Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t get it’

big-tom-hanks-robotI don’t know about you, but the 1988 movie BIG starring Tom Hanks has stayed with me since I first saw it in the theater and it’s one of those movies that when stumbled upon on television I always end up stopping and watching at least for a while.

Frequently, a particular scene from the movie comes into to my mind when I hear what is simply a bad idea from a client, partner, or even a service provider.

The scene link here has protagonist 12 year old Josh (Tom Hanks) inside the body of a 30 year old man (I figure I cannot give away a plot line that happened more than 27 years ago). He works for a toy company (run by Robert Loggia’s engaging character in the movie and who wouldn’t want to work for a guy like that?) and in a boardroom meeting on a new product development Josh raises his hand as if he is in a 6th grade class and when called upon:

Any questions? Yes? Yes?”

JOSH (CEO)

“I don’t get it.”

PAUL

“What exactly don’t you get?”

JOSH

“It turns from a building into a robot, right?”

PAUL

“Precisely.”

JOSH

“Well, what’s fun about that?”

Clear, concise and dead-on. In marketing as in just about any other area of business, the simple sentence “I don’t get it” is not stated nearly enough.

Too often people fall in love with an idea without considering it’s actual intended use. Making it worse is the people around them that propagate a bad idea and fall in line behind it. We all like to read and hear about the disruptors and the rebels that won’t accept the status quo. In truth we’ve all been in far too many meetings at which a bad or non-workable idea is promoted and it’s just easier to let it go and fall in line than challenge it for what it is.

Of course if actually raising one’s hand in a meeting and declaring, “I don’t get it” borders on corporate suicide then I would not recommend it. There are many more subtle ways to make that point but maybe, just maybe, there will be a time when the plainest and simplest response to an idea that has little or no merit is to say – “I don’t get it”.

You know you want to. When will you?

Posted in Best business practices, Career Development | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Being a good partner means being part of the company culture

people-and-machines-ss-1920The final episode of AMC’s MadMen airs this coming Sunday and with it will close a look back on a workplace that when I started in the early 1980’s, only had echoes of the MadMen business culture of the 1960’s and 70’s.

Back in the day –- and it seems that I am using that expression ever more frequently, I used to pound the paved sidewalks and streets of Manhattan pitching myself and whatever service to anyone that would listen. It was a planned effort but hardly scientific. I would research (pre-internet!) agencies, companies and just show up. These were the days prior to security checks and I could spend hours visiting an agency and the various creative personnel. Getting business from those people wasn’t easy but by being there constantly, business opportunities arose simply because of my presence.  I’ve already written about the value of being there in a prior post.

Yet something more was happening while I wasn’t paying attention. Without meaning to I was becoming part of the agency’s culture. I knew many of the people more than casually, like what they did outside of work, what they liked to eat and drink, what their favorite teams were etc. When we did business together, that familiarity came in handy as we worked together to solve whatever issue or problems there might have been perhaps because of trust built up over time and my experience with other members of their department.

Last week I had a meeting not far from one of our highly valued clients. I had something that I could have mailed or messengered over, but I decided to go old school and just drop by after my other meeting. While several people I see upon occasion recognized me, I did not see any of the people with whom I work regularly. I did get the feeling that I was part of their team and that was because I was in their offices enough to be viewed that way.

Obviously the old days of cold calling are not nearly as effective when it comes to pounding the pavement and ‘dropping by’ to see a prospect. But when it comes to being seen as a good partner to gain a better understanding of their business I suggest making it a point to be there regularly enough so as to have a feeling for their internal corporate culture. You never know what you might learn that can help make your efforts more effective just by showing up.

Here’s what I recommend; invite yourself to come in with an idea or two that might make a difference. You may find you’ll be more welcome than you think.

 

 

 

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What if Twitter isn’t an effective marketing platform?

Twitter in troubleOn Wednesday May 6, it was reported in the Wall Street Journal that Twitter’s CFO Anthony Noto has also been named CMO of the company.

From the article in Wednesday’s WSJ:

“The changes also come as Twitter’s management, led by Chief Executive Dick Costolo,has come under fire from investors after missing revenue estimates last month. Mr. Noto ascribed the first-quarter shortfall to a “demand issue” with its advertising products that resemble tweets and allow users click on them and take an action, such as downloading an app or watching a video. Twitter’s stock has fallen 28% to $37.42 since the day before that earnings report.

This news should be taken in the context that Twitter remains unprofitable and according to a Motley Fool article from last month is being asked the question – will Twitter ever be profitable?

I was guest-lecturing at a marketing course at FIT last week and mentioned that Twitter founders Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey when they conjured up Twitter way back in the mid 2000’s (it launched in 2008) they probably figured that they had an interesting new communication tool, they’d build audience through utility and usage and then figure out to monetize that audience later. Classic Silicon Valley. The trouble is that more than 7 years later Twitter is still seeking a long-term revenue model. It was thought to be advertising but that has become a much bigger struggle than it might have been.

