Monthly Archives: March 2013

Toasting The Barrel

The first Foodie Friday post of Spring, or maybe I should be calling it “Boozie Friday” given the topic.  Either way it seems as if Spring has taken forever to get here.  Now that it has arrived so too do some of my favorite sporting events, one of which is the Kentucky Derby.  There are many beloved traditions associated with the first Saturday in May but the one in which most people seem to indulge is the Mint Julep which of course means bourbon, Kentucky’s whiskey.

Bourbon is aged in barrels, specifically new, charred white oak barrels.  That’s right – charred.  Before the raw whiskey is put into them, the barrels are “toasted.”  The heat burns the wood which imparts flavor to the end product.  Which is, of course, the business point today.

Many managers spend an awful lot of time trying to avoid conflict.  In some cases, they legislate the conflict away – they make all the decisions and the staff is there to follow orders.  I disagree.  I think businesses need to be more like bourbon barrels.  No, I don’t advocate burning them down.  Applying heat to them in a strategic manner is, however, something in which I do believe.  People need to bat ideas around.  They need to have a good debate about product, marketing, resources, and anything else that affects the business and, therefore, them.  Those discussions will, by their nature, generate heat.  It can’t be allowed to set the entire enterprise ablaze (you want to char the barrel, not burn it up) and that’s part of the manager’s role.  Heat imparts flavor – you don’t hear of any foods that are frozen to impart taste (you cook ice cream before you freeze it, wise guys).

Don’t be afraid of conflict.  People will disagree and that friction can lead to better things if it’s managed properly.  Letting your team know that it’s ok to have differing points of view brought to the surface is important.  Ultimately the supervisor needs to help everyone reach consensus and if that’ not possible, to make a decision as to the final direction.  But even if a team member’s desired course of action isn’t the one taken, knowing that they had input which was considered as one option strengthens the team.  A little heat for a brief time added flavor and made for a better product.

Now where did I leave the mint?

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Word Count Zero

Some days it’s a pretty easy thing to crank out three or four hundred words here in the screed.  Other days it’s a struggle and today is one of those days.  Oh sure, there is plenty of research to write about and a few stupid business tricks about which I’m aware, but I’ve noticed you guys tend not to read the research-oriented posts (there will be fewer) and the stupid stuff the businesses are doing isn’t really taking the idiocy to a new level.  So I’m kind of stuck here at word count zero.

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Maybe it’s a good day to write about inspiration vs. preparation.  I try to be prepared by clipping articles I think might provide good fodder for the screed on those days when the inspirational spirit is weak.  The process is one that many businesses use in product development   Find something that’s interesting, add your own twist (hopefully making it better in the process) and market the heck out of it.  The articles I’ve got clipped are fine but my own twisted thoughts seem to be lacking.

Maybe it’s a good day to write about that there’s not a lot to write about.  Businesses seem to be in a rut – there’s a lot of more of the same but not a lot of innovation.  Perhaps that’s because we’re finally on a more sound economic footing and business is getting a chance to see what works in a more normal economic environment.

Maybe it’s a good day to wish one of my dearest friends a happy birthday and write about how the lessons I’ve learned from our relationship over the last 20 or so years have helped me be better at business.  Too many of us tend to think that personal and business behavior should be different.  Not me.   In part that’s because he’s helped me to understand that people who are nice to you in a restaurant (business) and nasty to the servers (personal) are going to turn on you as soon as they no longer think you can help them.  All too true.

Then again, maybe I’ll expand each of those thoughts later on.  In the meantime, we’re done here today unless you have something to add.  Do you?

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Are You A Premium Brand?

I read something that the folks at OpenX released the other day in conjunction with Digiday.  It’s the results of a study on Programmatic Buying and how it affects premium publishers. Since 71% of publishers and buyers trade ads programmatically it’s a big deal. You can read the paper here.

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Having been a publisher of premium content I can tell you that I hated selling anything programmatically.  I wanted my sales folks involved directly with the buyer.  Not just so that we could get the premium CPM we felt we deserved but because we needed to earn that higher rate by doing a better job of meeting the needs of the client and delivering perfect service.  The study sums it up nicely:

Publishers, fearing the commoditization of the inventory surrounding their expensively produced content and painstakingly nurtured audiences, have every right to guard their investment. They want to make sure that any system that removes “friction” doesn’t also remove the distinction of their brand and the quality of their adjacencies, as measured by audience engagement. And, understandably, they want to preserve the professional relationships that forge the bedrock of their sustainable revenue growth.

Exactly.  But as the Digiday article states, premium is all in the eye of the beholder.  Which raised the issue I’ve been considering:  how do you define a premium brand?  Is it scarcity?  To a certain extent it is although there are plenty of Lexus cars around and that’s a premium brand.  Cost?  Maybe relative to other products in its class but coffee can be premium and it’s still relatively inexpensive.  One factor involved is positioning.  If you usually fly first class, being in business class seems cramped.  To a coach passenger, however, business class is premium.  Another is authenticity of some sort.  I was a publisher of hockey content – there are lots of people who do that.  I was the only official league outlet, however – that meant scarcity, authenticity, and in our minds a greater worth.

I could go on here for another 1,000 words but the notion of “premium” is one that’s going to become even more front and center as content becomes more commoditized.  I mean that not only in media buyers‘ minds but also in consumers’ minds.  It’s hard to ask consumers to pay a premium, either in money or in attention,  for an app or content or anything else if we can’t establish that premium status in their minds.

What do you think?

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