Radio Interview 1600 AM/95.9 FM Albuquerque New Mexico

I had the great pleasure to be interviewed on Terry White’s weekly radio show, Focus on Biz, about marketing. We spent a lot of the time talking about bringing new things to market as his adult children were preparing to launch a new to the market business and we spent a fair amount of the interview talking about the challenges of being first to market.

I was thrilled to learn that the radio station felt this was the best of Terry’s interviews ever. (Just bragging, but he did say so.)

Give it a listen.

Mitch

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Erasing a Problem Brand the Easy Way

Bayer is buying Monsanto. Many Americans recognize Bayer as aspirin, but really they are a global drug maker based in Germany. Monsanto is a global agri-products maker with a truly bad brand reputation at this point. So, smartly, Bayer is going to end the Monsanto name. Normally killing off a 117 year old, well-recognized brand would be a dubious strategy. In this case it is genius, since the Monsanto brand has become toxic.

Bayer will keep the product names/brands and claims they intend to “…deepen their dialogue with society.” And “…listen to our critics.” Time will tell how this goes, but meanwhile they are able to shed the baggage that became the Monsanto name.

Mitch

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One Directional Conversations in a Two-Way World

Any observer of customer relationship management today can easily see we now live in a two-way world. Brands and companies no longer control the conversation or message delivered about them to the marketplace. Sharp companies have dedicated people monitoring social media to make sure the company knows what is being said about them, so they can respond appropriately. It is truly a two-way conversation … when it is.

I was reminded of the anomaly in this in a post by the Customer Value Foundation. They noted, accurately, “Have you noticed when dealing with companies, especially through the e-media, the company can get in touch with you? They contact you when they wish to. But when you try to get in touch with them, you cannot, unless it is pre-ordained by the company you can contact them.”

Think about it: how many companies that you deal with via the web make it impossible (or at least way difficult) to call them. Try to find a phone # for amazon. You can if you work hard at it, but it is not easy. And they claim to be totally customer obsessed. As long as you do it their way.

In the name of “efficiency” too many companies today are killing effectiveness. But then if they all do it, finding an alternative company to deal with can be difficult. Customer experience is likely now the only sustainable competitive advantage as almost everything else can be copied or replicated. However, if your company’s definition of “customer experience” is that you will be outstanding as long as the customer does it your way… I’m not convinced that is really a Customer experience focus.

There is an expression that I am reminded of: It’s better to have customers talking to you when they are not happy, then talking about you. And in today’s world everyone as the internet microphone.

Mitch

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As Predicted

While it took a bit longer than anticipated, the “experts” are now predicting that J.C. Penney is circling the drain. I have seen that coming since 2104 as I noted in several posts back then (just search the archives); but then I wasn’t being paid as the CEO or a Board member to pretend the Board didn’t kill it off when they fired Ron Johnson in 2013, and returned to the failed strategy that caused them to bring Ron Johnson to the company in the first place.

It’s too bad Boards are not actually held accountable for their actions, but then maybe nobody would serve on them if they were held accountable.

J.C. Penney didn’t die because brick and mortar is in trouble, they died because the Board did not have the courage to let their turn-around guy (Ron Johnson, not the caretakers who have come in since) make it happen over a reasonable timeframe.

This Board joins, the HP Board and the GM Board on my list of top incompetent Boards of U.S. Companies.

Mitch

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Media Hype

Forever (probably), but at least for decades the media has hyped their “readership,” “viewership,” or whatever. They have tried to convince potential advertisers that they have the precise audience the advertiser needs and lots of them. For a long time their word was the only source of information.

Later, due to skepticism at least, these self-reported “viewers” began to be measured by independent 3rd parties like Nielson. This began to add credibility and true knowledge and insights for potential advertisers; and made rates potentially more realistic based on “audited” audience sizes.

The advent of pay-per-click mitigated that to some extent because the advertiser now pays for clicks not eyeballs. An improvement, but as anyone knows those clicks can be crap and you pay anyway. And, the first order effect of whether those clicks will be valuable is tied to the audience.

Well, here we are back at the beginning. Facebook announced they were removing over 500MM fake users. That represents over 25% of their stated users. Seriously, 25% of their users were not real? Did they not know this, or was it not in their best interest to report it? And this is only the beginning. Why?

How many dead people are on Facebook still? They can’t remove themselves and without their password their heirs can’t either. So how many dead people are still on Facebook? And is that more or less than the number of dead people who vote in Chicago?

Bottom line for me is something I learned long ago: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mitch

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The Power of Focus … Part 9

I’ve published several posts on the power of focus. (Heck there’s a whole category in the blog history on it). Bottom line, companies improve their performance by narrowing their focus. Diversification usually makes the bottom-line worse, even if it improves the top line.

Today’s example is Gibson Guitar. Probably the most famous guitar brand in the U.S., they filed for bankruptcy last week. Well, the current incarnation of the company, Gibson did. You see while they still make the iconic guitar, back in 2010 when they were doing “only” $300MM in revenue and 12.9% profit, their CEO decided to “diversify.” Five years later they were doing $2.1B in revenue with a 4.1% profit margin. Skill and excellent management strikes again.

The guitar business is still growing. They have a 20% market share in electric guitars and over 40% market share in guitars costing over $2K.ng. It’s the rest that’s a mess, along with huge debt that came from the acquisitions for diversification.

What went wrong? A lack of focus, driven by a strategy to take Gibson from a guitar brand to a “lifestyle brand.” Seriously? Did the CEO think that up all by himself or did he pay somebody to help him? The lifestyle focus took them into headphones, speakers and turntables including the Phillips and Onkyo brands among others.

They are restructuring to cut other than the guitar business it would seem. The CEO owns 36% of the company, which he undoubtedly will lose most of in the restructuring. At least it is not just public shareholders being hosed by this failed strategy.

Unfortunately, many companies believe that once they go public they must keep growing the top line to drive an ever-increasing stock price. This may be true, but an ever-increasing bottom-line is what really matters; and that comes from focus.

Mitch

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If You Can’t Fix It, Feature It: Part 5

Those words said to me several years ago by Roy Fields have been golden. This is the fifth post on this specific topic, and you can find the others with a quick search of the key phrase.

I saw the sign in the image at a restaurant I frequent. I thought it a brilliant way to explain outages of particular food items while gently slamming the “competition.”

What do you think?

Mitch

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