Ben Bradlee died yesterday. For anyone who lived through the Watergate era I think it’s impossible not to know how important a figure he was. For those of you who only read about that time in history class (or worse, those of you who haven’t), Mr. Bradlee was the editor of The Washington Post during Watergate and he was the man who allowed the investigation and reporting of a break in at the Democratic headquarters (located in the Watergate complex) to go on even though everyone thought it was, in the words of the White House press secretary, a “third-rate burglary.”
Why should you care? Let’s begin with something from the obituary his paper ran:
From the moment he took over The Post newsroom in 1965, Mr. Bradlee sought to create an important newspaper that would go far beyond the traditional model of a metropolitan daily. He achieved that goal by combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines. His charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.
Let me add something to that to put it in perspective. The August Harris Poll found that 76% of U.S. adults surveyed believe that celebrity gossip and scandal stories receive too much coverage, while 49% believe that entertainment news in general gets too much attention. The kind of journalism practiced by the Post in the Bradlee era is almost dead, having given way to partisan bickering, “advertorials”, and reprinted press releases. The real lesson for all of us in business is the last sentence I quoted: leadership.
It is very easy in the realities of business to take the easy road. It’s easy to let a local robbery story go when the pressures to do so from your management, your advertisers, and the Executive Branch of the government are telling you to do so. Bradlee didn’t, nor did he when he decided to print stories based on the Pentagon Papers, a secret Pentagon history of the Vietnam War. That is leadership – doing what is right, setting standards, and inspiring those who work with you to do so as well.
“People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.” It might have been at that moment that the notion of trusting one’s president and government fell apart forever. Ben Bradlee and his commitment to excellence and the truth, even if the face of his own doubts and fears, opened our eyes. The business standards he lived by are mostly gone now in his field which is a damn shame. Maybe we can all work a little harder to keep them in our own?
You probably have a flashlight app on your phone. I know I do. It comes in quite handy as you’re fumbling around when you get home later than expected and haven’t turned on any lights to help you find the door lock. Prevents one from tripping over any stray cats in the driveway too.
Here is something you might not know about your flashlight app or about any other app for that matter. It may be doing way more than just lighting up your way. It may be spying on you and leaking data about you all over the place. According to a piece on Wired this morning:
The FTC has clamped down on another flashlight apps for doing downloading data for advertisers without informing consumers, and these seemingly innocuous apps are only a small part of the problem. On my phone, several apps want access to information they probably shouldn’t, and odds are, that’s the case with your phone too. The lesson here is that when it comes to mobile software, there’s really no such thing as a free app. But there’s a corollary, and it’s that this whole world of mobile app privacy is both murkier and more troubling than things are on your computer desktop.
Scary. I did a quick audit of the dozens of apps I have installed on my phone and while most don’t seem to ask for more permissions than might seem logical, a few do. One app – which ostensibly is there to help me find recipes – asks for permission to :
- find accounts on the device
- add or remove accounts
- read sync statistics
- create accounts and set passwords
- use accounts on the device
- read sync settings
- toggle sync on and off
We build trust via transparency and good behavior. Stealing user data to sell to advertisers without an explicit permission from the data’s owner is neither. Some smart mobile company is going to position itself as being the “completely safe” one, an environment with apps that don’t leak data and where encryption is the norm. Until then, check your app permissions. You might find it illuminating.
Foodie Friday Fun this week begins with a chalkboard. I went out for dinner last night and the place I went was small. After having been seated, one might expect the server to produce a menu. He didn’t. Instead he pointed to a chalkboard hanging on wall next to the open kitchen. “Tonight’s menu is there” he said. There were no specials – everything was a special.
The menu was small. A few different types of crostini, two different types of pasta, a fish, a lamb dish, a beef dish, a duck dish and dessert. Only three. Everything was based on the ingredients available locally that day. Having researched the place prior to going, I’d seen an assortment of previous menus. One or two of the dishes popped up several times but the menus really varied from day-to-day. They reflected the philosophy of the owners: fresh seasonal ingredients prepared simply. Which of course got me thinking.
Many businesses try to be all things to all people. They produce products in response to a competitor’s success. Brand and line extensions are one way to leverage all of the brand equity we’ve built up. The reality is that if the “larger menu” isn’t done as well as the array of choices that built that equity in the first place, we end up diluting what we’ve built up in the consumer’s mind.
The local ingredients had another advantage – much lower costs since they weren’t being shipped from around the world. The prices at this place were reasonable. They didn’t serve wine or liquor although you could bring your own (and they didn’t charge corkage!). Again, maintaining a wine list was a distraction for them. No inventory can go bad when you don’t have any.
I think this place’s philosophy is a good one for businesses to emulate. Do a few things well. Make everything special. Make your products with the best “ingredients” you can find, where they be the people who provide your services or the materials from which your products are made. Quality over quantity? Maybe, although I think quantity comes from quality. What do you think?
Filed under Consulting, food
Big headline this morning on eMarketer. It reads:
Good News: Publishers and Media Buyers Both Like Native Ads
I don’t know about you but I feel so much better that native advertising is here to stay. For those of you unfamiliar with the subject, native advertising is ad content that presents itself as editorial. Maybe you’re reading the website of a popular magazine and there is an article on what to look for when buying sunscreen. Maybe you don’t notice that it’s written by the head of marketing from a sunscreen manufacturer. If you know that, does it call into question any of the information you’re reading? It does in my mind if that information recommends that you look for certain things on the label (you can bet they’re on HIS product’s label), etc.
This piece over at copyblogger can show you more examples. My guess is that you had no idea that some of what you’ll see is advertising. That’s the issue I have with the headline. Publishers are represented. So are advertisers through their media buyers. What’s missing?
You are. We are. Consumers are. They may like it but do you? I don’t. And this does not make me feel any better about it:
In a June 2014 study by Mixpo, nearly three-quarters of US publishers said having a native advertising offering was important. And they were taking action. The majority of respondents offered a native advertising solution, and an additional one-fifth planned to do so within the next few years at most.
I don’t want to have to wonder if anything I’m reading is editorial or advertising. I don’t want to be researching my research to ascertain if it’s unbiased or quietly (some might say sneakily) advocating a brand. I don’t like native ads unless they are clearly labeled as “advertising” and I’m sad that what I think (or what you think) doesn’t seem to be part of the equation that’s formulated about its future.
What’s your take?
A report this morning from Kitewheel got my attention this morning. They “examined the current breakthroughs and breakdowns in engagement with today’s connected consumer.” The results aren’t very encouraging to those of us who like to think we’re in touch with the expectations of our consumer base
They hired some folks to survey consumers and marketing decision makers with respect to consumer expectation around experience and brand execution. A few key findings:
- 76% of consumers use mobile devices to compare prices and read reviews while shopping, yet 51% of marketers are not currently managing mobile apps as a consumer touch point.
- 55% of consumers state frustrations in downloading an app that offers no functional difference from a business’ website.
- 68% of consumer respondents expect a response to tweets directed at a brand, and one in three expect a response within 24 hours. Yet 45% of marketers state it is unlikely that their company can respond to every one of these social media opportunities.
- 73% believe that loyalty programs should be a way for brands to show consumers how loyal they are to them as a customer; but 66% of marketers still see it the other way around.
In other words, we’re disconnected from those who access our brands via their phones. We look at loyalty programs as consumers putting their hands in the air to show they love us. They want them to be ways in which we show how much we love them. Doesn’t sound like the basis for a happy relationship.
Five areas of disconnect were discovered including: mobile, social media, real-time e-commerce, omni-channel capability and brand loyalty. Every one of those five has become far more important over the last decade and yet it seems as if many marketers are living in 1999. As the study says, the overall journey of today’s consumer is frequently a broken one, with significant misalignment between consumer expectations and brand execution. We need to think about how to fix that misalignment and do so quickly. You agree?
Filed under Consulting, Huh?