One of my business partners posited that Mr. Noto who came to Twitter by way of Goldman-Sachs, is holding the CMO position to highlight that marketing at Twitter has to be accountable in terms of positive revenue and ROI for its clients. That’s nice window dressing but what still remains is that users need to consume Twitter-promoted deals (i.e. BUY STUFF) and up until this point it’s just not happening at a great enough rate.

I likened it to the now defunct Napster, which at one point had 30 million ‘users’ but that’s all they were since they did not spend any money! So they were not customers, they were users – in the truest sense of the word.

Twitter applications Vine and Periscope (which was in the news over the weekend vis a vis Periscope’s streaming of the Mayweather-Pacquiao bout (which was the $100 Pay-per-view but free for those that were able to stream off Periscope), are making money – so it’s not all doom and gloom, and as the Motley Fool article presumes,

“As long as it continues making progress toward these opportunities, Twitter should turn a profit for its shareholders fairly soon. While it might not be as lucrative as Facebook, the potential revenue and earnings growth at this point account for the high valuation. At the same time, the uncertainty surrounding the execution of these initiatives will also result in significant volatility.”

I am more than a bit dubious about that notion. The jury is not yet in but Twitter users are proving difficult to move to being customers of sponsored (and non-sponsored) brands and marketing efforts. Changing that behavior is not becoming easier with the continued expansion of new platforms and useful tools.

So what if Twitter simply is not an effective marketing platform? What then?

Posted in Digital media, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Companies at the end of their lifetime tip their hands

failing_companyWhen it comes to closing a company as I did nearly three years ago there’s pain, anxiety and even grief involved on a daily basis. And if you are doing business with a company that is near the end there are often similar signs of distress. I’ve seen this with several companies with whom we’ve done business with over the years – sad to admit. Most of the time the way things were handled at the company denouement left a bad taste in our mouths and the avowal ended being to never work with the principals of the company again.

What are those signs?

Here are just a few:

Lack of communication – when things are going downhill the tendency is often to hide away and not communicate what’s happening. Calls, emails, and any entreaty is simply ignored which only serves to increase ire and frustration There could be legal reasons for this but more often it’s a combination of embarrassment, uncertainty of what to communicate and it’s easier to deliver no news than bad news. Whether it is clients, vendors/partners or both, not communicating is NOT the answer and may well destroy any opportunity there is to work with those people again.

Degradation of service – the timeliness of deliverables will slide and get later and later. Promises made are not kept. The work itself is substandard compared to what was done in the past.

Excuses, Excuses – when communications are made they are fraught with excuses as to why there are extenuating circumstances impacting the ability to deliver. The excuses can run from – ‘We’re slammed with work from a big customer (reminding you that you are clearly not one of those), ‘our team has people out’, to personal issues with those involved.

Billing issues – Watch out for mistakes in billing and believe it or not difficulties in getting timely and correct invoices. And you wonder why companies are in trouble in the first place?

Request for payment – even on uncompleted projects requests come to ‘help’ them through a difficult time by paying invoices early, partially or completely.

Even if you know the train is coming down the tracks it’s still difficult to get off the tracks and rerouted without undue stress and impact on your business. Keep an eye out for the signs so you can recognize a problem in the making as early as possible. If you have enough relationships with service providers it is inevitable that it will happen from time to time.

If you have any other tell tale signs please do let me know!

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A would-have-been great marketing story that wasn’t

Moon hoaxI was an adolescent when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in July of 1969. Consequently I am more than a bit of a space geek and have always felt that NASA for better or worse has served the United States well. I had a recent conversation with a colleague regarding the moon landings from 1969 -1972 (there were six and twelve astronauts walked on the moon) and his own doubts that they really happened. Initially I was – well incredulous. And then I thought well, he’s a marketing guy and he thinks anything is possible. Even propagating what would have to be the greatest hoax of the 20th (and maybe any other) century. Now that would be marketing! Except that it wasn’t.

It’s easy to understand why people might have bought in to the moon-hoax idea. The United States and Soviet Union were deeply involved in the Cold War and showing technological superiority was tantamount to owning the respect and envy of the entire world!

Wikipedia has a pretty good entry describing the time.

Back in my junior high days (yes they called it that back then in the 1970’s), we had teachers – good ones that told we students that the moon landings could well be a hoax. It was designed to foster arguments – both pro and con on how the whole thing could have been conjured up by the evil U.S. government and the reasons why. Yet the United States went to the moon (and back) six times in four years! Wouldn’t that qualify as hoax overkill in and of itself? And to what end? After the second time (see we not only did it once but twice – why a third time? A fourth etc.?), wouldn’t that have been too much?

Combine that overkill with the incredible level of conspiracy it would have taken to drumbeat multiple moon landings (that’s marketing) and it’s as far fetched as the idea of going BACK to the moon today without much of a reason. I don’t feel that way about going to Mars however as I am all for a manned Mars mission not only to prove that the United States still can be a world leader in areas other than social networks and fast food.

Going back to (in the case of the U.S). and exploring space gives Americans and humanity a better chance to be the best versions of ourselves we can be, since space travel begs for mankind’s humility. The vastness of the universe is awe-inspiring and humbling. When a nation – any nation for that matter as it does not have to be the United States (but it should be) achieves success in exploring worlds beyond our own planet, we become ‘Earthlings’ and we forgo nationalities – at least for a little while.

A better marketing plan would be to help construct a viable plan to continue to explore our solar system and beyond. It’s not that people can be against exploring space, it’s outlining and agreeing to what would be the benefits and coming up with an acceptable way to pay for it. For me simply reminding mankind to remember to be humble is nearly reason enough.

What do you think?

Posted in Leadership, Living in the World Today, Marketing stuff | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Score one for AOL

aolnewAs reported in Computerworld  and other media outlets yesterday, AOL announced its new “One by AOL platform, unveiled on Tuesday, promises a consolidated and holistic view of brands’ marketing expenditures and performance across all screens, including TV”

Also from the article: “One allows advertisers and agencies to use data as the foundation of their marketing strategy, looking at consumers through a single, media-agnostic lens, from Web to TV,” said Bob Lord, president of AOL, in the company’s official announcement. “Connecting audience data to media exposures throughout the purchase path lets brands accurately measure return on their marketing dollars.”

This is a very good sign from a company that I have not been positive about for a long time. Back in February AOL CEO Tim Armstrong discussed more layoffs at the company which did not surprise me at all. After all, I have written about AOL’s pending irrelevance going back to 2011. In fact whenever I receive an email from someone using an AOL account it feels to me like 1993 all over again and I even have recently heard the classic “You’ve got mail” sounder in my office.

In truth I did not properly evaluate the reach of AOL sites like Huffington Post and Engadget and while AOL and Mr. Armstrong continue to plow ahead toward the goal of lasting relevance, it is in many ways (particularly in the area of branded content) better positioned than is Yahoo and its somewhat beleaguered CEO Marissa Mayer. Even today there are calls for her ouster.

So while AOL’s days as a default email provider are less important, and its content more important, the development of the One by AOL platform may be just what many of us involved in digital advertising are waiting to employ.

From the Computerworld article:

“One is very important to AOL for many reasons,” said Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst with Constellation Research.

In the past, it’s been “very hard to work with AOL to get the customer insights across all the acquired platforms,” Wang explained. “So, the solution is mapping these new journeys by continuity of experience across channels, screens, process and other contextually relevant insight.”

The real test now will be how much simplification advertisers and agencies actually see in the new service, he added.

The more important issue, however, is providing a unified platform that customers can build on top of to track audience, attribution, conversion rates and other contextual insights, Wang said. “This is more than just multiple screens,” he noted. “Why? Customers don’t care what channel or screen they operate in, and marketers know this.”

Well, smart marketers do at least. Does this score one for AOL? Even if it is AOL is still trying to come from behind.  That’s the way I see it.

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Is Samsung on the comeback trail?

Samsung-Galaxy-S6-versus-iPhone-6Working in an office ruled by Macs and firmly entrenched in an Apple driven world (hey I even work in the Big Apple regularly), when it comes to my smartphone I have resisted the move to be all Apple all the time and have a Samsung S4. An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal noted that with the release of the Samsung S6 the company is ready to make amends for its misstep in releasing the S5.

When I bought my S4 in March 2014 I was given the option to upgrade to the S5 when it was to be released (which was only a week or two away). I passed on the opportunity and from what I can tell that was a very good call as there’s been very little positively written with regard to the Samsung S5.

Not all that long ago Samsung was the #1 smartphone in the world. Much of the sales came from outside the United States. Over the past few years Apple has continued to gain market share while China based upstart Xiaomi has skyrocketed to a strong market share. In their collective wake you will find HTC, ZTE, and Amazon’s Fire phone (remember that one?).

Why have I foregone the move to an iPhone? Not because it’s not a great piece of technology. It’s being a fish in a fishbowl worry that concerns me. If you don’t experience other technology you have no idea about what other options might be. The Android platform is a very good platform and integrates well with Google (maybe even better than Apple). If it’s all Apple all the time I might never get out of the fishbowl and that would be bad for having a more well-rounded user view of how the world is outside of Apple.

It’s also interesting to me that Samsung’s S6 is being released the same week as the Apple Watch. Is it coincidental? Do you think Samsung is on the comeback trail?

Posted in Mobile Communication, Smartphones, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments