No Super Bowl Ad Review This Year

I didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year so I’m not going to review the ads as I’ve done the last several years. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl for three reasons.

  1. I usually always watch so I can review the ads. But since virtually all the ads are run online before the game at this point, who cares. It’s not special anymore.
  2. I don’t hate the Patriots and I have no other affinity for either team.
  3. I am not happy with the NFL and their stand on the National Anthem vs other actions they forbid because they choose to

I’m in a minority of people who didn’t watch the game, but then I am also one of a few people who people who’ve never seen an episode of The Game of Thrones.

My last thoughts on the reduced viewership of the NFL this past season is best summed up by a quote from Yogi Berra: “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody is going to stop them.”


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How Do You Know If It Is Good Enough?

I found a good article in Entrepreneur Magazine discussing the frustrations of perfection vs good enough. As the title states, the author provides two questions she feels you should ask to help you know when good enough really is. Her questions are valuable, but not the one I would ask.

My question is how does the customer feel about it? As I have mentioned in earlier blog posts, good enough is the metric that matters for customers. Charging for more than your customer wants makes you over-priced. Providing less than the customer needs, wants and demands causes them to look elsewhere. It’s good enough when your target customer says so. Period.

That being said, there is a challenge. What was good enough yesterday may not be good enough tomorrow. Many years ago I worked with a company that provided equipment services to hospitals. Average turn-around time was a week. This company did it in 2-days for about the same amount of money. They raised the bar. The challenge for the CEO came when a competitor came in with 24 hour response. His initial comment was: “Those customers don’t remember how bad it used to be.” Doesn’t matter, the game is changing.

UPS delivered in 2 weeks with no tracking. Fed Ex adding overnight and tracking. They changed the definition of good enough. Amazon got us all used to free shipping and 2-day delivery, which is becoming 1-day in many cases.

Good enough is a moving target. Stay connected to your customers and you won’t miss out or focus in the wrong areas so you add costs without adding value.


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Back to the Future in Retail

As you may know, Amazon is moving more and more into brick and mortar. They are opening book stores, while others are closing. They bought Whole Foods, which may soon no longer be referred to as “whole paycheck,” and they are opening convenience stores.

The convenience stores, Amazon Go, are fully automated. You simply pick the items you want and walk out. Using an app, the “store” knows what you bought and they bill you via your credit card. Now that is true convenience.

Amazon is clearly doing what most other retailers have stopped doing and that is understanding what retail customers want in their in-store experience. Different shoppers in different stores want different experiences, and most retailers have stopped understanding that, and their sales show the results.

Perhaps more importantly, Amazon Go is doing something Sears pioneered over 100 years ago, long since forgot and their closing stores reflect it: the vast majority of customers are honest and it doesn’t pay to treat them as thieves to prevent the very few from cheating you. Thus was created the “satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back.” Younger readers may not recognize that slogan as Sears long ago abandoned the idea along with many (now most) of their customers.

Amazon Go gets it, as evidenced by a CNBC shopping experience.  They ended up with a single serve yogurt in their bag they weren’t charged for. They reported it to Amazon and the VP’s response was pure ‘old day Sears’: “First and foremost, enjoy the yogurt on us,” Puerini said. “It happens so rarely that we didn’t even bother building in a feature for customers to tell us it happened. So thanks for being honest and telling us.”

Next time you hear about the demise of brick and mortar, consider what I have said for years: It’s self-inflicted.


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Maybe It Isn’t Slipping Away, It’s Being Pushed Away?

Yesterday I posted about a recent (current) experience with the once great company, FedEx. Turns out some of what I reported yesterday was wrong, which only makes things worse.

The package was not sitting in Sacramento for 2+ days without moving. That was me misunderstanding the graphic display of information provided by the FedEx tracking system. I discovered this when the package actually got to Sacramento yesterday afternoon. If you take a look at the tracking report below, you can see what I am talking about. (You’ll need to click on the image to get it bigger so you can see what I am talking about.)

Turns out the package has not been in Sacramento since Sunday but rather on its way there. This becomes clear when you see that last night it arrived in Sacramento. This is a BIG difference. And here is my question (without regard to what I believe is a confusing display of tracking information), why did a level one and a level two customer service person tell me they did not know why the package was in Sacramento since Sunday. It wasn’t! The fact that I misunderstand the information is what it is, but how could two customer service people trained and employed by FedEx not know that the package was not actually in Sacramento?

Does FedEx have a training or a performance standards problem? I doubt they know because I doubt they even know this silliness is going on. Why? Simple, they have no ability to know because there is no feedback mechanism in their system. Without feedback how would they know?

It used to be the recipient was equally important to FedEx as the shipper because the recipient could also become a shipper. Not really anymore. Most big shippers know and use (or not) FedEx. Until and unless enough people complain about FedEx they won’t care. And when that finally happens, what will they do? The same thing all entrenched, established companies with dominant market share do when people have had enough … scramble to fix it assuming they can and it isn’t too late.

BTW, the FedEx logo is upside down on purpose. That is the international sign of a vessel in distress.



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When Greatness Slips Away

FedEx used to be a great company. When it absolutely, positively had to be there overnight… And if you wanted to know what was going on with your package, great people were there to help. Now they seem to be morphing into the USPS. What happened? Is it just inevitable that great companies can’t sustain it once they get bigger? Maybe it’s tougher, but I don’t accept that its inevitable.

Today FedEx has a great online package tracking system. But what happens if the online system makes no sense? For example, why has my package been sitting in the Sacramento facility for 2 full days, going on 3 without moving towards me. After all, it is only about 2 hours away.

Calling FedEx, a clearly off-shored person simply reads me what is on the website about my package. When I explain to her that I can read that, she says, well that’s all I can do. So is her purpose just to help those without internet access? When I pushed, she offered to get someone else to help me.

That person, also read me what was on the website. When I asked why it was in Sacramento for 2+ days she said because of the weather (that was also on the website, but the weather is in Memphis, not Sacramento). When I pointed this out she offered to open a case, which would take 48 hours to resolve. Since the package is promised in 36, I said never mind. Two people no more helpful than customer service at USPS.

Why would I pay extra to ship it FedEx anymore? I can get “don’t care” service from USPS for a lot less.

What happened to FedEx?



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Language and Its Application

I was flying last week (oh there’s a news flash) and on my flight back from Atlanta we were delayed from leaving the gate for several preventable reasons. After being 20 minutes late with no explanation, (One wonders if the airlines just don’t know that people don’t like being left in the dark. No that can’t be it, many years ago United ran an ad noting that fact and pledging to fix it. Another promise not kept.) the pilot finally announced why we have been delayed through no fault of the airline but that we would only be 20 minutes late leaving and since we were scheduled to make the trip in 20 minutes less than expected, we would still arrive on time. Hurrah for them.

Forty minutes late we finally left the gate and sat. Apparently we were on one of the last planes known to exist that did not have electronic communication with the ops department and they needed an update, which had to be delivered manually. Again, the pilot explained things and told us he was frustrated too.

After we finally left the gate, that’s when the Language question comes in. The lead flight attendant announced the airline’s apology for our “slight” delay. Seriously, 40 minutes late is their idea of a “slight” delay? Is this creative use of language? Does the flight attendant really believe that 40 minutes is only slight? Does he think if he calls it slight we will agree? Who trained him to use this language and what were they thinking? Or maybe they weren’t thinking!

Anyway, the slight delay turned into over an hour and we arrived one hour late. Well technically only 45 minutes and then the pilot advised it is a quick taxi to the gate … 15 minutes, thus the hour. Again, who trains these people?

How are your people insulting your customers with their use of language? Who trained them?


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What is Marketing … Really?

Thrilled that Gardner Business Media published our thoughts on what is marketing … really.

Happy Thanksgiving.


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