Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

People. It’s Always About The People.

I spent Memorial Day in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It’s a beautiful place with a resilient population. To continue building and rebuilding, time and again, after hurricanes ravage not only physical buildings, but an entire community’s way of life, is nothing short of inspiring.

The sun was bright. The weather, warm. The beach, perfectly manicured. The food, flavorful. I explored. I partook in some local beverages. I ate well.

Two of the places I ate at, were owned by the same woman: Edith’s and its more casual sister restaurant, The Office. Before I go any further, let me say, if you ever get the opportunity to dine at either place, please do. The menus were diverse. The staff attentive. The prices, fair. And the experiences were completely memorable.

I was blown away by how amazing the staff was. Following the dinner at Edith’s, I remarked, “I’ve never seen such a complete commitment to creating an experience, at a restaurant.” A good colleague of mine, smiled and then told me an astonishing detail about the owner of places, Edith. Every year, she closes both restaurants for 6 weeks. During those 6 weeks, she pays her staff to spend time with their families and travel the world to learn from other chefs and restaurateurs. The 6 week hiatus allows the staff to recharge, learn and become inspired for how to keep Edith’s and The Office as one of the best restaurants in the area.

That a restaurant, which relies on tourism, shuts down for 6 weeks, voluntarily, is, in itself, an amazing story. I had so many reactions. But, as I reflected on this story, on my flight back, something clicked. In 2009, I wrote, “Make no mistake, the most important asset is human capital.” I also, often remark, that a critical goal of any organization should be, to get an unfair share of top talent. What Edith was doing, in ensuring that she was getting that unfair share, by investing in the important asset in an organization: The People. The local population of Cabo is constrained. It hasn’t grown much in the past decade, while the portion of Cabo San Lucas residents that have matriculated from the United States has grown significantly. It also remains a top tourist destination for United States residents.

The expectation that tourists have, can be quite high. Their choices for where to spend their hard earned dollars, are plentiful. By investing in the people, Edith is able to attract the best restaurant talent in the Cabo San Lucas area. And, it’s that talent that creates a dining experience, worth blogging about.

A better way to sum it up, might be this often shared parable:

Investing In People

It’s a great question and something we should all be thinking about. Are we, in fact, creating an environment, where we’re investing in people to a point, where we’re able to keep the best and attract the best?

The Jerk To Value Curve

We’ve all worked with a “jerk” or “asshole”, if you prefer. The least bold, commonly stated and potentially “A lot of people say don’t fire great engineers — but they’re wrong. It only takes one asshole to destroy an entire team.” on the subject is that “you need to fire the jerks/assholes in your organization, regardless of how brilliant they are, in order to be successful.”

Of course, this statement, is quite easy to disprove. I submit the following geniuses, who also happened to be well documented jerks, for which, if removed from the organization, it’s clear the organization would be significantly worse off.

Steve Jobs
Michael Jordan
Jeff Bezos
George Patton
Thomas Edison
Bill Belichick
Benjamin Franklin
John D. Rockefeller
Jackson Pollock
Bill Bowerman
Pedro Martinez

I can go on and on, listing brilliant people, who were complete and total jerks, who were directly responsible for the successes of companies, teams, governments, the arts and humanity. Of course, when you bring up anyone from this list, especially Jobs, the response back is, “well that’s an outlier.” That may be true, but outliers are also the ones that we look at from the sidelines and wonder, “damn, how did they do that.”

This is not to say that we should aspire to be jerks or that we should tolerate jerks or that there is some pride to be had in being a jerk. But, it is to say, that the over-simplified, popular refrain of “organizations shouldn’t hire jerks and should fire all the jerks” is at best, misguided and designed for link-bait.

I see it as something a bit different. I think, it boils down to value. You simply can’t “out-kick your coverage” when it comes to being a jerk (perceived or real).

