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Archive for the ‘adoption’ Category

From Mark Smiciklas and Intersection Consulting, here is my new house. Well… It is more of a bubble, really. But a bubble can be a house, right? Yes it can. Especially when you own some unicorns and pixie dust, as I do.

Those shadow people with black clouds over their heads and dark thoughts about getting results and “selling” stuff, I used to think like them. I used to try and align Social Media integration with their objectives, and warn them about people who only pretended to know how. That was before my favorite Social Media rock stars told me I was too snarky. That I should focus on writing positive stuff, not pointing out snake oil and bad practices and whatnot. All that negative stuff. Now, thanks to my new bubble, I feel engaged! I can’t wait to have conversations with people! I don’t worry about right and wrong anymore. No such thing when you’re in the bubble.

To think I used to explain how to do that stuff, and point out when people tried to sell the space on bogus R.O.I. calculators, and pass off BS campaign results. I can’t believe I used to be so negative! Who needs unnecessary debate in this space, after all? People like me, sticking their noses where they don’t belong, pointing out best practices and really bad ones.What was I thinking? This is much better! Don’t you think so?

#stepfordTBB

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I was in France when I shot this video.

In it, I talk about differences in Social Media adoption rates between the US and Europe as well as between B2B and B2C companies.

Also in this video, some thoughts about understanding your business first, Social Media second, and a quick little visual tour of the Suquet (the setting for the video). Shot in Cannes, the week after the 2010 Cannes Lions. Enjoy.

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networkbash-vid

Thanks to Bobby Rettew and View (these guys do an awesome job with anything that touches video or event coverage) for organizing the event, mediating the panel and also covering the event. Talk about multitasking! (All we had to do is just sit there and answer questions.)

On the panel (left to right): Me, Steve Gonzalez, John Warner, Phil Yanov and Trey Pennington. Lots of Community Management gravitas and Social Media savvy on that panel.

Click on the image (above) to go check out the videos. You’ll notice that there are three: The first is the intro, the second is the panel discussion, and the third is the Q&A session.  Enjoy.

Follow-up to this post.

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(Corporate leaps of faith rock my world.) photo by toimaginetoo

I like to go back to the archives every once in a while – partly because I’m a little crunched for time these days, but mostly because the vault contains some pretty solid posts that you guys might never had the opportunity to read. I originally wrote this post for the Corante Marketing Hub, back when I was its online editor.

Back then, Grant McCracken had pointed us to Coca Cola’s apparent then-new shift to the long tail:

“Given its pending portfolio of coffee soda, gourmet teas and Godiva drinks, Coca-Cola is expected to expend more time and energy on low-volume, high-margin categories than ever. (…)

Rather than look at beverages on a category by category basis, Mary Minnick, head of marketing, innovation and strategic growth, has said Coke is looking at how beverages fit into consumers lives. She has described the need states as, “Enjoyment today,” “feel good today,” and “be well tomorrow.”

– Kenneth Hein, from Strategy: Coke Seeks Relief (Again) By Scratching The Niche. (Adweek. March 06, 2006.)

And that seemed fine and good and all, but… whatever happened to… just… great taste?

When I order a latte from my favorite coffee shop or buy a bottle of Orangina or and IBC cream soda, it isn’t because of “enjoyment today,” “feel good today,” and “be well tomorrow.” It isn’t because of clever packaging or image or transference or projection. It’s because I’m in the mood for a particular flavor. This is about mood and palates and lifestyles, not “feeling good” and “being well”.

Oh, I know… I don’t have TCCC’s millions of dollars of research at my fingertips… but you know what? I’m wired just like everyone else, and I know why I buy drinks. I know why my friends and colleagues buy drinks. They like the taste. They look for context. Catch-phrases have nothing to do with it.

You can make any study and any set of numbers and statistics and results say anything you want. Especially when you have a whole lot of time and money invested in new products whose development needs to be justified to a board of directors.

