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Archive for the ‘growth’ Category


Via the SwampFox Insights blog:

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”

—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

The man has a point.

Check out this brilliant website.

A lot of people don’t think of “design” as being all that important, because our daily interactions with “design” are limited to gadgets like the iPod or the latest pair of Oakley sunglasses, or maybe a faucet or something. Maybe we think of design when it comes to cars and clothes and furniture. But smart design can also save thousands of lives every day. Yes, something as seemingly superfluous as “design” can change the world. (Starting with the first tool, taking a detour via the wheel, and fast-forwarding to the millions of things we now take for granted, like the plasma TV, the hybrid automobile, the artificial heart, and even the ubiquitous bottle of Coca Cola.

If you aren’t the humanitarian type and couldn’t care less about saving lives, bear in mind that design can also create entirely new markets. (We just talked about getting there before the herd, so your ears should be perking up just about now.)

How can smart design can create new markets? According to this article in the New York Times entitled “Design That Solves Problems for the World’s Poor” (annoying subscription required):

“A billion customers in the world, are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses, a $10 solar lantern and a $100 house.”

For starters.

That’s something to think about. Not in terms of exploitation, but in terms of wealth and opportunity creation. (The development of the easy-to-use, virtually crunch-proof windup $100 laptop – specifically designed to introduce computers and the internet to 3rd world children – is probably among the most ambitious of these types of endeavors, but also a great example of how we can start to create opportunity in regions of the world in which mere survival is still the order of the day.)

While everyone else is trying to appeal to the richest 10%, maybe, just maybe, the real opportunities are elsewhere. Maybe the time to get into these markets is before they even exist. The seeds are being planted now. The herd is starting to gather. Maybe by the time the market exists and the pastures are green and lush, you’ll find yourself in the back again. Maybe you’ll kick yourself in the butt for not having made a move sooner. (History repeats itself.)

What if you could create one of the most lucrative companies of the 21st century AND save tens of thousands of lives at the same time? What if you really could be enormously successful AND help save the world all in one fell swoop? What if you could have your cake and eat it too?

In this economy, perhaps these are questions worth asking yourself – especially if you are a US or Western European manufacturing company looking for a reason to go on.

Don’t even approach the problem from a humanitarian standpoint if you don’t want to. Approach it from a business standpoint. Here’s the problem you need to solve: 90% of the planet’s population wants something that they probably can’t get very easily. All you have to do is figure out what that is, how much they’re willing to pay for it, and how to get it to them. It could be a mode of transportation. It could be a light source. It could be a sanitary product. It could be food. It could be a garment. It could be knowledge. It could be something as simple as a tougher bicycle wheel. It could be anything.

There is no single answer. There are probably thousands upon thousands. And that’s exciting.

Whatever it is, it could also have applications right here, where the richest 10% of the world population lives and eats and shops 24/7/365.

It might even be a better option than trying to become the next Google.

Food for thought.

So… what are you working on right now?

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Via OrangeYeti, from AdPulp, here is a little bit of an interview given by Maurice Levy (Publicis Groupe) to Scott Donaton (of Ad Age). If you’ve ever worked for a company that was so set in its ways that it had grown stale, you’ll understand what Levy is talking about:

“I have never stabilized an organization. Crystallizing an organization is freezing the energy. In chemistry, instability is very good because it creates some combinations you don’t expect.”

“Without change, there is fossilization,and that’s the worst thing that can happen.”

“Ideas,are so fragile, so tenuous, that managers must destroy layers that can obscure or damage them. If you have an organization that is too administrative, you are just killing the ideas. As we say in France, when you ask a committee to draw a horse, you get a camel.”

Read the full interview here.

So there you have it: As a business leader, look for flux. Look for tangents. Look for the unexpected. Recruit adventurously. Give your people the freedom and flexibility to contribute in the most personal, passionate of ways. Eliminate silos and procedures when it comes to the sharing of ideas. When it comes to dialogue. When it comes to cooperation. Decentralize “meetings”. Deconstruct the project ideation process. Empower your people to set the stage for extraordinary new products, business improvements, and creative work.

If you can’t trust your people enough to empower them, to literally give them the keys to the place, then you aren’t hiring the right people. Your job as a leader isn’t always to “lead”. Most of the time, because you aren’t there to bark orders or stand over everyone’s shoulder, it is simply to create an environment, an ecosystem, that allows your team, your army, to do the best possible work they can. It is to create a culture that makes them want to be a part of something greater than the sum of their job description. That makes them proud to be, even.

Ideas are fragile.

Without change, organizations die.

These are the two little mantras you should keep chanting every time you pick up the phone, or a magazine, or your TV remote. They should be in the back of your mind every time you shake someone’s hand or invite them to have a seat.

Embrace instability. Welcome change. Engage uncertainty. Welcome the unknown and love it for all of its infinite number of possibilities.

And they truly are infinite.

Chew on that. Have a great Friday. 😉

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Geno Church speaks at SMC Greenville

From Lydia Dishman’s piece on FastCompany.com:

Energy. Enthusiasm.  Optimism.

Hardly words that come to mind when describing a 7:30 am meeting on a chilly Monday morning.  But the main dining room of Soby’s on South Main Street in downtown Greenville, SC fairly crackled with the energy of the 100 people packed in for the inaugural meeting of the Greenville chapter of the Social Media Club (SMC).

Live feeds made the meeting available to groups in Shanghai, China and Orlando, Florida. A welcome message by Steven Weathers, an American professor currently residing in Shanghai, kicked off the high-octane feature presentation by Geno Church, “Word of Mouth Inspiration Officer” of Brains on Fire, a local branding agency in Greenville.

Using slides, film clips (including the hilarious “These go to eleven” sequence from This is Spinal Tap), and stories, Church chronicled the success of campaigns such as Fiskars “Fiskateers” and the Park Angels in Charleston to illustrate how social media played a role in the viral building brands. As enthusiasts connected to each other, relationships grew and consequently strengthened the brand’s image. “Community loves company,” explained Church… Read the rest of the article here.

(Then recommend it and come back.)

So what do you think really motivated 100 people to get out of bed a lot earlier than normal on a freezing cold Monday morning to come hang out together? (Aside from Geno, of course.) Do you think it was to talk about FaceBook or Twitter? Do you think it was to exchange tips about apps, widgets and how to get more followers? Do you think what brought these people together – not only in Greenville but all around the world in this case – really had anything to do with Social Media tools or tech talk?

Or do you think that maybe, just maybe there is something a whole lot more relevant and important going on? Something much more human and powerful?

I welcome your thoughts.

To connect with the Greenville Social Media Club, go ahead and say hi to @SMC_Greenville on Twitter. The group will follow you back. 🙂

Event Photo Galleries: @nullvariable, @linkerjpatrick, @thebrandbuilder (If you have more photos of the event, we’d love to share them here.) Also Check out Channel 7’s coverage of the event here.

Social Media Club Greenville

Cheers!

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How smart businesses are learning to combine “traditional” media and new “social” Media Channels to grow their brands:

Interesting slideshow from Austrian-based Knallgrau in which the company outlines some of the social media strategies and tactics they used in helping BMW seed interest in new X1 concept and promote its launch. Not entirely crystal clear (not bad for non-native English speakers though) but still pretty helpful in outlining how to incorporate new media channels into a complete 360 communications plan – especially if you are still new to social media/new media. Essentially, here’s how to break it all down:

Traditional media channels: The first three bars on the graph (left to right). Television, Print and Radio. Some basic attributes:

  • High costs
  • Closed (Monologue)
  • Emphasis on quantity instead of quality in intended audience (reach-to-transaction conversion is <10%)

Social media channels: The long tail of the reach & depth curve, including Search, Blogs, Podcasts, YouTube, wikis, Twitter, Facebook, virtual worlds (like Second Life and even World of Warcraft), active communities and networks, etc. Note that new media channels are getting thicker (much broader reach) and also more more specific (deeper and well defined) – both good things if you care about who your target audience is. Basic attributes:

  • Fractional costs
  • Open (two-way conversation/dialogue)
  • Emphasis on quality AND quantity (reach-to-transaction conversion >10%)

It is important to note that new media/social media channels are not intended to replace traditional media channels. If anyone tells you that traditional media is dead, they’re hacks. Don’t listen to them. The reality of media channels is simple: All channels have value, all channels address specific needs, and all channels need to be used intelligently in order to get the best possible results. Turning your back on any channel for any reason is basically turning your back on an opportunity to grow your business. It’s just silly. Truth: If a channel hasn’t worked for you in the past, it probably isn’t the channel’s fault. It just means that you haven’t yet found a way to make it work for you and your business. There’s an easy fix to that: Try again… and ask for expert help if you have to.

Whether you are developing your own media strategy internally or looking to hire a social media consultant to help you tackle this new marketing toolkit, remember to always look for a healthy balance in all things: Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket (traditional media or social media). If there is one concept that you need to take away from Knallgrau’s presentation, it is the concept of “seeding”, which is purely a breadth strategy: In order to maximize your reach (or even understand what channels work best for your company), you need to seed your brand across as many channels as possible. If you can take a step back for a second and look at every channel as an investment (which it is), what you have to do is use simple logic: Don’t put all of your eggs in just two or three baskets, especially when you know that the price of entry is high, and the dividends aren’t all that stellar. The smart strategy is simply to diversify your marketing channels portfolio.

Once you’ve identified which channels seem to be catching on (getting some sort of positive and quantifiable result), THEN start working on depth within those channels.

This takes a little bit of THINKING when it comes to mapping out how these channels will work for you. Hire someone who can help you make sense of this if you need to, but be cautious: With “social media” being the hottest marketing keyword right now, self-professed “social media experts” are popping up like a bad case of teenage acne. Unfortunately, most of them are anything but.

Nb: My bit of good karma for the day: If you are looking for a solid social media consultant/practitioner either in your area or your industry, shoot me an email and I will help you connect with the right person or company. The list of real practitioners is still pretty short, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get you properly hooked up. My email: olivier@f360photo.com

Making it all work: Traditional Media and Social Media require different languages and mindsets.

While we’re on the subject of keeping the hacks away, it is very important for me to point out that the type of communication between companies and customers (or rather brands and people… and more people… and even more people), that takes place across new media channels is fundamentally different from the type of communication that occurs within traditional media channels. In the latter, messaging is king, and messaging is essentially a monologue. Conversely, the type of communication that takes place across social media is instead a dialogue. A conversation. The two require distinctively different approaches, and therefore two completely different mindsets. The danger in relying on self-proclaimed “social media experts” is that most come in two very distinct and equally ineffective forms:

  1. The ad/PR agency who has finally hopped on the bandwagon about a year or so ago because everyone else was adding “social media” to their list of services. This breed will typically charge you hefty fees to set up a blog, create a community site or two, maybe even use Twitter as a means to send out press releases, but then nothing will come of it. They will get you into the right channels, but then use them the only way they know how, which is to treat them like traditional media channels. The result: Zero impact. Not only will you will have wasted valuable time and money on a poorly executed plan, you will also walk away convinced that social media is a worthless fad. This happens A LOT. It’s pretty much reached epidemic proportions right now. Way too many companies fall into this trap and I want to see it stop.
  2. The Social Media cultist who keeps proclaiming that traditional media is dead. (Not in the real world, it isn’t.) I fell for that line a few years back when I realized the cost-benefit of social media, but I’ve gained enough experience and insight since then to realize that we were a little premature in declaring advertising and PR dead. (Thank goodness too.) These guys might convince you not to spend one more penny on advertising or PR. They will quote a handful of great examples of very well known companies that have grown their brands without resorting to traditional media channels… but those are few and far between and probably don’t apply to you. Truth: The vast majority of businesses can’t survive on social media alone. Even Apple – arguably the most successful superlovebrand whose fans will line up for days to spend their mortgage payment on its latest i-gottahaveit bit of design genius – spends a small country’s GDP on advertising. Starbucks, which for years never bothered with any advertising whatsoever is spending money on billboards and TV ads now. In spite of what these folks will tell you, social media is not the second coming.

In either case, it isn’t that the professionals you are dealing with are dishonest or out to “get your money.” Not at all. Most of these folks are trying to make an honest buck and they do want to help you. It’s just that they don’t really know how because they only have a portion of the equation figured out. Unfortunately, without the whole thing, you’re kind of screwed. You could equate it to toeing the start line of a marathon with only one running shoe, or having only trained to run 13 miles instead of the full 26.2. Sure, you might survive, you might reach the finish line, but at what cost and in what shape? The objective here isn’t for you to survive and gut it out just to say you spent some time in the race. The objective is to get ahead. To win, even. You don’t stand a chance if you don’t really understand what you are getting yourself into right from the start.

Here’s a tip: True social media practitioners a) understand the value of both traditional and new media channels, b) know how to get the most out of both traditional and new media channels individually, and c) can help you blend traditional and new media channels in order to maximize results and achieve your business goals. In other words, look for someone who knows how to strike the right balance for you, and NOT someone who will steer you towards one extreme or the other.

Straight talk and common sense: What this discussion all boils down to.

Back to the point: If you own or manage a business, learning how to incorporate new media channels into your existing marketing strategy is absolutely vital to your business’ future.

Especially in this economy.

Having an intelligent, balanced and well executed growth strategy that leverages both traditional AND new media will save you money, improve your brand equity, grow your market share, boost customer loyalty and engagement, and provide you with countless opportunities to increase your overall sales numbers. Period.

All of this is actually pretty simple to incorporate into your business… as long as you have a trustworthy and knowledgeable friend on your side who can guide you through it.

If you commit to learning how to make your company or marketing department smarter and more efficient through a combination of old and new tools, surround yourself with the right people with the right mindset and experience, and truly commit to kicking some ass (in the right way), very good things will happen.

Trust me, just like every other company out there (big and small) that has figured this out already, your modest investment in expert assistance (either by partnering with an expert or adding one to your team) could pay off BIG in no time. The alternative is to do nothing, continue to invest in an incomplete marketing portfolio, and hope that business will magically get better. (Good luck with that!)

Shoot me an email, and I will hook you up.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

😉

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For Chris:

Interesting and sobering article published back in May on yournewreality.com. (Yeah, I’m behind in my reading a bit.) We’ll get to it in a minute.

Note: Because I am a worthless echo chamber (isn’t that what we bloggers are?) I won’t bother to fact-check, but feel free to do so at your leisure.

About this article, I will just say this: Alarmist vernacular aside, if you ignore the doomsday predictions and just focus on the numbers, our nation’s current financial situation isn’t good. Worse yet, our nation’s financial future is not looking good at all. There might be a reason why so many CEOs are negotiating ridiculously high compensation packages and bouncing from job to job as often as they possibly can.Maybe they saw the writing on the wall long before the rest of us did.

Okay look, I know we all want to live in big houses, drive cool cars and dress like movie stars without having to work all that hard for it – and worry about the costs later- but there comes a point when you kind of have to wake up and accept that a) credit has its limits and b) financial responsibility isn’t something you can put off. This applies to banks a whole lot more than it applies to consumers, but it does start with individual responsibility when it comes to our attitude towards borrowing. Without debtors’ prisons around anymore to remind us that credit isn’t infinite, we need to start giving some thought to how and why we buy the things we buy.

What does this have to do with branding? Two words: “Brand USA.”

This has to do with future foreign investment in the US economy, in the fate of the US’ workforce, and in the viability of its buying power twenty years from now – as opposed to say, Asia and Europe.

Put yourself in the shoes of an investor with a finite amount of money to invest, and do your homework. Then ask yourself this: Right now, are the US economy and the US Dollar really your best bets for a strong return on investment? Is the dollar doing well? Is the US creating more jobs than it is losing? Are the new jobs being created as good for taxpayers as the ones they are “replacing?”

The rub is that economic pressures tend to work as circular cause-and-effect cycles. Lack of confidence in US markets by foreign-owned banks can trigger the kind of economic downturn that our current overconsumptive lifestyles might not jive well with. Downturns shatter investor confidence. Low investor & consumer confidence means more slowdown.

It isn’t brain surgery.

In the past, a good way to kick the economy into high gear was to get involved in a good war. War always stimulated economies… But in the global marketplace we live in today, we’re more likely to stimulate China’s economy by going to war than our own. What was true of the 1940’s isn’t applicable to the world we live in today.

For all the “reality” TV we consume daily, we’re painfully out of touch with reality.

Brand USA could really use a big boost over the next 6-12 months… and neither the Huckabee-Clinton-Obama-McCain race to the White House nor the current state of things in Iraq nor the endless stream of bonehead “news” stories about Britney, Paris, Lindsay or whatever politician got busted doing something embarrassing in airport bathrooms is really helping.

Now news about the exciting research that American Universities and labs are moving forward with in fields like advanced robotics, superconductors, fuel efficiency, AI, smart materials, etc., about exciting emerging technologies and how they can be incorporated into our everyday lives, and how successful grassroots social programs could be used as templates for large scale federal programs in coming years might serve our interests as a nation a bit better.

As a nation and cluster of business communities, we really need to raise the level of the conversation just a tad.

Read this, and I’ll let you figure out the rest.

Americans, on average, spend more money than they earn. How do they manage to do this? Easy credit, low interest debt.

Thanks to their magnificent consumption, soaking up the goods produced by tens of thousands of Chinese factories, Asia keeps offering Americans easily accessible credit and buys up the monumental debt wracked up daily by the American government in the form of Treasury bonds. Without Asia both offering credit, and buying up debt, the average American lifestyle as they now know it would cease exist.

But even though the US government, and federal reserve, freely admits to shocking levels of debt and losses, the true scale of America’s extremely fragile economic situation is lost behind illusionary accounting practices, the kind that no corporation is allowed to get away with.

The true scale of America’s extremely fragile economic situations has now been exposed :

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and military personnel. The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

“We’re on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations,” says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more accurate federal accounting.

Modern accounting requires that corporations, state governments and local governments count expenses immediately when a transaction occurs, even if the payment will be made later.

The federal government does not follow the rule, so promises for Social Security and Medicare don’t show up when the government reports its financial condition.

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.

Unfunded promises made for Medicare, Social Security and federal retirement programs account for 85% of taxpayer liabilities. State and local government retirement plans account for much of the rest.

This hidden debt is the amount taxpayers would have to pay immediately to cover government’s financial obligations. Like a mortgage, it will cost more to repay the debt over time. Every U.S. household would have to pay about $31,000 a year to do so in 75 years.

It would seem almost impossible for the American economy to be facing disaster when the stock market is roaring past 13400 points, but most of this growth comes from the availability of extremely cheap debt. Get a big fat low interest loan and pour the money into stocks and bonds, and watch the stock market climb.

Mike Whitney is not alone in claiming the strength of the American stock mark is but an illusion, a simple con aimed at propping up the American dollar and holding back the financial devastation that will eventually break out across the nation.

The illusion, he claims, is shattered when you take a look at what’s happening to American real estate, and it’s not a pretty picture. When the real estate market completely disintegrates, so will most of the rest of the American economy :

The real estate market is crashing faster than anyone had anticipated. Housing prices have fallen in 17 of 20 of the nation’s largest cities and the trend lines indicate that the worst is yet to come.

March sales of new homes plummeted by a record 23.5% (year over year) removing all hope for a quick rebound. Problems in the subprime and Alt-A loans are mushrooming in previously “hot markets” resulting in an unprecedented number of foreclosures.

The defaults have slowed demand for new homes and increased the glut of houses already on the market. This is putting additional downward pressure on prices and profits. More and more builders are struggling just to keep their heads above water.

This isn’t your typical 1980s-type “correction”; it’s a full-blown real estate cyclone smashing everything in its path.

Tremors from the real estate earthquake won’t be limited to housing–they will rumble through all areas of the economy including the stock market, financial sector and currency trading. There is simply no way to minimize the effects of a bursting $4.5 trillion equity bubble.

The next shoe to drop will be the stock market which is still flying-high from increases in the money supply. The Federal Reserve has printed up enough fiat-cash to keep overpriced equities jumping for joy for a few months longer. But it won’t last.

Wall Street’s credit bubble is even bigger than the housing bubble—a monstrous, lumbering dirigible that’s headed for a crash-landing. The Dow is like a drunk atop a 13,000 ft cliff; inebriated on the Fed’s cheap “low-interest” liquor. One wrong step and he’ll plunge headlong into the ether.

The stock market cheerleaders are ooooing and ahhing the Dow’s climb to 13,000, but it’s all a sham. Wall Street is just enjoying the last wisps of Greenspan’s low interest helium swirling into the largest credit bubble in history. But there are big changes on the way.

In fact, the storm clouds have already formed over the housing market. The subprime albatross has lashed itself to everything in the economy —dragging down consumer confidence, GDP and (eventually) the stock market, too. The real damage is just beginning to materialize.

The entire thing house of cards is propped up by confidence. The confidence that says property prices will recover. The confidence that claims the stock market will stay strong. The confidence wishes, dreams, hopes, that jobs will grow, that exports will rise, that the inevitable crash and burn will never come.

Perhaps spending more state and federal money on education, infrastructure, healthcare networks, and research might yield better ROI than supporting the Halliburtons and Blackwaters of the world. We just can’t keep borrowing trillions of dollars from foreign banks to fund little more than day to day war-driven government services, an ill-managed federal budget and our purchasing power… and expect the bubble to keep growing and growing and growing without ever bursting.

Unlike the other olivier blanchard, I am not an economist, but as a guy who has worked for fifteen long years to finally get out from under a pretty decent amount of debt, this seems pretty obvious: Debt doesn’t just go away when you ignore it. Sooner or later, you have to pay the piper. Yes you, not the next guy.

No one is going to bail us out of this mess. No one is going to come along to magically rebuild confidence in our economy or our government. Democracy only works if people take their civic, financial and professional responsibilities seriously. As a nation, we could be doing a whole lot better.

Also check out this very cool visual tool.

Additional reading:

US Economy Overtaken By EU And Japan

Whitney : Doomsday For The Greenback

Chinese Taking Out Unsecured Loans To Invest In Stock Market

China’s Stock Market Plunges 6.5%, Losses Continue Into Second Day

To leave comments (and read previous, related posts) hit the brandbuilder’s main page.

Image source: China Economics Blog.

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