Jerk To Value Ratio

We’re generally accepting of a jerk so long as their level of jerkiness doesn’t outpace their value to the organization. We’ll accept Jordan’s jerkiness, so long as he keeps bringing home NBA titles. We’ll tolerate Patton’s indifference to “management” so long as he continues winning battles, taking back towns and increasing troop morale. Steve Jobs can a maniacal, heartless, condescending jerk, so long as he keeps inventing products like the iPhone that move the world and shareholder value.

We’ve seen this play out time and again across sports, politics, companies and life. Jerks, like it or not, are part of the success of organizations. The key however, is hiring the right jerks and putting them in the right roles, so that they enhance the organization, not tear it apart.

But, before all of you jerks start clapping, remember, your jerkiness can never be perceived to be worse than your performance or the potential performance of a replacement.

Rules For Being A True Fan

Jordan Dunks

Some time in the early 2000’s Bill Simmons wrote a fantastic article, titled, “Rules For Being A True Fan.” It’s a masterpiece. Seriously.

Before going any further, in this post, read the article, in its entirety and then come back over. Done? Good.

What I loved about his article is that it truly got to the heart of what being a fan really means. It’s about loyalty, tradition, history, suffering, celebrating, misery, hope and faith. It’s also very logical. Being a fan, is not the same as being a fanatic. The true fan roots for his/her beloved Cubs, but knows they aren’t winning a World Series, this year. A fanatic throws logic out the window and proclaims, this is the year, the Cubs win it all.

Over the years, I’ve referenced Simmons’ article often. It’s the perfect mic drop for having a debate with another sports junky. In recently re-reading it, I realized, that while still a masterpiece, it was dated. It needed to be updated to reflect the modern sports world that we live in.

I think it needs some updates to reflect the modern sports environment. Specifically:

Bill’s Rule #1: “You can’t purchase a “blank” authentic jersey from your favorite team with no name on the back, then stick your own name and number on the jersey … well, unless you want to be an enormous dork.”

Kmiec’s Rebuttal: With free-agency, one and done and players being traded left and right, I think it’s actually better for a fan to get a jersey with their own name on the back or to buy a retro jersey of a player that’s iconically tied to that team. For example, a throwback Bird jersey never goes out of style. As a Bulls fan, while Scottie got traded to the Rockets and Jordan left for the Wizards, the reality is, I never stopped being a fan. But, updating your jersey collection to reflect the current roster of a team, could bankrupt you these days. A Bulls jersey with my name on the back, never goes out of style and it always reflects that I’m a Bulls fan, for good and for bad.

Bill’s Rule #13: “You can follow specific players from other teams, but only as long as they aren’t facing your team. For instance, it’s fine to enjoy the Brett Favre Experience if you’re a Jaguars fan … just don’t get carried away and start making a scrapbook, collecting all his football cards and so on. That’s a little sketchy. And you can’t purchase his jersey under any circumstances.”

Kmiec’s Rebuttal: We need to broaden this rule. You can’t say, I’m rooting for my team in the playoffs, but I also hope another team does well, just because I like a player on that team. For example, as a Bulls fan, I can’t both root for the Bulls in the playoffs and root for the Spurs, because I like Duncan. One team. That’s it. This become woefully apparent, when you’re both rooting for you team and an opposing player, because you like him.

Bill’s Rules 18/20: “If you live in a city that has fielded a professional team since your formative years, you have to root for that team. None of this, “The Bengals weren’t very good when I was growing up in Cincy, so I became a Cowboys fan” crap.” and “If you hail from New York, you can’t root for the Yankees and the Mets. You have to choose between them.”

Kmiec’s Rebuttal: A slight modifier is needed. If you live in a city that has multiple teams in the area, you can pick none of the above. For example, let’s say you live in the NY/NJ/PA tri-state area. It wouldn’t be crazy to think that as a south Jersey resident you could root for the Eagles or as a Central Jersey resident, you root for the Rangers and so forth. The reason I’m pushing for picking none of the above, is it allows you to play the role of the heel. And we all need a heel.