Could this be a case of the tail wagging the dog? (TCCC’s need for some kind of ROI from its product development programs?) Is TCCC’s real strategy just a numbers’ game? Is it to throw as many products at us and see if anything sticks? Where ten years ago, none of these new drinks might have ever seen the light of day, now they’ve found a chance at life in “the long tail.” Could this just be a front? I guess the question is worth asking, even though I’ll assume – for the sake of this discussion – that this isn’t the case.

TCCC, here’s a tip: Drop the gimmicks. Focus on taste. Whether you love wines, beers bubble teas or kefirs, it always comes down to flavor. Most people who choose to drink Coca Cola do so because they prefer it over the taste of Pepsi. It isn’t because the cans are red or because Coca Cola makes them feel happy or look cool. (The glass bottles might be the exception.) The taste, before anything else, is at the core of the Coca Cola experience.

Whether you’re The Coca Cola Company or a startup with a great idea for a product, before you spend millions overthinking your strategy, just focus on making a really great product. One that people will love to discover and use and talk about. If you love it, chances are that lots of people out there will love it too. If you really want to grab hold of the long tail, you have to start with you. The game isn’t about pleasing everyone – or the majority of “the market” (which has been TCCC’s strategy for decades). It’s about creating a product for a very specific core of rabid fans/customers.

The trick though, is this: You can’t do it by trying to fill a need based on market research (American women between the ages of 32 and 46 with a median annual income of $68-97K responded favorably to XYZ… yadayadaya…). It’s what TCCC has been doing for years, without much success. It’s what everybody’s been doing too. It’s what you do if you want to be an “also in”. Your only recourse once you’ve greenlighted a new product launch is to outspend your competitors in everything from advertising to POP displays to licensing rights, and then try to hang on as long as you can. It’s ridiculous.

The right way to do this is to do the work. The real work: Instead of quantifying a culture, penetrate it. The supertool here isn’t statistics, it’s anthropology. Here’s another tip: the moment you start quantifying tastes, you’ve lost your focus and drifted back to the lukewarm center, just like everyone else. This is the easiest mistake to make, and also the most common.

The way you develop a chocolate-flavored drink isn’t by talking to 10,000 people on the street. It’s by talking to 10,000 chocoholics. These might even be people who love chocolate but hate chocolate drinks. (How cool would it be to have 10,000 people with such specific tastes tell you why they love chocolate but hate chocolate drinks? Tell me you wouldn’t crack that code with that level of feedback.)

The point is: Do your research at the extreme edge of the bell curve.

The way you develop a new endurance drink is by talking to rabid cyclists and triathletes and marathoners. The way you develop a new game console is by talking to avid gamers (not casual gamers). The way you develop a new Pop Tart flavor is by talking to people for whom Pop Tarts is a major food group. This isn’t about talking to 0.3% of American shoppers who are representative of the 60% of shoppers who place Pop Tarts in their Top 10 likeliest breakfast foods. It’s about talking to the fraction of a percent of people who live and breathe the stuff that is at the core of your new product’s identity and raison d’etre and will buy your new flavor of Pop Tarts every other week.

Not just talking to them, but understanding what makes them tick and embracing them completely.

The long tail, after all, isn’t about markets. It’s about cultures. Subcultures, even. The more specific, the better. Think skateboarders. Think triathletes. Think online gamers. Think photography hobbyists. You either become a central part of those cultures, or you go home packing.

(Incidentally, the Pop Tart team absolutely gets it.)

If TCCC wants to grab hold of the long tail and make its new strategy work, it needs to un-Coke itself. It needs to shed the TCCC formula where these offshoot brands are concerned. It needs to create truly independent subsidiaries staffed by people who live inside the cultures they are trying to cater to, and completely outside the reach of the Coca Cola culture.

