November 29, 2006
People don't get your marketing speak, nor do they get your strategic executive gibberish...
Chip Heath and Dan Heath wrote an interesting article in the Harvard Business review this month about the "curse of knowledge" (requires subscription).
The curse of knowledge happens when your language, which is based on your level of knowledge, cannot be understood by others. So an executive who uses language like "achieving customer delight!", or "unlocking shareholder value", phrases that have real meaning to him based on his years of immersion in the logic and conventions of business, will sound like a person who has a love affair with vague strategy statements to frontline employees who may not be privy to the underlying meanings.
An interesting experiment done at Stanford University in the early 90's proves that point rather nicely. In the experiment they assigned people one of two roles - "tapper" and "listener." The tapper would pick a well known song, such as "Happy Birthday" and tap it out on the table. The listener had to guess what the song was. Before tapping the song the tapper was asked to predict the probability that the listener would get it right - and they predicted 50%. When they actually tapped the songs, the success ratio was a whopping 2.5% - out of 120 songs, only three songs were guessed correctly. So what sounded like the perfect tune for the tapper actually sounded like some kind of weird tapping code for the listener.
One way to avoid this is by "translating" your message in very simple language, and one company that does this right according to the article is Trader's Joe. They actually develop their messages for the imaginary unemployed college professor who drives a very, very used Volvo.
This is a great reminder of the power of using real and actual scenarios in doing business. Not only can real detailed scenarios with real people help you with messaging, they will also help you with the design of better products and and the development of better customer interaction processes.
November 28, 2006
Bruegger's is listening! I am a fan now...
As many of you will have noticed, I have had my fair share of mishaps with my local Bruegger's. The last time I wrote about my experiences, Scott Hughes, the VP of marketing posted a comment on my blog asking for more information so that they could address the problem.
We went back and forth on email a few times and then two weeks ago I noticed that they put a new general manager in charge of the store. Not only has the service improved considerably, the whole mood of the store has brightened somehow. And then yesterday I get an email from Scott to inform me that they had made some management changes at the store and asking for my business, saying: "I hope you give us another opportunity."
WOW - Scott thank you for listening! You just turned me into a big Bruegger's fan!
And btw - your new Ciabatta's are great too!
Moderating a Community 2.0 Webinar on Wednesday
Join me for an interesting conversation on the business of communities this Wednesday with Barry Libert, CEO and founder for Shared Insight (disclosure - Shared Insights is paying me to do this webinar as well as for chairing the upcoming community 2.0 conference), Ed Moran, Director of Product Innovation at Deloitte, and Robert Dell'Immagine, Director of Community at VMware .
You can sign up for the webinar - which is free - at the Shared Insights' web site.
At this point the plan is to talk about why business communities are hot now, what tool-set is available to companies deploying business communities, and what business process and social infrastructure considerations need to be made to ensure success. We will also review and discuss a business community case study.
Hopefully we'll see you there!
November 27, 2006
Would you poison a whole community just to catch a few freeloaders?
Communities are hot - with every other company rushing to deploy them to enhance their innovation processes, their new product introduction success ratios or their customer satisfaction ratings. Yet at the same time most companies seem to be very busy destroying what is perhaps their most important community - their employee community. And they are doing it by affecting one of the fundamental forces that drive communities - trust.
Indeed, according to the American Management Association (free but requires registration - via "It's time to start trusting the workforce" article by Jeffrey Pfeffer in Business 2.0 - not yet online), 76% of companies monitor employee web site connections and 55% retain and review email messages. The number of companies tracking telephone calls, including amount of time spent on the phone and phone numbers called has grown to 51%, up from 9% in 2001. And this does not include companies who require periodic medical checks and random drug usage tests.
So while the balance of power between consumers and companies has shifted towards the consumer in the last few decades, the balance of power between employees and companies has clearly shifted towards the employer. We have to give up our right to privacy in return for a paycheck. And what good does that do? Employees at companies like that feel disenfranchised, lack motivation, distrust their company and management, badmouth the company, etc... Not exactly the motivations that can lead to great results.
