The end of the buggy whip example!

January 19th, 2012

When markets shift dramatically, we strategists know that it doesn’t matter how well you make a certain product.

You couldn’t sell buggy whips once cars came in….

And you couldn’t succeed with the world’s best film products when digital photography came in.

RIP, Eastman Kodak.

(But you’ll be back in many Harvard business school cases.)

kodak-logo1.png

 

Beware acronyms!

January 17th, 2012

We’ve all seen it in corporate life – the proliferation of acronyms to describe life at the company quickly and efficiently.

But, exercise caution when they spill over into your customers’ world.

Witness a huge banner at the Post Office saying basically, “Come and use the APC to meet all your postal needs”.

The APC?

That’s the Automated Postal Center.

But why?  And why not something catchier.  Like PostalPartner or QuickPost or PostalBuddy or Postie…..

Call me!

That crazy “naming” business……

December 5th, 2011

One of my clients recently said to me that doing a product name is just very hard…..

But how hard could it be…..we consider the product, the attributes it delivers, the target market, competitive names and off we go….

Except for matters of taste, personal preference, competitive conflicts, trademark congestion, it really would be pretty straightforward….

Here’s a few current examples and how you can run amok:

  1. Qwikster: So much has been written, but I have to say as well – how could the mailed product from Netflix have the Qwikster name?  Ok, enough said.
  2. NuVal: King Soopers’ new scoring of specific foods’ nutritional value.  But why is it “Nu”?  Has an food’s nutritional value changed as a result of the scoring?  The “Nu” hangs me up…..it even gives me some genetically engineered feel which is probably not desired.
  3. Dreamliner: Boeing’s new 787.  What a marvelous name in a category where conventional names have the numbering pattern.  But then delivery is nearly 3 years late.  A headache of epic proportions for marketers.
  4. Metro State: The community college here in Denver wants a new name and wants Denver in that name but keeps bumping up against the University of Denver who is not taking kindly to encroaching in their space.   Stop right now and work on a different name idea.  Their current ideas are:  Denver Metropolitan State University.  Denver State Metropolitan University. Metropolitan Denver State University.  This is going nowhere.   They all sound the same to the naive listener and they are all TOO LONG.  Start over!
  5. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art: Would love to visit this new museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.  But hate the name.  Feels like a mall or a senior retirement community.  Hmm.

What names are bugging you?  Let me know.

The Ten Top Reasons I Renewed the Denver Post

October 26th, 2011

The Pew Charitable Trust recently reported that some 70% of survey respondents said they would not miss their local paper.  Hmmm.

But I did just renew my Denver Post subscription.  There were plenty of reasons not to go this way:

  1. So much of the news in the paper seems like it happened two days ago.  I already saw a headline alert as much as 18 – 24 hours before it is “re-reported” in the Post.  I look through the paper in a bemused way as I examine yesterday’s news.
  2. There is so little written by the Post, which I can understand, as they have cut, cut, cut staff.  I’ve already read the “long form” version in The New York Times.
  3. Recent feature articles seemed long and very self important.  Hmmm.
  4. There’s that weird section each Thursday which I immediately throw out which seems like hyper-local news (a good thing) but I get a strong impression that the B team puts it together.
  5. I love the afternoon Denver Post Headlines email….even if they do repeat the morning news headlines (don’t do that!).  You do get a good snapshot of what’s happened locally during the day.  Who the cops shot at etc.
  6. And I can always go to the Denver Post website and use their iPad app:

    Look at those finger prints - hours of iPad usage!

But I still renewed and here’s the top 10 reasons why:

  1. How would I have known about the corn maze south of Greeley?
  2. Occasionally, there are very interesting articles about events in Denver, for example, the new art museum opening on November 18.
  3. I love the Thursday leisure section article where some amusing dignitary in town is interviewed at an interesting “watering hole”.  I don’t want to read it online as someone puts together a really wonderful photo montage each week.
  4. The Sunday business section has that interesting Wall Street Journal insert. You’d think I would have had enough WSJ 6 days a week, but I like the insert.  Interesting columns – loved the column with the Dad and his two sons.
  5. How would I know when the Clinique “gift with purchase” is happening at Macy’s?
  6. Where else would I see pictures of the charity lunch I went to?
  7. My boyfriend does the puzzles while I cook.
  8. Reading through the paper is an excellent safety net for articles I could have missed elsewhere.  This happened today.
  9. It’s quick and painless to read through……no guilt about deeply important articles that I should be reading.
  10. The Sports Section is where I look for scores and standings across my favorite sports.  And, for some reason, I like knowing who made how much money each week on the PGA.  Plus I need the articles on the Broncos to retain my full status as a Denver resident!