Think of it as United Artists trying to produce “independent” films with $100,000 budgets. The only way they could do it well would be to create a smaller studio managed and staffed by people who live, eat and breathe the indy culture… and let them do their thing without corporate interference, bureaucracy and big business politics. Anything short of that would result in total and utter failure.

Remember Coca Cola Blak? That was the type of product Mary Minnick was talking about: Low volume, high margin (wishful thinking if your product is perceived merely as water, natural and artificial flavoring, food coloring and high fructose corn syrup… and doesn’t taste so unbelievably good that it will make people want to trade their current favorite flavor for it). TCCC going after the Starbucks crowd with Blak may have seemed like a good idea on paper, and I guess it was worth the shot (no pun intended). It might even have worked had the price point matched the perceived value of a Coca Cola retail product.

Blak launched in 2006, when his piece was written… and finally died a few months ago after a long painful battle with dismal sales and lack of interest. (Most likely due to its very high pricepoint – holding true to Mary’s strategy – than its missing the boat on taste. Red Bull doesn’t exactly taste delicious, yet it has found its market. Draw your own conclusions.)

Beware business plans that look great on paper and are based on top-down (wishful) thinking. Successful entrepreneurs (and their projects) usually do a whole lot better when their ideas come from the bottom of the distribution tree: See a need, fill a need. (That includes understanding the pricepoint-value perception feedback loop.)

Truly understanding your customers, your users, your future fans (your market), heck, actually getting back to becoming one of them is the only way to discover your next great game changing idea. The rest, as they say, is up to you.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone.

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From David Burn, at Ad Pulp:

Hal R. Varian, professor of business, economics and information management at the University of California, Berkeley explains “Kaizen, the practice of continuous improvement,” in today’s NYT.

Kaizen doesn’t just mean a business should keep trying new things. Rather, it refers to a disciplined process of systematic exploration, controlled experimentation and then painstaking adoption of the new procedures.

The most successful online businesses are built on kaizen, though few of those who carry out the testing would recognize the term, since many of those who created these online businesses were in grade school in the 1980s.

The online world is never static. There is a constant flow of new users, new products and new technologies. Being able to figure out quickly what works and what doesn’t can mean the difference between survival and extinction.

Aside from the painstaking adoption of the new procedures part, Kaizen has the right idea: Inject every aspect of your business with purposeful evolution. To actually make it work in today’s world though, the adoption portion should be fluid and painless.

Kaizen also needs to completely drop the word “procedure” from its vernacular and find something a little less rigid. Getting bogged-down with ever-changing procedures and associated bureaucracies end up being frustrating, confusing, and will work against a process that favors and encourages change. In today’s world, flexibility of execution is more vital than ever to a rapid evolutionary process. A business must be able to anticipate, react and adapt to changes in its environment (consumer tastes, emerging technologies, evolving design) quickly and painlessly. I am not advocating the elimination of procedures altogether, but merely suggesting that they should exist more as a foundation and backdrop for most operational and tactical functions within a company rather than being front-and-center.

IDEO-style rapid ideation/prototyping/testing/production is a great example of how some of Kaizen’s key principles can be adapted to an accelerated product development/upgrade cycle. The underlying system is in place, but while the main lines of the product development process rarely change, flexibility of execution is at the core of its effectiveness. Welcome to the next step in Kaizen’s evolution.

If you happen to be in the business of actually making widgets, this puts a lot of pressure on manufacturing and quality control operations – which tend to favor tried-and-true procedures and safe A-Z systems to an ever changing landscape – but that’s just part of the challenge if you want to play with the big boys (and girls). If not, flexibility of execution tends to be a lot easier to get comfortable with.

Remember that in most cases, improving any business function isn’t necessarily about making things better or faster or easier, but simpler. Focus on making things more simple (for you, your vendors, your customers, etc.) and better, faster and easier will happen on their own.

Have a great Thursday, everyone. (Hey, I got the day right today. Maybe I haven’t been hitting the sauce after all.)

Photo by Tom (doyoulikeit/buzznet)

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