The good news is that employees can bail - and with a strong economy, hopefully many at those "big brother" shops will do just that. According to the Business 2.0 article, signs of this happening are already here, with the number of executives, salespeople and production personnel exiting their companies more than doubling since 2003, and with the number of technical and professional people who leave going up 70% in that same time period! Maybe someone will start realizing that the cost of labor in high employee turnover environments goes through the roof. Just ask Walmart - where recent research on their low wages vs. employee turnover compared to Costco's makes for a well documented case study on the impact of employee turnover ratio vs. the real cost of labor.
It all comes down to "return on information." If employees do not see personal benefits in return for the personal freedoms they give up - they will bail. With employees being perhaps the most valuable asset a company can have, it is amazing how many of them squander it in the name of "control."
November 26, 2006
Can you blind test a turkey?
This proves that blind tests can be pretty hard sometimes...which one do you think you'd pick?
November 24, 2006
Upcoming Community 2.0 Conference
As mentioned before, I have agreed to chair an upcoming conference on the business of communities - Community 2.0, which will happen on March 12-14 in Las Vegas.
Communities are hot – every company thinks that they need one, but no one is too sure how to set them up or how to leverage them. As with most new buzzword-compliant memes many will approach the opportunity by throwing technology at it and fail miserably. Others will inevitably trespass ethical boundaries and muddy the waters for those who follow.
But some will take the lead of the existing pioneers and integrate the lessons learned into their approach to the business of communities. Those companies will succeed and derive returns that will shame their competitors.
Community 2.0 is for those people who are interested in networking with other community professionals to develop a deep understanding of what works and does not in this new world. The conference will provide a snapshot of the current conversations and body of knowledge related to the business of communities. For those who are interested in helping to shape the market, there will also be opportunities to join groups of likeminded people into ongoing community council conversations.
The discussions, presentations, interviews, stories and case studies at the Community 2.0 conference will be organized in three themes:
- Strategy and theory - what are the underlying forces that make communities tick? How does social networking theory impact communities? Can you leverage crowd sourcing?
- Applications and best practices - where can communities help? Have you thought of communities to bring the voice of the customer into your new product development process? Or to involve employees, partners and customers into improving innovation?
- The technology and social infrastructure - what are the technology building blocks beyond the discussion thread that make for successful communities? What rules of engagement do you need to set up to avoid your community to become toxic?
At this stage the program includes leading luminaries from well known academic institutions, professional services firms, solution providers as well as private and public community managers. We can already count on case studies ranging from the world of high tech to financial services to teenage-based communities. The Conference will also include a targeted technology expo where you will be able to talk with product and service providers in this space. The program is continuously expanding, so make sure to periodically check the conference web site for latest additions to the program.
If you think you have something to contribute - please give me a shout (francois AT emergencemarketing DOT com or on my SKYPE which is fgossieaux).!
November 22, 2006
Funny searches that lead to unrelated sites
Every now and again I look at the searches that led people to this site (I use my own stats and also 103Bees.com). Every time I do it I am amused at what people look for. Here are a few recent ones:
- Was God Wrong? (would you ask Google that question?)
- Does sex sell?
- Sex does not sell (this one is trying to make a point in a speech or presentation)
- golden egg (good luck with that :)
Ok...time to get back to something useful...
Have a great Thanksgiving!
[off topic] When the highest levels of government abuse power in the name of security - it spreads like wildfire...
This is what happens when you have a government in place which rules by instilling fear in its population and disregards basic human rights and privacy laws in the name of security... abuse of power spreads like fungus.
Considering that I have a son who is an American of mixed heritage, this video pushed me to tears. I truly hope that someone at UCLA security will be held accountable and get severely punished for this humiliating act of torture!
A quick Google news search on this incident also shows our deep ignorance about foreign countries and cultures. From reading many accounts you might as well conclude that Iranians=Arabs=muslims (=terrorist). Well, first off Iranians are not Arabs and on top of that this guy was a Baha'i - who are some of the most peaceful people around!
November 20, 2006
Open Source Innovation - it works!
The latest issue of the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge has a great interview with Harvard Prof. Karim Lakhani (his blog here), in which he describes the results of his latest research - the analysis of how open source norms of transparency, permeable access, and collaboration work with scientists.