So, we’ll give it another year and see if I can justify it once again.  But please, work on some good feature stories….

Why don’t my people know your people?

October 18th, 2011

Congrats on Arrow Electronics relocating its headquarters to Colorado!

A Fortune 500 firm is coming HERE!

So, I immediately checked LinkedIn to see who I knew.  It’s not as good as I would hope.

This is a solid target company for Bright Beacon work.  Help with strategic planning?  Help with product launches?  Perhaps a temporary exec position? Facilitating a problem solving workshop?  Serving as team leader on an important initiative?

But why don’t my LinkedIn people know more Arrow people?

Start linking!  You never know where it might take you.

Loving this name…..

October 14th, 2011

Latke Love…..this QuickPoint is my annual assessment of booth names at the local farmers’ market.  I like a break from weighing the outlook for smartphones, Internet video etc.

You might remember from my August 2010 post that I wasn’t too sure that Crock Spot was going to work last year.  (What was the benefit?  Why were there no crockpots in sight etc?)  And sure enough, they are gone.

But here’s a fun name, Latke Love, that evokes imagery of mom’s home cooking and interesting ethnic cuisine for me…..I’m betting they will be around next summer.   They seem to be doing a nice business this year.  Including with me.

Fun name and cute visual!

 

First, it was nearly impossible….and then 20 billion!

August 17th, 2011

Just a quick note to all my fellow new product developers….who struggle mightily in the trenches with balky technologies and other challenges.

I put a fair amount of “blood, sweat and tears” into Video-on-Demand, including testing the service with mocked up systems that NEVER could have been deployed.

In a time before the iPad, the Droid, FaceBook, Bing, 140 character tweets etc.

With important corporate partners, none of whom exist today in the same corporate structure.

****

Comcast has just announced reaching 20 billion views of its VOD system.  20 billion views!

Could that mean that the whole industry has had north of 40 billion views?

So, my fellow new product developers.  Keep the faith.  Understand customer needs.  Struggle with systems, devices, processes, departments etc.

It is worth the fight!

Just when you thought everyone had perfected branding….

August 2nd, 2011

….I get this door hanger from the tech who fixed our business line.

Who came and fixed the phone line??

Qwest is becoming CenturyLink but you’d never know it from this door hanger.

But let me also say, if this is a tech who doesn’t have any officially endorsed communications materials to use, I applaud that he or she did leave me an informative note on the reverse side.

And I can only hope that the approved materials are coming?

***

I also see some notations that suggest that this piece might be from 1996.  Again, I commend the tech for providing excellent information to me about our line.

But surely, someone got him or her branded materials since 1996?

Not a “Mad Man”

June 23rd, 2011

When I work with entrepreneurs, I often find that they are unclear between what a marketer does (understand markets, customer needs, competitive dynamics, value propositions, feature/functions, pricing…..I could go on and on) and the classic work of a copywriter (puts marketing messages into consumer language, has the artful turn of phrase, delivers memorability etc).

I tried for a Madison Avenue job the summer between my first and second years in graduate school…..no luck.  Finally some kindly Mad Man actually told me that I was too analytical for them.  Hmm, I’m not sure he meant that in a good way?

But is this idea even relevant in the era of social media?  I could run a client’s Twitter feed or monitor a Facebook site as long as I was clear on the tone we want to set and what the ground rules are on what can be shared.  Isn’t that copywriting at some level?  And if we are blasting emails out, I can write or, at a minimum, edit those emails?

In the giant collapse of marketing staff, I bet more and more of my types are doing copywriting….because there is no staff, no budget and no time.  But is that a good thing?

As you may know, I’m just back from a wonderful trip to Tunisia and thought I would take a turn at “copywriting” why travelers should consider Tunisia.  Let me know how I’m doing!

Maybe this career option could come back around?  Maybe a client would trust me with their 140 word Twitter feed?

*****

Classic reasons, new reasons, and fun reasons for visiting Tunisia

For me, the classic reason to visit Tunisia is to see the Roman ruins.

The Roman ruins are stunning in Tunisia!

