Article | October 14, 2020
1.What is strategy?
For me it has been three simple words.
Future Competitive Advantage.
What will the future look like? What will people need and expect ? How will demographics, technology and other global shifts create new competitors or recharge current competitors and how will categories blur, blend and maybe even disappear ?
Amidst these new expectations and changing competitive dynamics what advantage will your company offer? A differentiated or better product? A competitive moat of network effects, scale or some other dynamic ? A better experience? Speed and value?
While Strategy firms can be amazingly helpful in guiding companies through these questions, most leaders already have a gut instinct on what needs to be done. The deep dive documents, the chanting strategists and the long march of meetings are to bring others along and to provide an intellectual and analytical framework for a decision that clearly had to be made.
If you work for a firm and you have an idea of where the future is going and how changing peoples expectations and emerging technology are going to create challenges or opportunities I strongly advise that you should go to your management and share your thinking.
All you need to talk about is future competitive advantage.
2. Marketing Re-Invented
Intelligence is the ability to simplify and not dumb down.
To create a way to share and think through complexity by getting down to core issues and ideas in modular ways that people can understand and build from.
Frames are helpful in not only getting the audience to understand but it is a great way to tell your story.
Think of frames as a spine you hang the bones of your ideas on.
Here is my frame for how marketing has changed and is changing that I use as a way to help guide people I advise. I call it the ABCDE model of the future of marketing.
Audience. Brand. Content. Data. Enterprise.
For each of these areas I believe there have been 3 key changes which explains both the birth of new firms, why some companies are crossing the chasm into the future and others are struggling. I call it the 5X3 Frame for the Future of Markeing. Few firms have all 15 areas covered but it is a great way to develop action plans and to make a case for change.
a. Audience: Who we are marketing too, how we find them and their mindset has shifted greatly over the past decade.
From Consumers to People with God Like Power: The biggest mistake companies make is they view things through the lens of their Brands and see us as Consumers. Very few people define themselves by the brand they consume. Even an incredible company like Procter and Gamble with dozens of billion dollar brands cannot understand me if they look at me only through the lens of their Brands ( they are too sophisticated to do that) because at the core all their Brands are about dirt removal. Dirt removal from my teeth, clothes, dishes, butt, kids butt etc. Do you define yourself by dirt removal? Or brands that want to have relationships with me . Very few people want to have a relationship with a brand. I want my headache to go away and not have a relationship with Tylenol. It is key to think about people and not consumers.
But even more key is to stop using words like enabling/empowering and other BS ( Yes Google, Apple and a few other companies empower consumers) but most Brands are grappling with highly empowered people who via use of Search, Social, E-Commerce and Mobile destroy any arbitrage of price, information, or place that a Brand though they had. If you were to describe what we can do with a mobile phone to someone 15 years ago they would say why that is “God-Like” power.
From passive to interactive: A decade and a half ago we thought of people we marketed to as an audience since they were primarily passive receivers. Today they create, share and interact and some of them are so impactful that we call them Influencers and there is an entire ecosystem of Influencer Marketing.
From Segmentation to Re-aggregation: As media becomes digital we need to understand that people come to digital media one at a time. There is no mass media that we segment by finding channels or magazines with high proportion of the people we are marketing too. The power of Google, Facebook and soon Over the top television is the ability of self service tools to buy and scale individual interactions one at a time. We no longer are going from a cow of a mass audience to a steak of a segmented audience. Rather we are are re-aggregating single pieces of mince into a hamburger.
b. Brands: Brands continue to be important but the way they are built is changing greatly. Today Experiences, Purpose and Employee Joy matter the most in building Brands. These changes explain the long term secular decline of advertising and communication but the renaissance and rise of marketing.
From Communication to Experiences: Jeff Bezos of Amazon said some companies spend 30 percent of resources on building a better product or experience and 70 percent telling people about it. Others spend 70 percent of their effort on product and service and 30 percent on telling people about it. Jeff said Amazon was the latter company.
In an era of empowered people connected to each other the focus should be on the experience. The brand is the experience and experience is the brand.
From Great Words to Purposeful Behavior: Purpose matters more than ever especially in todays time of social, financial and health challenges. Purpose is not some words left to wander on a lonely corporate website but the way a company or brand behaves.
Employees as Brand Advocates and Key to Purpose and Experience : If a company does not invest and treat its employees well it will be very challenged on both the experience front ( angry, tired and worried employees do not deliver great products or experiences) but also any purpose statement rings hollow if you cannot look after your own people.
c. Content: Content has always been a key to marketing. The three big differences is that there is much more of it, it is far faster and there are many new ways of making it.
Think Poetry and not just plumbing: Today in a world of granular targeting and algorithmic trading we can get the right interaction to the right person at the right time. But what are we paying as much attention to the interaction as getting it there. We must think of the poetry and not just the plumbing. T
Think response not just creation: Many campaigns are started by people. Meme’s or perspectives of about your brand can ricochet all over the world and you need to ensure that in todays world of weaponized platforms you have a world class risk intelligence partner and a rapid action team
Never Forget People choose with their hearts and use numbers to justify what they do: Content that moves is content that moves product.
d. Data: Data is key to future of marketing. It is like electricity. Without electricity one can not keep the lights on. Without strong data a company cannot compete. It is necessary. But it is not sufficient. Because just like few companies differentiate themselves by how they use electricity, very few companies will find a competitive edge in data. It will be a key ingredient and not the be all or end all of strategy. And very few companies will be able to live on their own data. The three areas to focus on data are
Quality versus Quantity: If 90 percent on data has been created in the last two years most companies “data lakes” are filled with muck/mud/ slime.
Real Time Access and not just Ownership: First party relationships with people who buy from you are key. Using platforms as the roadways to reach them will lead to high tolls or blockades. But first party data alone is not enough and how to access and partner with other firms both to build a better understanding and bridge to people but also to design better and more comprehensive products and solutions.
Meaning versus Math: Data is not information, knowledge or wisdom. Algorithms are bias embedded in code. How do you integrate, interpolate, interrogate data and involved diverse mindsets, interconnect to larger trends and add imagination to make meaning from math.
e. Enterprise: If a company is to deliver experiences in a world of people with god like power while steering itself with a purpose and looking after its stakeholders particularly its employees but also making sure it delivers tangible results today it will new to sculpt itself into a new form by building new muscles.
The Paranoid Die. The Schizophrenic Thrive: Andy Grove the late CEO of Intel said only the paranoid survive. In todays age where we need to connect and work together this leads to polarized and insular thinking which explains why Intel has become a shell of itself and is a shadow in the world of Taiwan Semi-Conductor, Nvidia, AMD and ARM (which Nvidia might buy).
Rather than Paranoia the right mindset is Schizophrenia. Companies should run two models. One focussed on delivering today and the other on building a new tomorrow where some of the best talent are given all the assets of the companies and none of the liabilities and asked to do whatever it takes to move into the future including eating and harming todays cash cows.
Culture is the result of what fear free diverse people do when no one is watching: To navigate change companies need fear free cultures of diverse people and mindsets led by leaders who do the shit they claim others should do. Incentivize and train for change and worship no sacred cows.
Trust is speed: If a company wants to be high velocity it must be one built on trust. A company where information and decision making is transparent. Leaders are accountable and Cover your ass deck writing and meetings to prepare for meetings are minimized.
How does your company or your Client companies do in the ABCDE frame?
Hopefully you will find this frame a useful one to add/subtract from and an instigator to thinking and doing.
3.Light and Time
As many of you know I love photography. I believe the best photography captures light and time. It tattoos and evokes memories. Here are four pictures of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel and Ohio Street Beach on three different mornings that I took to capture different light.
Article | March 13, 2021
A lot of our clients want to create a “strong brand” – a very vague term that gets tossed around a lot.
What is a brand anyway?
I like Seth Godin’s definition:
A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.
I also like my definition:
Your company’s brand is what people say about it when you’re not there.
If a majority of your company’s clients come from word of mouth, I guarantee you have a strong brand.
So, what does it take to create a strong brand?
Time (and effort)
You cannot create a strong brand overnight – even if you’re a Kardashian. It takes time and effort to build awareness and a reputation.
When I first launched my company, I networked constantly. I met some of my best clients that way, but my god, I had to endure a lot of ridiculousness. I was once cornered by two government contractors who decided to play “define that acronym” – their idea of a fun game. I went to countless one-on-one meetings at Starbucks that turned into sales pitches and sat in rush hour traffic (there’s a reason I work from home).
After a couple of years, the word-of-mouth referrals started rolling in. And I stopped going to networking events.
An interesting personality
As the business owner, you are the face – and personality – of the brand. This is not the time to be timid. Own who you are and let your freak flag fly. People will remember you – and that’s a critical element of a strong brand.
Worried you’ll scare people away? Don’t be. If people like you, they will work with you. If they don’t, you don’t want to work with them anyway.
People remember me because I tell it like it is while making them laugh at the same time. What do people remember you for? (Go ahead and ask your favorite people if you don’t know.)
A community (preferably in person)
In our digital world, it is hard to build a community – but it is doable. The trick? Make it easy for people to participate.
Ask them questions and allow them to share their ideas. If you use Facebook for marketing, host Facebook Live chats or create a Facebook Group.
But my favorite way to create community? Host regular meetups with hand-selected people once it’s safely to meet in person again. There is NO substitute for interacting face to face.
(Yes, I know I just finished telling you how much I hate networking. This is different, as it’s much more selective; you more or less control who’s there. Invite the people you like and ask them to invite the people they like.)
A phenomenal experience
A great experience doesn’t mean showering your clients (or customers) with confetti and handing out free Champagne. It means making every interaction with you, your team and your products/services a delight.
It means people love you so much that they will talk about you every chance they get.
It also means you …
Do what you say you’re going to do
How many times have you been disappointed by a company’s product/service or your interaction with them? From useless customer service reps, to dirty bathrooms, to products that don’t work as advertised, we tend to have really low expectations.
When you keep promises, you will stand out as a hero. All you have to do is keep communication open, stick to the budget, meet deadlines and actually deliver what say you will.
Stick to your message
When people ask, “So, what does your company do?”, how do you respond? Do you have the same answer every time? Is it clear and concise?
Sticking to one message – generally, your value proposition – makes it easy for people to talk about you. Repeat it enough, and they’ll learn your message and be able to recite it. Maybe not word-for-word, but close to it.
Consistency is so important for a strong brand: consistent quality, consistent experiences, consistent customer service, consistent marketing. Consistency means you are dependable and trustworthy. It means people are confident you will do what you say you will.
Imagine getting an email from a new-to-you-brand. You like what you see in the email, so you click over to their website – and you have no idea where you are. The look and feel are completely different.
You start doubting this company. Are they also inconsistent in the quality of their work? Do they even know what they’re doing?
If you are inconsistent, you will sow doubt in the minds of your potential customers and tarnish your reputation. Don’t take the chance!
Here’s some homework for you: Think about your favorite brands. What do you like most about them? How can your brand emulate them? Creating a strong brand is work – but the payoff is worth it.
Article | July 10, 2020
There’s a lot of large companies in the United States alone. Over 20,000 employ 500+ employees, per the US Census Bureau’s latest available data.After reading more into Google’s Core Web Vitals, seeing chatter from the SEO industry on LinkedIn, and having read and referenced FreshChalk’s small business website teardown in the past, I began to get ideas.So, I wondered: How’s some of the largest company’s digital presences?I decided to start with a manageable project and see where it took me. And so: I honed in on the Fortune 100 and on their homepages.
Article | February 10, 2020
We all are surrounded by Artificial Intelligence. From Siri to Alexa to Google Home, it’s influencing the age we live in and giving higher prospects to execute every task smartly. Most of us nowadays rely on voice search for help even in the simplest tasks. So, how Artificial Intelligence is competent in SEO? How can it manipulate Search Engine Rankings? Have you ever come across the use of Artificial Intelligence in SEO?