Routines are a safety net that should be torn up and re-sewn

Making habits..I recently finished Jeremy Dean’s excellent 2013 book Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick. If you are interested in reading about the motivations of people as it relates to the behavior – as people and as consumers, it’s worth your time.

Mr. Dean wrote an interesting essay on Psychcentral on the subject some time ago.

One of the major themes of the book is how people use routines to be more efficient and how those routines are not necessarily beneficial to your overall health and well -being.

Breaking an old habit or making a new one requires a plan and dedication. What I came away with beyond that is the way that routine is used as an anesthetic.

One of the most basic of routines is taking the same route every time you travel. You’ve no doubt heard the notion of taking a different route to keep things fresh. To break up the routine, even to take the road less traveled. I am a big proponent of breaking out of routines and yet at the same time am also extremely concerned with my own efficiency. And that desire for efficiency does promote the use of the most efficient approach – thereby creating a routine.

A few years ago when I was traveling to Asia and in particular China quite a bit I found myself in a train station in Guangzhou – a city of a mere 13,000,000 in southern China. I was traveling alone, spoke and read limited Chinese and there was little or no English to be seen. Talk about being out of one’s comfort zone and routine! I managed to find my way to the proper train heading back to Hong Kong but there were some uncertain and even nervous moments. One thing I remember well is how ALIVE I felt. All my senses were on high function and I relished the idea of finding my own way – one way or another.

So for me, routines are something to be reviewed and changed as I feel that the more routine things are, the less awareness you have. What’s even more concerning to me is that routine does not promote learning. When we stop learning is when we stop growing and begin to wither little by little.

Be careful about your routines. Use them with caution and change them up for your own good every once in a while. The benefits may not be immediately evident but give it some time.

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‘Let’s start a company’ isn’t child’s play

The Startup CurveI can almost picture it in my mind. Two seven-year olds are having a play date. Kids still do that right?   One says to the other “Let’s play the startup game” OK! I’ll play the founder CEO and you can be the COO. Let’s pretend we invented this cool mobile phone app that EVERYONE wants to use.   We’ll get some money from Mom and Dad and maybe even Uncle Jack, and then later on we can ask for more money from other people (who will be so excited!), and they can have a piece of our cool and successful company!

Big sister overhears them talking and they ask her if she wants to play too. She declines to join in their silly game but wanting to be helpful (after all big sisters are nothing if not helpful), she asks a few questions.

“ Um, before you get started, why will people want to keep using your cool app?”

“How long do you expect people to continue to use the app?”

“Will people buy the app or will it be a monthly subscription”

“Do you have an idea all the ways you think you can make money?”

“ What happens if things don’t go well and you have to fire all the people that came to work there?”

I could go on. And on. The startup world is the new “It” girl. Everyone wants in because it seems so cool to think of an idea, come up with a way to get it to market and see how it grows! You get to be the boss – or at least you and your friends and colleagues, and most importantly you have passion and dedication! All you need is a little luck, a few bucks, and you are acting on your dream!

You can read about startup companies all day, every day. Yesterday TechCrunch Disrupt NY served up the winner  Beam http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/11/beam-wins-techcrunch-disrupt-ny-2016/ of this year’s New York City Startup Battlefield competition. You can read about the business model yourself and I think it is interesting and would want to know more.

An article in the Thursday May 12 Wall Street Journal caught my eye, Venture Capital Slowdown Hits Asian Startups and it is a poignant reminder that so many startups fail to do the heavy lifting of truly fleshing out their business model. Not to pick on Mr. Yin and it does not matter if it is China, India, the United States or somewhere else.

From the WSJ article:

In early February, Yin Sang, a prominent Chinese entrepreneur, sent an email to all 600 employees at his karaoke-booking startup: His firm was running out of money after failing to raise funds and wouldn’t be able to pay staff salaries.

“Our cash flow is almost zero,” the 23-year-old chief executive of Yiqi Chang wrote in the email, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Our company is in a crisis.”

A year ago, Mr. Yin’s Shanghai-based startup was valued at more than $100 million and, in 2014, he made Forbes China’s list of the 30 most successful Chinese entrepreneurs under the age of 30.

The reversal of Mr. Yin’s fortunes underscores a new reality for many startup founders across Asia: venture capitalists are hitting the brakes on funding. In recent years, investors flocked to Asia—home to the world’s biggest number of mobile users—as its startup scene boomed. Now they are spooked by weakness in the global economy, volatility in China’s stock market and slumping investments in Silicon Valley amid talk of a tech bubble.

The result for founders is growing investor scrutiny, protracted fundraising discussions, and downward pressure on startup valuations, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists say. Some startups are shutting down altogether while others are laying off workers, cutting costs and moving away from business models that burned through cash to attract users.

The close of the article sums it all up:

Even so, many startups are making drastic changes in the harsher climate.

Mr. Yin, the karaoke startup founder, has cut his firm’s payroll from 600 to 200 in the past three months. Yiqi Chang, which means “sing together” in English, is trying to break even and now operates in just six cities, compared with 20 in January, he said in an interview. The company has also secured some loans.

“A year ago, we thought we could always raise more money,” Mr. Yin said. “Now, we have to survive on our own.”

I would not expect Mr. Yin to receive much sympathy from most people. I also want to wish him luck and success. Coming up with a cool idea is, well, cool. Starting versus maintaining a company are vastly different things I can tell you from experience. Mr. Yin knows that too now.

Back to our two seven-year olds after hearing big sister drone on.   One says to the other “You know what? Let’s not play that stupid game. Wanna play Xbox?”

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For Billboard advertising you have 7 seconds or less

Your-wife-is-hot-billboard-2Since as my partner David likes to say we need to be COG-nostic (not agnostic) when it comes to deciding on the appropriate channel marketing mix OOH (out-of-home) marketing is always considered. As I have written in the past the multitude of options available in the OOH market today make what was a sleepy business much more interesting and even at times compelling.

But the use of OOH has to come with a caveat and the one we like to generalize is that as a marketer using most OOH options you really have seven seconds or less to make an impression. This obviously does not include advertising in bathrooms, which as location is indeed OOH even though the seven-second rule would not apply there, or in train, subway, bus and other public and private transportation environments where the audience is typically sitting or waiting for long periods of time.

Take billboards for example. Even with the increased deployment of digital billboards, people in their cars or trucks driving at 70 MPH do not have time to process some complex message. And trying to introduce a brand via billboards will be extremely challenging at best.

Established brands such as Coke, Pepsi, and Geico are three examples of companies that use outdoor advertising to promote their brands with simple messaging. After all you know what they are and simply the ads are designed to keep those brands near top of mind. Putting a phone number on a billboard may seem like a good idea but you are asking a lot of a driver or viewer when it comes to remembering the number. It’s not that it can never ‘work’ but using OOH as response-based marketing is probably not a good idea.

As I mentioned there are so many different types of OOH advertising. In ballparks and arenas, schools and universities, even pro sports teams are deploying logos and brands on uniforms increasingly. The NBA just cut a deal to have advertising on player uniforms starting in the 2017-18 season. Will it be long before the entire sports world will have advertiser logos like the NASCAR drivers have had for a long time? Not to mention soccer which has done so for years. Those brand impressions do have value and do not fall under the seven seconds or less rule.

But most OOH advertising remains billboards of varying types with transient populations passing by – most of the time without paying much attention. The level of precise targeting in OOH also continues to increase such that you can buy outdoor units in desired specific locations – as long as there is availability since some OOH advertisers close out competitors by purchasing units for extended periods.

I think there’s a place for OOH advertising especially for established products and services. One of my favorite billboards I saw this past winter in Florida had the headline: “Your wife is hot” with the ‘surprise’ being that it was promoting an air-conditioning company. Of course I cannot remember the name and phone number even though I’ve seen the ad a good number of times, but then again I do not live in Florida.

Seven seconds or less for billboards. Better yet – seven words or less too!

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Mobile voice apps are already better than you think

google-now-vs-sirimaxresdefaultDuring this year’s Super Bowl, Amazon.com promoted the Amazon Echo, their new stand-alone voice activation device. Alec Baldwin is featured in the somewhat offbeat spots that can be seen here.

 

‘Alexa’, the name used to access whatever you want on the Amazon Echo, is in the room with you listening for you to say – “Alexa, how long will it take me to…” and it can answer other questions as well and buy things for you – on Amazon of course.   I’ve not yet purchased an Amazon Echo (about $150) but am thinking about it. A review on CNET did nothing but make me more interested.

And yet I hesitate. Why? The main reason is Google Now. As an Android mobile phone and tablet user, (yes I have an iPad and work on a Mac regularly but I need to know BOTH environments in terms of user experience and functionality), I am more and more impressed at how good and useful Google Now is. And dare I say, it’s better than Siri. Other reviews seem to concur.

I’ve not yet used Cortana (Microsoft’s voice response assistant) and with Google Now it’s unlikely I will anytime soon. Using Google Now (or Siri, Alexa, or Cortana) is an iterative process. The functionality improves all the time over time. I have found Google Now to be remarkably accurate in handling my voice queries on any number of varied requests. Often the answers are spoken by Google Now and the response is immediate and accurate.

Anyone that reads this blog with any regularity knows that I am a big fan of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. But I have this feeling of a too-contained environment if I were to adopt and use Amazon Echo regularly. Wouldn’t it make sense for Amazon to present choices that can be purchased on Amazon over those that cannot? It’s difficult for me to imagine that Amazon would be unbiased in its presentation of buying choices. And isn’t it a bit creepy that Alexa is listening all the time? Sure you can turn off that feature but in the case of Alexa that kind of defeats the purpose it would seem.

Chances are that I will eventually succumb and pick up an Amazon Echo. And probably love it too. Another one bites the dust.

How about you? Do you use and like or dislike voice activated assistants?

 

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Leading a team is a full time job

keys-for-leading-a-teamOver the past few years like so many people, I’ve had a major change in direction in my daily professional life. One of the biggest changes is that I’ve experience is not having employees. A well written article today by Sam Mallikarjurnan getting my hands dirty and helping other businesses with both their business strategy and marketing strategy.

I truly enjoy the work that I do day by day and know that I am incredibly fortunate that despite a professional disruption, I’ve been able to manage to adapt, survive and continue to grow as a person and as a professional.   One thing Sam did not discuss was if he actually missed managing employees. Just because one makes a conscious effort to get out of the direct line of managing people, does not mean that there was not satisfaction and enjoyment when that was a part my day-to-day responsibilities.

As any entrepreneur will tell you as chief cook and bottle washer you wear many hats. Leading a team is an awesome thing and also an awesome responsibility. It takes consistent time and effort to be effective and as far as I am concerned it’s nearly impossible to be great at leading the team, great at landing and managing new client relationships as well as manage the out-of-house partners that invariably help make things all work smoothly.

I know that near the end of my former company’s life I was not a very good manager as I was most concerned about keeping the lights on and I could have done a better job of communicating what was happening. It would not have changed the outcome, but my sense of time to communicate was disrupted until it was too late but to say ‘its’ over’.

So for the past few years I’ve espoused the benefits of NOT managing people directly. And it has been great and I’ve found greater focus has led to better results for our clients and for my future professional prospects.   Yet I do miss directly helping lead a team, nurturing talented people, sharing a vision of where the company, OUR company; is heading and why.

The truth is that I’d be interested in helping build a team again sometime in the future. But for now I am thrilled to be ‘doing the stuff’ to help our clients achieve success. Thanks to Sam for reminding me.

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State of Emergency: Rhode Island Stumbles and Falls. But What Happens Next is Even Worse.

The best marketing professionals are experienced and trusted professionals. Do you agree with my business partner?

Marketing Thingy

Have you heard about the marketing disaster happening in Rhode Island? It’s pretty bad, and it’s only getting worse. Instead of just recounting the disaster, let’s look at what happened, step by step, and point out the mistakes.

I assure you, we won’t do this to point fingers or tease, but rather to make it a teaching moment to help avoid similar setbacks in the future. Just in case you’re a state about to rebrand, and aren’t sure if you’ve got all your ducks in a row.

What happened first.
Rhode Island was set to invest approximately $5 million in a rebranding campaign. Naturally, they wanted to anchor the new direction around a central identity and theme. So they hired Milton Glaser, legendary designer and creator of the iconic ILoveNY theme and logo.

MISTAKE #1:
If you’re going to rebrand your state, and try to attract tourism, shouldn’t the creative…

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How will you market your product on Snapchat?

Snapchat logoTo be considered a good marketer, it’s well known that one needs to be aware of all the relevant tools that are available. In being a resource for clients how can you make recommendations on strategic marketing approaches if you are willing to ignore consideration of a particular marketing platform or media? Just because you are not familiar with a platform does not mean you are allowed to dismiss it as ‘too new’ or ‘unproven’. After all at one time Facebook advertising was ‘unproven’. And how did that work out?

The explosion in popularity of Snapchat is compelling me to learn about, consider and use Snapchat. And how might Snapchat be integrated into marketing plans for our clients and prospects? It’s complicated. Especially for me since from a personal standpoint I am not all that interested in Snapchatting. Probably age-related but of that I cannot be certain.

But that doesn’t matter does it? The more I read and hear about Snapchat and the amazing numbers of people and the level of their engagement, the more I know that Snapchat is no fad. The latest taken from AdAge:

‘Snapchat, which says it has more than 100 million daily active users and more than 8 billion video views every day, is calling its update Chat 2.0 and gives users a much broader way to communicate with other Snapchat users. Among the updates are more than 200 stickers (a very popular feature in messaging apps); video and audio notes, which lets you send videos up to 10 seconds long; or just an audio one if you can’t type but want to communicate; and audio and video calls, which can now be made even if the friend you’re trying to reach isn’t in the chat at that time.

Users can also now send multiple photos at a time in a chat and edit them with Snapchat’s filters.

One of the most alluring aspects to the update is that users can change how they’re communicating while they’re still in a chat. For instance, users can swap between video or audio calls, photos and stickers, as well as audio and video notes.

According to TechCrunch:

Snapchat has figured out how to pull every way humans communicate into a single interface — video, audio, text, symbols and drawing. Instead of having to choose how you want to connect before you start, conversations can evolve on the fly.’

So how will Snapchat help Business to Consumer (B2C) marketers spread the word and gain new customers? (Answer: With video/stickers/coupons there are intriguing options to be certain). Are there opportunities to engage B2B customers on Snapchat? (Answer: Yes). How long will it be before marketing on Snapchat becomes essential (Answer: Don’t know exactly. These things take awhile. Jump in and find out).

A single platform for communication of all types is a powerful one. Especially one that already has 100 million daily active users. Given the innate variety available on the Snapchat platform, brands will be scrambling to learn how to engage both customers and prospects.

Which means Snapchat is just another platform that I will be continually testing, watching and as little as I feel is warranted – using.

How will you market your product on Snapchat?

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