I love the chance to immerse myself in the ancient world, especially that of the Romans since we know so much about the Romans and their times. Seeing the pyramids in Egypt is tremendous, but the time of the Egyptians, for me, is in the ancient and mysterious past. With the Romans, I read Julius Caesar’s diaries and I read Virgil’s Aeneid. Aeneas flees Troy and makes a fateful stop in Carthage on his journey to Rome.

So, a chance to come to Tunisia is a chance to see Carthage, a great capital of ancient times and the land of Dido, Aeneas’ great love. I should digress here and say that this is according to Virgil, the great Roman poet. History may differ slightly (or significantly), but we remember Dido from Virgil as a great leader of her people in Carthage and the “woman Aeneas left behind” to fulfill his destiny to found Rome. One of the most important women of the ancient world.

And in Tunisia, you can visit Carthage, where, like Rome, there are layers upon layers of history. The Romans destroyed Carthage at the end of the Punic Wars but you can still see their Carthage via the great baths, the harbor and the water tanks.

The Roman baths in Carthage are fascinating to see!

You also see the large cathedral built by the French and the American Cemetery in honor of World War II. Pivotal World War II battles were fought in Tunisia by the most important generals of the North African campaign: Patton, Rommel, Montgomery.

If Carthage is today the glamorous suburb of Tunis and not really a major archeological site, you will not be disappointed with the fantastic archeological sites in Tunisia where you can walk down the streets of Roman cities, see temples, baths and brothels. I thought Dougga was fantastic – a wonderful Roman city out on a hillside. And Sbeitla – a Roman city out at the edge of the Roman empire. And even beyond that, a Roman outpost in the Sahara. Can you imagine what it would have been like to be assigned that duty as a Roman legion?

Tunisians were Rome’s exquisite mosaic artists whose work is seen many places in the Roman world but is completely fantastic in Tunisia. The Bardo museum is the world’s greatest collection of mosaics of this era. The day trip to El Jem is fantastic not only to see the largest amphitheatre in North Africa but also the lovely museum there of mosaics both indoors and also in outdoor settings. There is a wonderful recreation of a Roman villa.

Surrounded by mosaics at the Bardo

But the new reason to go to Tunisia now is to see democracy as it has a chance to break out in the Middle East. Tunisia has a more secular orientation than many of its neighbors and was the original starting point of the 2011 democracy movements still rumbling across a good swath of the Middle East. These events will be seen for years to come as one of the definitive events that shaped the Middle East in the early 21st century. Being with Overseas Adventure Tours  (OAT) means that your guide will give you an excellent window into how events are unfolding at this crucial time and other OAT activities such as meeting with the Iman in Kairouan and the family lunch will let you hear it from the horse’s mouth on how people are feeling.

Tunisians have a lot to say on Libya and Gaddafi. And, while the war between the Gaddafi and rebel forces was well underway when we visited, I felt entirely safe. Tunisia had only thrown out its own leader less than 90 days before I went to there, but Tunisians were basically back to the regular events of daily life. I truly believe that OAT has its ear to the ground and will make the right choices to make sure you avoid any unwelcomed events along your itinerary. I found Tunisians open and friendly, often asking me in French how I was doing, smiling and waving when I did the same.

A day will come again when tourist numbers are once again very large because Tunisia is lovely and the people are friendly. To make it even easier, French is widely spoken with signage around cities in both French and Arabic. Road signs are excellent – a very travel friendly place. But go now because it is always special to be at the front of the wave. Go and see the ruins and the mosaics before everyone else comes back.  And take comfort,  I was able to be in touch with the States via wi-fi in hotels we stayed in – allowing me to assure the less seasoned travelers that I left back home! (In fact, our guide set up Internet calling even for those who were less tech savvy.)

You’ll never be sorry that you went early and saw Tunisia at its fork in the road. Where will current events take Tunisia? I can’t say. But over the next year or so, you have a window to see Tunisia through a fascinating current events lens and out ahead of the typical tourist onslaught. I think they call it O-Adventure-T for a reason. Take advantage of that reason if you really are an Adventure traveler – which OAT makes easy. When I tell people I went to China in 1985, they are pretty jealous because China makes a great trip today, but it’s not that China – the China just emerging from the Cultural Revolution.

Thirdly, we had a great deal of fun. Two of our group dressed up in traditional Berber wedding costumes and we “celebrated” their wedding. We belly-danced with a gorgeous belly dancer.

Our whole group got up and danced!