Simmons Rule 19: “Once you choose a team, you’re stuck with that team for the rest of your life … unless one of the following conditions applies:…”

Kmiec’s Rebuttal: We need to add a bullet that outlines what happens with a particular player causes such shame on a franchise, that it’s completely ok to abandon ship. Lets call this the BALCO rule. If you were a Giants fan, it’s ok to leave because of Bonds. Ditto with A-Rod. Or Pete Rose. Or what happens if your team drafts Winston? Electing to root for another NFL team, if you were a Ravens fan, following their handling of the Ray Rice situation, is something I could understand.

Beyond those edits, I’d like to add a key, new rule. I’m going to call it the Lebron Law. You can root for a team, that’s not your team, so long as it is with the intent of watching someone so hated/despised, lose. This works on a lot of levels. For example, rooting for UNLV against Duke, because you don’t like Laettner. Or rooting for any team, even a rival team, if they’re playing the Cavs/Lebron. Or, my personal favorite, rooting against any team Lindros was on, because he was a dick and you never want to see him get the satisfaction of raising The Cup.

You may be wondering, so who do I root for and why?

Baseball: I’m an Atlanta Braves fan. Some context…I was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1979. I was raised by my grandfather and my mother to be a Mets fan. My dad, being raised in New England was a Red Sox fan. I went to Mets games as a kid. My favorite player was Lenny Dysktra. I rooted for “nails.” I had a signed glove. And I cursed the Mets when they traded him to the Phillies for Juan Samuel, in 1989. By the time they traded Dysktra, I was living in New Jersey, but had not yet entered my formative years. As an angry 10 year old, I vowed to never root for the Mets. My dad, the Sox fan, asked who I would root for, then. The petulant and stubborn child I was, lead me to pick the worst team in the league, the Atlanta Braves. Surely choosing the worst team in the league would show the Mets how upset I was. How did I even know about the Braves? Well, if you recall, TBS had a huge deal with them and broadcasted every single game. It made becoming a fan, at 10, quite easy. I’ve never wavered since 1989. I lived with the Braves misery thru 1990, the breaking of my heart over and over from 1991 thru 2005, save the 1 World Series win in 1995.

Basketball: The Bulls. It’s always been the Bulls. Jordan was my favorite college player. He landed on the Bulls in 1984 and the rest is history. Ironically, I don’t have an MJ jersey, but I do have a throw back John Paxson one. Outside of MJ, he’s my favorite player.

Football: Go Giants. We grew up on Parcells, rooting against Montana, Loving LT, Simms and Bavaro.

Hockey: Rangers! Hated the Devils. Grew up on Gartner, Amonte, Graves, Leetch, JVB, Richer and couldn’t believe it when Gretzky joined us. I celebrated Messier bringing us the cup in 7 and long to see a cup raised again!

Taking Simmons’ rules, I pass the test. The only potential grey area would be by Atlanta Braves choice. Although, I’m taking his passage about “formative years” as the supporting rationale.

What do you think?

Disrupting Your Sleep Experience

If it’s new or different, I want to try it. Philips Hue lights? Yep. Nest thermostat? You bet. August Smart Lock? Absolutely! Was a I an early customer of Harry’s Shaving Products? Definitely. So, I was definitely paying to all the new players entering the mattress category. The team over at Mattress Nerd, has a nice write up, comparing Tuft And Needle, Casper and Saatva. Those are the 3 major players looking to change the way mattresses are purchased.

Two weeks ago, over tequila, my wife remarked that she wanted to purchase a “real adult mattress.” I looked at her with a raised eyebrow. We had a very nice Serta Vera Wang edition, mattress, that she had claimed to love. I probed and said, “what do you mean by ‘adult mattress’, don’t we have one?” Indeed we did, but that mattress pre-dated our marriage and the real root of the desire, was to purchase a mattress together. Fair enough.

So, over tequila (again, this is a crucial detail), I took out my iPhone, visited Casper’s website and 5 minutes later had ordered a queen mattress. I looked at her and said, “I completely understand, I just ordered a new mattress from Casper.” She was stunned and happy; thus, we ordered another tequila cocktail, to celebrate.

