negative tendencies

August 24, 2009 · 0 comments

people who know me would probably characterize me as negative. i'm not a doomsayer or a causeless malcontent, just very pragmatic. i like to see it as being more of a realist. this comes across as not being a terribly positive person. but it's for good reason.

yes, of course, the positives needs to be applauded and given some attention. it's great to be validated and feel good about things. but everyone wants to hear the good and cower from the bad. focusing on just the positives leads to complacency.

i tend to not dwell on the positives much. i give the goods their due, but no more and often less. i typically charge my positivity with how to make the good better, which comes across as negative. why? it's pretty simple. i'm never completely satisfied.

the main premise behind this mentality is this: glorifying the good, especially at the expense of underscoring the not so good, is a recipe for stagnation. can you improve on the good? yes, you always can. but that incremental growth will not bring about the same level of step change as if you improve on a negative.

how better to illustrate than with a graph:



if you look at 4 areas of any project or subordinate, there will be strengths and weaknesses. there's not much more to be gained from making B better, but there is in bringing up A or D. is there work to be done on B - yes. we should never stop challenging assumptions of success but we can't be so focused on this, it's covered pretty good.

the point in writing this is not to just let you in on an aspect of my personality i up and decided to share. it's because this is a kernel in my operating system that i think has value. i'm not telling you to go around being mr. or mrs. negative and crap on everything. rather, see to it that we're not just patting ourselves on the back with our blinders on.

it's paying mind to what really needs to be minded and a want to not just coast on the good, but do better by reversing the bad. unfortunately, that doesn't always make you the most popular or the most positive person on the team.

the great lactose debacle (not really)

August 14, 2009 · 0 comments

let me be clear, the post below is not a rant (despite my best efforts) but a lesson in micro-interactions.

this morning i stopped by a starbucks to get an iced coffee. i'm in no way a regular of starbucks, nor do i like coffee terribly much. much of the time i rail against starbucks, it's charmlessness and experience while still visiting (does that make me a hypocrite?). in fact i refuse to use starbucks lingo like venti or grande. i typically only go on a friday (why, i don't know) and maybe a saturday. i usually get a vivanno, which are quite lovely (and healthy) and an apple fritter (unhealthy), which are superb and the real draw for me (baked good fiend). that and free wi-fi.

as i place my order of a 'medium' iced coffee with lactose free milk, i was asked if i had a starbucks card. i did not. the barista pressed on and asked if i wanted to buy one. i declined. pressing on further he pointed out to me that there was an extra charge for lactose free milk but that if i had a starbucks card, it would be waived.

hold on.

so first i'm being penalized for having a disability - lactose intolerance. okay, so a disability is an exaggeration. maybe a condition. and that the only solution to my defect is a starbucks card. i guess as far as afflictions go, the cost of $0.50 is paltry. but all the same, my lack of a certain bacteria in my bowels has relegated me as a customer who must pay for his shortcomings.

of course i'm exaggerating here (makes for interesting storytelling). is it silly that i pay extra for milk that costs only slightly more than regular milk - probably. it's negligible. is it silly that i pay that much extra for it - definitely. a whole carton maybe costs that much more than regular.

now we get to the lesson and insights and away from the hyperbole.

having lactose free milk is a value proposition. it's servicing your customer's needs. maybe even a differentiator. tim horton's doesn't have it. supplying lactose (and not charging for it) is an opportunity to stand out to customers, not burden them *(passing on more than the cost). it is the small things that go a long way with people.

the most important part of starbucks is what happens in-store. from the baristas, to the decor, to the products, to the cleanliness, to the other features and beyond. your entire time there is comprised of a series of micro-interactions that culminate in a total experience. failures, even minor ones, in any area can displace the satisfaction in all the others.

the point is a company like starbucks, who has had their share of difficulties as of late in their identity and corporate nature, should be assessing all levels of their business. going back to basics and ensuring that the place it matters most is in the shops themselves. that the customer service and experience is at a high level. analyze every possible micro-interaction or permutation of how the business operates and find ways to improve.

how not to be a faceless and uncaring corporation is to go the extra step. in my case, the barista was kind enough to waive the additional charge, but only with further imploring for me to 'save some money' by buying and using a starbucks card. but it's a kind gesture that shouldn't have had to be made were there not a charge in place that was potentially a point of contention.

my aim is not to be that social media story that explodes and gets massive coverage in traditional media and is held as a corporate failure. or that i suddenly get starbucks for life. just that i'm a believer in brands. and the starbucks brand hinges on point of purchase. all brands can learn from all other brands.

just to be clear, i'm not upset or peeved. i thought it was silly and for others, potentially a bigger problem (me 5 years ago). i also thought it was interesting with a lesson to be learned. of course i hope they change, i still want to go and having something with my apple fritter.

who wants to start the #lactosefail on twitter?

winning the interruption game

August 11, 2009 · 0 comments

part of what aggrevates consumers about traditional media is not necessarily the interruption part, but the length of interruption. as i've said before, the interruption is a necessity and after so many decades of it being a reality in broadcast mediums, it's accepted by people when consuming free media. but that sheer length of interruption is very problematic to the experience and the business model.

we're now in an attention economy. that means as technology pervades, our attention becomes fragmented between the myriad of content and devices so the struggle for us marketers is in being visible to our consumers with so much clutter and choice in ample supply. and not just visibility, but relevance and engagement with the messages.

having 2 minute commercial breaks interspersed with programming is an antiquity from when programs were really appointments and had captive audiences. where you locked yourself in to that channel for the length of the program. in our attention defecit present tense, this is seldom the case. compound that by the vast plentitude of choice in media consumables.

a half hour of tv programming has 6-8 minutes of commercials which is a program to ad ratio of 20% to 25% adverts. doesn't seem like much on paper, but the experience of it is more telling. print media is just as bad with the ratio going upwards of 40% advertising. radio is just as guilty. there are still 2 minute breaks at a time, which if you think about it, is the opportunity to hear almost a whole other song.

we know that breaks are coming and it's going to be there for a period of time, so we have trained ourselves to zip, zap, switch, fast forward, flip the page, buy the dvd, on-demand it, leave altogether, whatever. it gives us time to tune out, opportunity to ignore.

i'd venture to say it isn't the displeasure or animosity toward advertising (entirely anyway - but that's a different post altogether about how our marketing messages need to evolve too), it is that we have better things to do than watch all those ads in a row. so we turn to places and means that truncates the length of commercial breaks.

online video is succeeding and growing with singular commercial breaks (mid-roll) of :15 seconds or so in between program segments. they could probably double that with little more dissonance. as an interruptive model, it puts the value back to the consumers in being limitedly commercial heavy as opposed to value for the advertisers in being just an advertising vehicle.

we're also stuck in these handy half hour or hour timeslots that are a vestige of appointment viewing when you had to remember the time and date of your show or you missed it. also to made it easy for programmers to make a schedule that had variety, but not excessive demands. not the case anymore. not with the volumionous amount of content available online or the preponderance of specialty channels on tv and satellite radio. many a show gets watered down because they have to make it fit within the confides of either a half or full hour.

where i'm going with this is to offer a model that's a radical shift to the existing broadcast model, but closer to an online model that is proving successful.

  1. program length - a program is a program, whatever length it needs to be. better to be shorter (think robot chicken) but if it's entertaining, quality, engaging programming, than length doesn't matter. the problem is we have 2 lengths now and those don't fit for everything.
  2. commercial breaks - keep it to :30 seconds total time each break. any more and you lose your audience.
  3. on demand - expand the offerings but actually monetize it
  4. work with providers - the cable companies control the box with which all your content goes through. without you the broadcasters, they have nothing. use that leverage to expand the on-demand offerings, subsidize better delivery technology, improve timeshifting to allow for more viewing opportunities and create custom experiences that are digital, interactive and complimentary to the shows.
  5. in program opportunities - open yourself to new opportunities of brand integration from the online world: animated overlays, skins, product integration, banners, etc. but be careful in implementing and overusing. it's a fine line. there's lots of ways to do it right, but more ways to do it worng.
part of the issue is the dearth of quality programming that consumers would be willing to sit through commercials. networks haven't embraced a model of diverse interests and low cost production. nor have they accepted the new way of lower-fi production that still retains high values and doesn't have the encumbering celebrities.

as broadcasters figure out their new business models in the era of the internet, taking into account how commercial interruption is done should be a big consideration.

the era of segmentation marketing

August 6, 2009 · 0 comments



we're coming to the end of an era where we target market. where we hone in on the one specific group of our consumer base and tailor the communications (primarily) at them. this goes as mass media goes - by the wayside. this has been talked about some in the last few months, with people in both camps. i find it very difficult to see how this isn't the way of the future.

target marketing was a byproduct of an inability to do anything but shout at consumers in a singular way because the channels couldn't accommodate anything else. we were forced to identify that one group who are the best prospects, highest user base, or most receptive and build campaigns for them and hope everyone else still gets it and continues using the brand. this would often be coupled with a strategy of watering down the message to have a broader appeal without being focused on the core. well, that's changing and so must our perceptions about who and how we talk to people.

we know our products and services have a broad consumer base, yet we only service and message a portion of them. the shift is that we'll be able to communicate with different groups in a meaningful and dedicated way. so it isn't target marketing anymore, it will be segment marketing.

there may still be a core group (one of the segments) by which there is more concerted focus (for instance experiential where it is costly to execute in multiple, specific iterations), for which priority is given to invest against, and with which the beliefs and personality of the brand are realized to the fullest. the other segments become executionally different, with the same tone and manner, in channels of their specificity or delivered individually. there could be an egalitarian approach too where all segments are deemed of equal value and invested accordingly.

segments don't have to be drawn along demographic lines. not anymore. increasingly the data is available where we can layer in different targeting types or qualifications that make people a group beyond their age or gender. behaviors, mindset, product life cycle, purchase history, and others are ways that we will be able to bundle people into addressable segments.

the number of segments any brand can have is variable. there are as many as a brand can support in a meaningful way. the good thing is that segments don't have to remain constant forever. they can be dynamic, shift over time all with research to validate these decisions.

the beauty is there is no crossover with digital. we can't alienate anyone when the ad is tailored to them, nor can we aggravate people because it's only being seen by the people we want and who want to see it.

aside from maintenance and/or growth against your target market (which is being done now) segmented marketing opens up two other scenarios:
  • protecting - there's likely a number of segments any brand currently has that are vulnerable to leaving your stable because you don't maintain them (engage with or speak to meaningfully) with communications. these are the consumers that are users, but not loyalists.
  • growth - by reaching out to other segments previously ignored (or at least not paid specific attention to) you have the ability to nurture them and grow their affinity and usage of your brand.
to a good degree, the technology is there from a media perspective. we have behavioral targeting, demo targeting, and a number of other ways that we can be fairly specific about who our message is in front of. that's good, but it's only one half of the equation. the creative needs to be distinct by segment to have full effect and to make use of the technical media abilities.

cost wise, this situation leaves us either flat or down to what currently exists, for the media side. right now we buy entire audiences, paid for against a specific target (often more broad than we really care to) but we still pay full freight for the whole lot. now we either buy the whole lot and segment it with different messages (flat) or only buy those specific segments we want (down). either way, far more ideal in our effective use of the media.

as for creative, well that side of the business needs to be revamped in a number of ways. just one of those being creative development and making effective segmented work. it's being done to a small degree with some online but the traditional media needs an overhaul. dead will be the notion of the one big, expensive, production intense spot. the value isn't there in doing that anymore.

this is a few years away, but doesn't mean we should wait until it's upon us to act. we can use this time to research other segments, get to know them, find valuable touchpoints, develop and test creative, and other work to make sure we can hit the ground running when the technology is fully in place.

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