geoffrey Moore's "inside the tornado" growth strategy and ignore the customer. But you have to agree with Keely when he warns that the day will come when Apple will have a serious competitor, at which point Apple will reap what is now sowing.

With so many people feeling like they've been taken to the cleaners, "real" customer loyalty cannot be all that high.

It would be interesting to see a new "brand index category" for this category and see how Apple is doing.

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Online experiences will affect brick and mortar business

The Center for Media Research reported on a survey that found that if people have a bad experience with an online retailer, they are less likely to do business with their brick and mortar outlets as well.

The survey was conducted by an ecommerce software vendor.

So while it probably should be taken with a grain of salt, it is an interesting finding nonetheless.

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February 2, 2006

Customer service is all about people interactions - not CRM

McKinsey Quarterly has an article on customer service(requires subscription) in which they quote some interesting stats from Forrester: "According to Forrester research, only 10 percent of business and IT executives surveyed strongly agreed that business results anticipated from implementing CRM were met or exceeded."

Diagnosing the problem, they say: :What's regularly missing, in our experience, is the spark between the customer and frontline staff members—the spark that helps transform wary or skeptical people into strong and committed brand followers."

Bingo! There are too few companies that focus on making sure that all customer touch-points with customers are optimized to provide a consistent and delightful experience...

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February 1, 2006

The ads you won't see on Superbowl

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Heavy.com has assembled ads that were censored and will not make it on the Superbowl (via online media daily).

Make sure you check out the "My Busted Apple", or "Bush's new career". The "Gone Daddy" and a few other ones clearly show that advertisers still believe that sex sells!

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