After studying the effects of broadcasting or introducing problems to outsiders for 166 distinct scientific problems from the research labs of 26 firms over a 4 1/2 year period they found that this method, borrowed from the software open source movement, was yielding effective solutions. In fact they found that it was those with expertise at the periphery of a problem's field who were most likely to find the answers quickly!
Some of the best innovations do happen at the intersections of disciplines, which is why it is always a bad idea to have siloed organizations.
Another interesting finding is what motivates people to spend time in open source projects. Sure, reputation and the potential for rewards - as is the case for Innocentive - count, but some of the most important drivers are "fun and the enjoyment of problem solving." The more creative people feel in projects, the more likely they are to spend time with those projects!
[off topic] God: wrong on defense, wrong for America
I read Bill Maher's latest book this weekend - New Rules, Polite Musings From a Timid Observer - which was great.
Here is an interesting new rules:
God is a waffler. Pat Robertson said God told him that Iraq would be a bloody disaster. But the same God told Bush it wouldn't, which so surprised Robertson, he almost dropped the pennies he was stealing off a dead's woman's eyes. But why is God talking out of two sides of his mouth? Flip-flop. God told us to beat our swords into plowshares. God: Wrong on defense, wrong for America.
And here is another:
Ass-kissing must be done in person. Yes, I'll "continue to hold" but not because you said, "Your call is important to us." If my call was really important to you, you'd hire a human to pick up the damn phone.
November 18, 2006
Citizen generated content on the last elections
This is a great CGM piece on the last elections (via Susan Getgood)
Who ever thought there was a "latent" need for a self-parking car?
Thankfully a marketer at Lexus did...and it works great - sort off...(see movie)
November 16, 2006
links for 2006-11-16
Great article on word of mouth marketing and the different ways to measure it. The only missing part is the role of ethics in protecting this marketing tool
November 15, 2006
Did the "wisdom of crowds" fail this election?
According to Reason, the wisdom-of-crowds-based prediction markets failed for the Senate race this last election. Most prediction markets were putting the likelihood that the Republicans would keep a majority in the Senate at 75-80%.
Does it really mean a failure of the system? If the probability that most people in the "crowd" would predict that the democrats would win 6 out of 7 tight races in order to win a majority in the senate is less than 50%, then the wisdom of crowds would only reinforce that - at least that is what the Condorcet jury theorem says. Besides, predicting that there is a 20% chance that the dems would win those races and thus take control of the Senate is not a negligible chance. In fact, it probably is somewhat higher than the straight probability that pollsters would have come up with.
What do you think?
November 14, 2006
Advertising to spur demand
Using an executive blog to "control" the message...
Nick Car over at Rough Type has an interesting post on how AOL Ted Leonsis used his blog to control his message. He calls it defensive blogging - a blogger who's main goal is not to engage in a conversation but to gain more control over the results that show up when people Google you.
Dare I say something?
Are you afraid of speaking up at work? That is the topic of ongoing research reported in the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge. Quoting from their research paper (abstract here) Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School and James Detert from Penn State, the two researchers, made some interesting observations in this email interview.
While there are individual and contextual reasons why some people speak up more readily than others, the main reason why people do not speak up is "fear" - something that we inherited from our earliest ancestors. As the researchers point out: " it seems we're all hard-wired to overestimate rather than underestimate certain types of risk—it was better (for survival) to "flee" too often from threats that weren't really there than to not flee the one time there was a significant risk. So, we've inherited emotional and cognitive mechanisms that motivate us to avoid perceived risks to our psychological and material well-being...Thus, fear of offending those above us is both natural and widespread."
The interview talks about some ways to change a company culture so that people speak up more frequently. The reality is that changing a culture of hard-wired fear is very difficult. Add to that the fact that change hurts and it may be impossible to really change a company culture without also changing the fundamental hierarchical nature of companies.
November 13, 2006
Cool Wrigley ad
These ought to raise some eyebrows when people take a full sip of their Starbucks coffee...(via the cool hunter)
Increasing customer loyalty by creating deep-soul connections
Dori Molitor, the author of the report starts off by talking about the incredible levels of brand loyalty that Harley-Davidson bikers have - attributing it to a deep-soul connection between Harley-Davidson and those who love their motorcycle, and claiming that this is the highest level relationship a brand can have with its consumers.
Companies like Apple, BMW, or Nike can easily be used as other examples of companies that have achieved deep-soul connections with their customers, but can other companies in less "sexy" industries develop deep-soul connections with their customers? The white paper takes us through the stories of less obvious candidates that have achieved that same level of customer connection - including General Mills, Serta, the mattress company and Trader Joe's.
One of the things to remember, says Dori Molitor, is: "A deep-soul connection is not the exclusive purview of ostensibly “sexy” brands like Harley and Nike, nor does it require spending enormous sums of money. It is about transcending those kinds of considerations and connecting with consumers based on a higher purpose than a sterile, financial transaction." And a higher purpose does not mean a "good cause" or a charity - something many marketers will try to use and fail miserably. Finding a higher purpose is all "about the connections that brands can provide to other people (their relationships) or the ways in which they help consumers lead happier, more purposeful lives."
Well said! At the end of the day branding is all about how people feel about themselves...
November 12, 2006
funny new videoshow
November 10, 2006
[rant] Where is the news that matter?
I am on the road and looking for some good news. The main networks don't show any news at this time of night. Fox is out because it is pre-chewing the news for me in ways that I cannot stand. MSNBC's Scarborough Country is "scarily" starting to look like Fox (favorite show quote tonight from in-residence-lunatic Pat Buchanan - "Bush is not a true conservative"). And CNN has no news at this point.
Having 100 free channels with the basic cable program up here, I would expect at least one decent news channel..
Is there really no market for this?
The other CGC...
Maybe it's a different kind of CGC all together - corporate generated crap.
Email marketing delivers best ROI - but do you buy that?
According to a new study by the Direct Marketing Association, and as reported in DIRECT, email marketing delivers the highest ROI of all media available to marketers. Having just finished reading a pre-release version of WOMMA president Andy Sernovitz' new book - Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking - he would probably argue that word of mouth marketing would have the highest ROI as you can get that going with no investments.
The DMA research shows that the return on email marketing in 2005 was $57.25 for every dollar spent, compared to $7.09 for catalog marketing and $22.52 for non-email Internet marketing. The study also projects that all the ROI's for the different media marketing options are headed down-ward.
The same research also estimates that the commercial email market in the US was $16.5B in 2005, while the direct marketing-driven sales hit $1.806 trillion in 2005 - projected to hit $2.627 trillion in 2011!
Ouch...that sounds like a lot of wasted dollars...there should be better ways to reach people. And no matter what Set Godin says about messaging frequency vs. "being full ," there ought to be better solutions out there to resolve the ambient findability problem in marketing!
The DIRECT article did not mention anything about the methodology used by DMA - but it is assumed that the study looked at investments vs. "new" customers and "new" revenues - which is a really bad transaction-based metric in marketing.
A more interesting metric would have been to understand how email direct marketing impacts long term customer-relationship-based revenue streams for companies. Isn't that where the real profitability lies?
MARKETING - it's not the transaction anymore, it's the relationship, dummy!
links for 2006-11-10
Tom Peters gets mad at the media for equating San Francisco with "liberal" as if it were a disease...thankfully the nightmare is almost over!
November 9, 2006
Peer pressure in Social Media
Giovanni Rodriguez found that the business benefits of social media are becoming quite apparent, but the pressure to stand out -- and do something different -- is mounting (disclosure - I am on the advisory board of Hubbub PR). He starts his excellent post by saying that: “There’s no question – the early success of peer-driven, social-media programs will put pressure on businesses to both adapt and adopt. But, for some leaders, there’s another question: in a world where everyone participates, what does it mean to lead?”
In their rush to stand out, companies and people will screw it up - let's just hope that they don't break it for the rest of us.