Casper Box, Courtesy of Gear Patrol

Let’s start with the obvious question: Why Casper? Perhaps, better put, why Casper or any of the direct to consumer companies, instead of just visiting your local mattress store. That’s actually a simple one. As I said earlier, if it’s new or different, I want to try it. But, beyond that, I just never felt I was getting the right value from a mattress store shopping experience. It always felt like a shell game. Add in the fact, that there were so many, perceived, hidden costs and the generally lengthy delay in delivery, and it was clear, going to the mattress store was not the answer.

So more precisely, why Casper? I knew I wanted a memory foam-style bed. That was the easy part. We have pillows from Tempurpedic and they’re fantastic. But, there was just no way, we were paying $3,000+ for a queen mattress. After researching all the players listed in the Mattress Nerd article and checking out other companies, like Leesa, I felt that Casper offered the best combination of price ($800 with promo code, for a queen), technology, speed (delivers to your door inside of a week) and guarantee (100 nights to try it out). Basically, it was a gut call.

Before, I get into the mattress itself, let me first outline the good and the bad of choosing Casper.


  • Price: You can’t beat 3-5X cheaper than Tempurpedic.
  • Speed: Wow, it shipped in a box, via UPS, to my door, inside of 4 business days.
  • Delivery Experience: Let me stress again; it was delivered by UPS in a box. Why is that so big? Simple, it means I didn’t have to schedule a day off to be home for a delivery window, like the traditional mattress buying model.
  • Communication: Inside of 5 minutes of placing the order I received a text message and an email confirming my order. Every time the process moved to another milestone, I received an alert via text and email. There were no surprises.
  • Experience: No messy negotiation. No argument over delivery fees. No hard up-sell on a box spring. In fact, I never had to talk to anyone. The delivery of a mattress via box, is bizarre and awesome at the same time. For more on that part of the process, check out this article from Business Insider.


  • Size/Dimensions: So far this is the only real complaint I have. The mattress itself is 10 inches. My previous mattress and most higher-end mattresses are in the 12-15 inch height range. The mattress sits on a platform bed that’s designed to not have a boxspring. But, when we placed the Casper on the platform, it was so low, it was almost comical. To make up for the height problem, we ended up ordering a foundation from…Tempurpedic. The irony, was not lost on us.

I’m sure you’re wondering about the most important detail; is the mattress comfortable. I can unequivocally say, yes. Mattresses are often organized by how soft or firm they are. Casper claims their mattress is neither soft, nor firm; it’s just right. We couldn’t agree more. It was plush, but firm. It was soft, but firm. It was bouncy, but firm. Yes, I’m serious. I can’t say enough good things about the mattress itself. I’ve slept on uncomfortable mattresses. I’ve slept on great mattresses. I’ve slept on so-so mattresses. Casper, comes pretty damn close to replacing the my all-time favorite mattress experience: The Westin Heavenly Bed.

The only real disappointment I have, is knowing that Casper, will undoubtedly launch a new product, that will be better that their first generation generation mattress, in the near future. I’ll of course want the new one…but, unlike an iPhone, I don’t see myself upgrading mattresses every 2 years. That is, of course, unless Casper offers a mattress upgrade concept.

Now that would be truly disruptive.

Don’t Make Your Strategy, Platform Dependent

Two things, this past week, caught my eye. The first, was a great article from The Economist, titled, “The message is the medium.” Take the time to read the article, in its entirety. It’s definitely worth your time. But, since we all now, everyone seems to be TL;DR, these days, this is the one graphic you need to remember:

Texting Is Dying

After years of hockey stick-like growth, we’re seeing SMS, flattening, and ultimately, declining. This doesn’t mean that messaging is declining. WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger…and yes, even snapchat, are exploding in growth and eating SMS for breakfast.

The 2nd thing that caught my eye was this article from AdWeek, that outlined YouTube “star”, Michelle Phan’s plans to launch her own content/influencer network, called Icon. Michelle’s growth came from YouTube. Without YouTube, you could very well argue, many of us wouldn’t even know who Michelle Phan, was. But, to be loyal, in this space, is to miss out…or, as Michelle, stated:

“I’m platform agnostic,” Phan said. “I’ve been platform agnostic ever since I went online. I’m not saying I’m jumping ship (from YouTube). Platforms—they come and go, but storytelling is forever.”

