Monthly Archives: October 2015


This Foodie Friday, I’d like to talk about recipes.  Every family has them, as does every great chef.  Obviously, the difference between the results those two types of cooks deliver is large, even if the recipes they use aren’t really all that different.  What’s the difference, then?  The answer is a good business point.  

Let’s think about music for a second.  The musicians are combining their ingredients – the various sounds their instruments can make – based on a recipe given to them by the composer – the sheet music.  Just because you have the sheet music doesn’t mean you can play the tune.   Listen to even an accomplished high school orchestra and compare the results of their playing a symphony to the New York Philharmonic or any other world-class orchestra playing the same piece.  They’re quite different.  Successfully completing the recipe – making beautiful music – takes practice and technique.

It’s the same with food.  You might wonder why many great chefs share their secret recipes so freely.  It’s because they can give you the recipe, but that doesn’t mean you can cook the meal. You make lack their skill, you may lack the quality ingredients they use, you may be missing the tools they have (try comparing a steak done in a home broiler which might be 500 degrees to a steak house steak done at 1000 degrees).  I can almost guarantee you that what you produce and what they produce, even following the same recipe, will be very different.

That’s the business point too.  Just because you think you understand a successful business doesn’t mean you can replicate it.  I can explain my business in great depth, but that doesn’t mean you can start one up to compete with me.  The key for any of us in business is to develop the things that are difficult to steal.  Your team, your culture, and your relationship with your customers and partners are good places to start.  Amazon didn’t have the first online store, but the product they produced from the same recipe as others was just better.  The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, and there were many issued after it, but none with the same success even though the recipe was basically the same.  There are many other examples.

Great recipes are a basic requirement for success in the kitchen and in business, but don’t make yourself crazy protecting them.  Focus on what makes you really better.  Agreed?


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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud


You can’t read anything having to do with marketing these days without running into some mention of ad blocking. It seems as if the entire industry is wringing its collective hands about the revenues lost due to the blockers. It doesn’t seem, however, that there has been a great deal of discussion about how the problem came to be. I’m not going to regurgitate a blow-by-blow of the last couple of years in ad tech, but there are a few important points that are worth pointing out.  

The first, and foremost, is that actions have consequences. You probably tell your kids that all the time but as an industry we seem to have forgotten. Publishers are cramming more and more advertising onto a page. But that action may be the result of the downward push of pricing that’s a function of the rush to programmatic buying. Rather than paying for quality, marketers seem more concerned with a lower CPM. That’s a nasty set of actions.

The consequence of popups, cluttered pages, and slow load times, married to incessant retargeting (which means we’re being tracked!) is ad blocking. According to one survey, 51% of US internet users agree that companies are too often intrusive on social media. Another survey says they feel all of the push notifications we send out are not relevant or are intrusive. There is that word again: intrusive.

The single biggest change in marketing and media over the last decade has been that consumers have all of the control. They don’t watch the prepackaged lineups that networks have been feeding for almost a century (if you take the dawn of commercial radio as the beginning). The world is now user-controlled and curated. Why would an intruder be welcomed?  Why are marketers and consumers in conflict, when one’s entire mission is to help the other to make informed buying decisions?

No answers today, just guidance.  We need to stop intruding.  Even the best creative messaging is intrusive when you see it for the 23rd time in a week.  We need to help publishers provide an environment in which the consumer feels welcome, and the only way to do that is to reduce clutter by paying for the value the publishers provide.  Not every empty space is screaming for an ad.  Some folks are getting it – Turner says they’re reducing ad time on some networks.  Let’s see who is wise enough to follow.

I’ve admitted to using ad blocking myself.  It’s not a great experience – pages break or won’t load fairly often – but it’s better than the minute and a half load times I’d face otherwise.  It’s doing a decent job of keeping the intruders at bay, and the odds are the walls are going to get higher if we don’t change as an industry.  Our actions have consequences and those consequences are becoming more clear every day.


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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Misreading Their Minds

Every so often a piece of research comes along that asks the same questions of consumers and marketers and then compares the answers.  It’s instructive to see the differences in how the folks who are responsible for knowing how their consumers see the world vs. how those consumers themselves see it.  The latest example of this comes from the folks at Spong, and their 2015 Brand Reputation Study.  Their release on the information begins with this:

An organization’s brand is one of its most valuable assets. Greatly influenced by the reputation of the organization, the strength and weaknesses of a brand can have a direct impact on every aspect of the business, including the bottom line. But when it comes to evaluating what is most important or least important about a brand, a new brand reputation study from Spong indicates that marketers may not really understand what consumers care about and think.

Hmm.  That doesn’t sound particularly good, but what does it mean in real terms?  First and foremost, it turns out that marketers overestimate how often consumers talk about brands.  Marketers seem to think that consumers chat about what companies are doing a poor job, with 88% of marketers saying they think consumers do so daily or weekly.  The reality is that fewer than a third (31%) do so.  While a little paranoia is a good thing, I suspect this thinking leads into another data point the survey found.

Marketers underrate editorial and overrate social as a source of information, with 14% of consumers calling editorial a top source of accurate brand information.  Only 6% of marketers think consumers see it that way.  Conversely, we’re smarter than most marketers are about the accuracy of social media.  27% of marketers think consumers use it as an accurate source of brand information; the real number is less than half that (13%).

Consumers also put more importance on whether a brand is local far more often than marketers think consumers do. 30% of shoppers said they would always or most of the time choose local over national brands, all things being equal while only 12% of marketers would expect that sentiment. I guess the point is that once again, those of us who are supposed to have our finger on our customers’ pulses have missed the boat. As they summed up:

The research paints a picture that should serve as a wake-up call for marketers, whose stock in trade is understanding what triggers consumer behavior. As the research reveals, marketers over-valued a few key customer concerns at the expense of the wide range of other issues affecting their decision-making.

I agree wth that.  You?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks