Is It A Problem Or…

I heard a great thought from my friend Ted Steinberg the other day. He was talking with a CEO, and after listening to him for a while, Ted said, “You seem to have a tendency to look at opportunities as problems, rather than problems as opportunities.” Ted suggested that this thinking might be holding the CEO’s company back. Perhaps.

Do you look at problems as opportunities or opportunities as problems?

For more of Ted’s wit and wisdom check out his blog  The Matchmakers Triangle.


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Are You Focused on the Wrong Things?

A recent article in Advertising Age touted how CMOs should go about making sure their companies are “customer-obsessed.” Sounded good to me. Early on the author posited this question: “Marketers are predisposed to think about the market first. So why are marketers not naturally predisposed to be customer-obsessed?”

He answered this question by suggesting that marketers, due to P&L pressure, find “this all adds up to marketers knowing more about the product than their customers, and performance gravity creates an increasingly inward-looking team.” Makes for poor marketers since I believe the primary skill required of a great marketer is to think like a customer.

So how does one fix this, since Marketing can hardly be expected to drive a customer-0bsessed culture if they are not customer obsessed. What should the CMO do about all this? Three things according to the author:

  1. Gain intellectual agreement that the customer is at the center of all. He states, and I agree, this is pretty easy to get people to say yes to. However, saying yes and acting that way are two different things.
  2. Act on that agreement by putting the customer at the center of all conversations
  3. Measuring what matters, which is customer-centric

Once the CMO gets Marketing on board then comes the hard part, which is getting the rest of the company on board.

This modern marketing stuff puzzles me. I wonder if we went back in time before modern marketing, and told some CEOs about this new fangled idea of being customer centric. Would they just laugh their faces off at our silly idea that this was a new idea.


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B2Me Has Finally Arrived

laysEver since Peppers and Rogers postulated The One to One Future, marketers have tried to find cost-effective ways to deliver on the promise. I think it surprises many at how long it has taken while still not being pervasive. And yet fascinating new approaches to B2Me come upon us. The latest on my radar is Lay’s.

Lay’s has decided to allow 10,000 people to create their own customized Lay’s potato chip bag. While the user interface to upload the picture could use some intelligence to help non-tech savvy customers create pictures that area exactly 1000px by 1000px, the idea is great. Lay’s hopes to leverage these 10,000 bags into millions of social media shares.

For several years M&Ms has offered bulk personalized candy. While a bit on the expensive side, it has been a B2Me play that works and continues to offer value for the consumer and the brand.

3-D printing also offers ways for companies to produce personalized, short-run products. At the recent Bite SV show, chefs showed off 3-D printed gourmet food products.

1-1 advertising and tailored media never was as big in print as people thought it would become, and cable never embraced it either. But with digital it’s a big deal and we all see examples of personalized ads delivered by cookies after  you visit certain sites. While these predictive indicators need work, the idea is solid.

B2Me is getting more pervasive. Where is your company positioned to take advantage?


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What’s Really Wrong With McDonald’s

lovinitMuch is being written about the so-called McDonald’s turnaround (the current one). Pundits chime in regularly as to what they need to do. Much is being made of “menu creep.” The belief is the menu has grown to the point where it’s too big. Comparisons are made to specialty fast-food burger places such as 5 Guys and In n Out, who do very well per location, with a limited menu, but far fewer locations than McDonald’s.

My view is different. I’ve had lots to say about McDonald’s in earlier posts (just search on McDonald). However, the truth is they long ago gave up the focused menu position for the family, fast-food restaurant position. And they are #1 as a result. The problem is they aren’t executing anymore.

Recently I went to McDonald’s with three young children. Each wanted a hamburger in a kid’s meal. However each wanted their burger slightly different (no ketchup, or no pickles or plain). We placed the order. All three burgers were produced incorrectly . . . twice. It took three tries to get the kids their burgers. Lack of execution.

Then the kids opened their kid’s meals and took out their toys, which were some kind of kids’ action figure. Nice. Until I realized it shot a spear. Who thought that was a good idea? Lack of execution.

Lastly, the restaurant had been recently remodeled so it looked good, but the floor was dirty and the place felt dingy, even though it wasn’t. Where’s Ray Kroc when you need him?

What’s wrong with McDonald’s? It’s simple: they can’t execute at the restaurant level too often anymore. Why? Maybe because the menu is too large, or maybe because the people they hire aren’t trained or capable to do so. Maybe they need to raise their wages not from  social pressure, but to hire good enough talent to EXECUTE.

It’s not about reducing the menu choices by 5%, it’s about executing on your business model. If they are going to offer a wide menu to attract people all day long as well as families, then put the right people in place to get it done.


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If At First You Don’t Succeed…

crystalpepsi…Try, try again. But doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. So, if you are going to try, try again, at least try something different.

Which brings me to Pepsi. Are they so devoid of new product ideas that they need to bring back a failure from the 1990s because a small group of loyal followers want them to bring it back? What’s changed? Is a small niche drink valuable to them now when it wasn’t in the early 90s? Are core sales declining so much they are desperate? Do they think it will catch on this time? My friend Barry Minkin didn’t think so then, and doesn’t think so now.

Here is what he shared with me as to his earlier research on the subject of clear colas:

In 1993 when they were considering a clear Pepsi launch, I called PepsiCo and told them it would be a mistake. At that time a team from PepsiCo flew out to meet me in Palo Alto to hear what I had to say. This morning I made the same call and am waiting to hear if there is someone who is willing to listen and as happened in 1993 cancel the launch or if I’m too late to give advice and they are already on the launch pad.

In my over 50 years as a global management consultant and futurist I learned many lessons in the “real world”. One lesson is that in market research what people say they want or how they act is too often not correct or factual. I always prefer to get out in the real world and observe their actual behavior.

 I use something called the K.J. Method named for a cultural anthropologist, Kawakita Jiro, who initially used the tool in anthropology. Briefly, it is a method for sequential grouping and synthesis of observations. I used the KJ method to observe beverage buyers in busy deli’s during lunch time.

I noted that people who bought Coke and Pepsi know exactly which beverage they wanted and grabbed it immediately. Moreover, their food choice trended to larger portions and meat was favored. I was to eventually label this group who I could never envision eating yogurt or drinking light beer the “Darks”.   Their polar opposite the “Lights”  the Odwalla, bottled/ mineral water buyer seemed to shop through the beverages often reading ingredients. The “Lights” also choose more salads and healthier smaller selections.

Over time and hundreds of observations I was to learn that what Geneen Roth had written was true “We eat the way we live.”  My correlate is we also drink the way we live and eat. From this data I eventually developed the Light /Dark Psychographic Model showing that light/dark segmentation was a valuable logic hook to view values and lifestyles. I later used the technique to convince Anhauser Busch that clear beer would not be the drink choice of  the loyal “Dark” Budweiser drinker in the Mid-West  to go with his steak. They like Pepsi did drop that product. Hopefully, I’ve shed some lite that seeing clear in a Pepsi case would be a mistake, indeed a clear and present danger.

I asked Barry if he felt that things might have changed in 20 years in terms of how the current generation might view color? His answer was an unequivocal “no.” I know he has called Pepsi to see if he can “help” again. Maybe they’ll listen, maybe not. One thing is clear, Barry knows that observing the species in their natural habitat is the best and most reliable form of research. I suspect Pepsi has skipped that step.



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Packaging Matters

medeaThere are many examples of primary packaging costs that exceed the cost of their content. In my book, The Secret To Selling More, I noted that AriZona Tea’s cans cost more than the content of the can. Coke developed plastic versions of their iconic glass bottle. Examples abound. It’s true in secondary packaging as well. For example, Bert-co specializes in secondary packaging for its customers for whom shelf-presence matters.

And then I ran across Medea Vodka. I have no idea if the vodka is any good, but who can pass up a bottle that you can program (easily) a custom message that lights up on the bottle? I assume the product is pretty good (they claim it is great) since putting a poor product in a novel package can get you one sale, but no repeat business.

What is the customer buying with Medea Vodka? What are they buying with your product or service? If it isn’t unique you’re gonna have to sell on price.


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Should the CFO Run Marketing?

TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 - Day 3Since Twitter put their CFO in charge of marketing this has been a hot topic. Some said it made sense, others said no way. Part of the issue is “what is marketing?” In a post last week, I noted this is a core issue for too many companies who allow marketing to be measured by something other than growing profitable revenue.

Twitter itself via its CFO, cum CMO, tried to explain it. And more recently a writer took the position that it made perfect sense since how marketing is managed today needs to change from even 10 or 15 years ago. Well just because Marketing has been mismanaged for a few decades doesn’t mean we need to turn it over to the CFO. Companies need to get back to understanding the true role of Marketing (as opposed to Marketing Communications).

He makes four points:

  1. It’s all about data. No it isn’t and data can be valuable if you can use it to find insights that you can move to action.
  2. Twitter is focused on performance marketing in 2015 because they don’t need to focus on brand building. They have a well-recognized brand. Great, but everybody should be focused on performance, and by that I mean profitable revenue growth. What else matters? Building your brand needs to create profitable revenue growth, unless you are trying to sell the company … soon.
  3. He claims it is the age of mar-tech. That is Marketing must understand the ROI of everything they do. Really, when was that not actually true? Ok, to be fair, if CMOs are not held accountable for ROI, they can ignore it. But whose fault is that?
  4. Breaking down silos is good. Agreed, but companies that combine Marketing and Sales under a single exec still had silo problems and found that great CMOs were rarely great CSOs and vice versa. So how, exactly is making the CFO the CMO going to help?

Bottom line, as we have noted in our book, Value Acceleration, Marketing (as we view it) is the real source of competitive advantage. Why make it someone’s “extra” job?


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