We rode on camels and in caleches. We watched a guy climb up a date palm tree in bare feet to pollinate that tree. We slept a night in the Sahara and saw a night sky full of stars. The evening before we sat around the campfire with a Bedouin and talked with him about his life. We saw the latrines at Dougga (and they did look like it). We learned some amazing things about sheep breeding and happened on a live demonstration with young shepherds. Oh my! We went to some Star Wars filming sites and then really understood as we drove in the remote countryside what struck Lucas about Tunisia. Heck, we were in Tataouine, home of Luke Skywalker!

On Jimmy, my camel

Don’t miss the chance to see a country that has been an incredible crossroads of history for 2,500 years. Don’t miss the chance to see a country that is at a profound crossroads in its history right now. If you really are an Adventure traveler, this is the place to see in the fall of 2011.

Everyone who……

June 15th, 2011

…..is working, might work or has worked should be on Linkedin.

If you’ve heard from me recently about connecting on LinkedIn, you’ve been part of my challenge to build up my connections.

I’ve decided to be connected with everyone I ever worked for, with or who worked for me.  A few observations from the LinkedIn push:

  • Given the tenure of my professional career, I should have 500+ contacts. Anything less than that is crazy.  Check my profile.  I’m not even close.  At a minimum, Linkedin is better at keeping records than I am.  Infinitely superior to any paper or electronic system I could use because other people are keeping their records up-to-date.
  • Young professionals who aren’t using Linkedin are nuts – this is an excellent time to build life long links to a huge range of contacts who will go off and do a myriad of different things.   Pursuing areas that could turn out to be ones you’d like to Link with down the road.
  • Middle managers who are ignoring Linkedin or are just completely swamped and can’t find time are taking a risk.  Is your job secure?  I hope so, but odds are the situation is riskier than it was before the economic downturn. Everything is going to be done more efficiently with new technologies which is going to eliminate jobs – oops, that’s a subject for a different blog.
  • Finding very senior people on Linkedin is a mixed bag.  Those heading to retirement or shunning more visibility just don’t seem to be there or they have one connection – their wife?  This will clearly change with time.  But remember, senior people, that civic groups, not-for-profits, new neighbors, your alum groups – they are all looking at profiles on Linkedin.  My senior folks, who are still “active on Linkedin”, seem younger.  Hmmm.  (Go ahead – use it to keep connected with your current circle!)

A few learnings to share with others on this journey:

  1. You need a picture.  People without pictures today seem like “business ghosts”.  Do they really exist?  And I don’t think you have to have a professionally shot picture, just a solid picture where it’s obvious it’s you. However, I don’t think a glamor shot is the way to go.  This is not the setting to look like a “babe”.
  2. One profile only. I see many instances of people with two profiles – very smart people.  This must be an area where users make mistakes in editing or updating profiles….and the Linkedin system doesn’t catch it.  I know they say that they have 100 million users but based on my experience, the number is 90 million.  There are many duplicates.
  3. A full profile.  This seems obvious but an additional reason to do this is you just can’t believe how many people have your name….I’ve had some doubts on whether I was getting the right person.  No pix….not enough profile cues…..control your own version of your name…..with an excellent profile.
  4. Check out the weekly email.  Linkedin does a good job pulling the most noteworthy changes in your network.  It’s how I’ve seen job changes that I didn’t realize were happening.
  5. Make Linkedin your home page.   Scan your eyes down who is doing what.  I know, I know what you are saying, “There is no time in the day”. You owe it to yourself to keep some visibility in your network.  See bullets two and three above:  this is a painless way to pull your head up from the corporate grind.
  6. And it’s not just for corporate types.  Anyone who wants a professional presence or has to market themselves in some manner should be on Linkedin.  Remember – who knows where your working life may take you. Personal services, professional services, teaching, not-for-profits, corporate life – they could all be part of the journey.

I wouldn’t worry terribly much about joining tons of speciality groups.  I’ve found that to be only modestly interesting but I would join any alumni groups as it makes it easier to find lost colleagues.

I recently used Linkedin to find a specialist for a client and found the resource very useful.  But a big network helps.  Don’t ask me to look for manufacturing experts.  I don’t have any manufacturing types in my network.  (Darn!)

Now back to looking for the guy I sat next to at Booz & Co back in 19xx…..And the guy I worked for in the fall of 19xx – am I spelling your name wrong?  Where are you?

 

PS:  If you read this blog and thought that Linkedin is just for job hunters….guess what, you’re behind the times.