Co-creation at P&G
In a program called Connect + Develop, P&G is trying to accelerate their internal R&D capabilities - provided by 7,200 R&D staff - by seeking to leverage ideas, talents and innovation assets of individuals, institutes and companies around the world. So they are not just trying to expand their innovation process to other employees besides their R&D staff, they are actually trying to expand it to include outside partners, customers, and even competitors.
Their primary focus is on ready-to-go innovations - solutions that have already been reduced to practice in some part of the world, and in disruptive ideas for their business categories. So in a way they are trying to identify lead users in their extended networks.
Some of the successes to date include Bounce, which was a ready-to-go technology acquisition, Spinbruch, which was a ready-to-go product acquisition, pump dispensers used for Olay Skin Care product, which was a ready-to-go packaging acquisition, and Swifter Dusters, which came from a partnership with a competitor.
Here is what A.G. Lafley has to say in his introduction:
I want us to be the absolute best at spotting, developing and leveraging relationships with best-in-class partners in every part of our business. In fact, I want P&G to be a magnet for the best-in-class. The company you most want to work with because you know a partnership with P&G will be more rewarding than any other option available to you.
Pretty powerful stuff!.
[off topic] The system works!
While the vast majority of the news deals with the shift in control for the senate and the house, an equally important story developed at the local level - which may in fact have a dramatic impact on the 2008 Presidential elections.
When looking at the election result graphic from the NYT this morning, you will see that where the republicans controlled both chambers in 20 states, they now only control both chambers in 10 states, while the democrats control both chambers in 23 states. 16 states instead of 10 now have mixed control...
Favorite quote: " To our friends overseas, stay tuned - the nightmare is almost over!" (person interviewed on NPR)
November 6, 2006
Market research at its best
November 3, 2006
The winners will be determined because of marketing
In a recent roundtable discussion at Wharton, C. Robert Henrikson, the CEO of Metlife said "In our industry, the winners will be determined because of marketing. By that I mean true marketing, not sales support, which is what the insurance industry is about in the United States" (here via a pre reading documents from the Innovation & Corporate Entrepreneurship Research Center at Babson for their upcoming Idea-to-profit event which will cover the intersections of marketing and innovation).
Henrickson went on to say that most insurance firms have no marketing plan other than to be a fast follower of innovations developed by competing firms.
Now isn't that true for most industries. Marketers mimic their competitors, they go after the same customers with the same offerings, and they end up killing the market with price-wars...
The panel which also included an executive from a major drug manufacturer, a major real estate developer, a major bank CEO, a retired partner from a major investment bank, and a few Wharton Professors, were then asked if they saw major innovations coming from India and China.
Almost all said no, which is rather surprising even though there were no high tech players on the panel. After all, Muhammed Yunus just won the Nobel Price for Peace for Grameen Bank - which is not just a do-good organization, but a very profitable one at that. Does this not count as a major innovation in the financial services sector?
The health care experts saw little innovation coming from India because of their weak patent system, which they claim is holding innovation back. They also see the biggest opportunity in India being with clinical trials, saying that "there are massive patient populations there that have not been tapped in any major way."
Ouch! Is this perhaps a case of real-time marketing myopia? Perhaps those experts should take a look at open source business models - especially the ones that have been applied to non-technology products - and their potential for traditional business model destruction (or is it disruption?). And instead of looking at India as a massive source of (probably largely unprotected) people available for early clinical trials or cheap labor, they should look at it as a test bed for new business models. After all, it is because of Indian generic drug manufacturers that the price of Aids treatment came down from $15,000 a patient to less than $200 in 10 years time - and that Indian generics are now being used to treat half of the aids patients in the developing world. Does this not count as innovation in health care?
links for 2006-11-03
great articleon how strategic mistakes happen inside companies
November 1, 2006
Community-based agency creates Hubbub in the PR community
A new agency - Hubbub - founded by Giovanni Rodriguez and Rebekah Mitchell, launched last night (disclosure: I am an advisor to the company).
One of the truly interesting aspects of this new agency is that they will attempt to create a community-based PR agency - meaning that they are creating a global and "open" community of communications professionals to assemble in teams for customer projects.
The company seems to be off to a good start and already has a nice roster of clients.
Good luck Hubbub PR!