Well, first, she states the obvious, that she’s not leaving YouTube. Difficult to leave the golden goose, eh? But, what’s really important is what she says about platforms. Platforms, indeed come and go. 20 years ago, it was AOL. 15 years ago, you had things like GeoCities. Nearly 10 years ago, Newscorp, purchased MySpace for $580M…only to be sold 5 years later for…$35M.

Strategies can’t be platform dependent. Building your strategy on top of a platform is like building a house on quicksand. It just doesn’t work. Don’t take my word for it, ask Zynga or DataSift. This isn’t to say that a platform shouldn’t be part of your strategy. For example, your consumer connection strategy, might indicate a need to understand, “Hopes, Wishes and Dreams.” That might mean, Pinterest, is a critical part of bringing that strategy to fruition. But, while you’re riding the Pinterest wave, you need to be keeping an eye out for the next wave, and more importantly, the right moment to move on to the next wave.

As exciting and initially lucrative as it can be to invest in a specific platform, your strategy, needs to take into account an understanding of your business, your customer and the macro-level environment. As, Brodie, told Rene in Mallrats, “Breakfasts come and go, Rene, but Hartford, “the Whale,” they only beat Vancouver once, maybe twice in a lifetime.” Today, platforms, come and go. And instead of Hartford (the underdog) succeeding only once, maybe twice in a lifetime, it’s more likely that the underdog, we weren’t paying attention to, becomes the leader. Platforms are quicksand. Be careful where you step.

To Keep Yourself Fresh, Try Something New

Earlier this winter, my kids decided they wanted to try skiing. Their desire to try something new, wasn’t something new. John and Cora are always trying something new. From food (Indian, Teppanyaki), to activities (swimming, painting) to sports (soccer, baseball, basketball), their thirst for new is nearly unquenchable. As someone who’s skied since the 2nd grade, I really wanted the kids to stick with skiing. It’s a fun and demanding sport that is never the same experience, even when it’s the same slope.

A bunch of ski bums.

A photo posted by Adam Kmiec (@adamkmiec) on

But, learning to ski and transitioning from beginner lessons to intermediate and advanced techniques, can be challenging, to say the least. To temper some of that frustration, I decided to learn something new, with them. After 25+ years of being a skier, I decided to learn how to snowboard. I told the kids if they were going to learn something, so would I…and we would learn together. We would fall together. We would get frustrated together. We would thrive together.

A full season, is almost complete, and I can say, this was such a great idea. We all took lessons, we learned from the bumps and bruises and we’re learning to enjoy something new.

The point of this post, isn’t to celebrate that we can all ride single diamond slopes. I mean, that is pretty cool. No, the point of this post, is to share the value that comes from trying something new.

Putting snowboarding aside, every month, I stop using something familiar and start using something new. For example, 3 months ago, I gave up twitter and spent the time I would have put into that platform, into trying to comprehend SnapChat. The month after that, it was YikYak. This month, I’m experimenting with Tumblr.

Today’s world changes in a blink of an eye. As a company, you’re not just racing against your competitor, you’re racing against your customer/consumer. As fast as you think your competitor is moving, your customer is moving even faster. Trying to make sense of it all, requires something more than a Mashable article or a Forrester white paper. It requires practical knowledge. That means you have to actually roll up your sleeves and trying something new.

Get out there, take a cooking class, sign up for Whisper or ask someone in your office to teach your the core of their craft. Not only will you gain personal satisfaction, but you’ll be more valuable to your organization and your brain will thank you improving it.

The Battle For The Right To Be Anonymous

Marketers love to track things about consumers. We track who you are, where you’ve been, what you’re saying, the sites you visit, the apps you download and a whole mess of other characteristics. The idea, for years, has been…the more we track about you, the more we learn about you and the better we can customize offers and content for you. Great in theory, poor in practice…usually.

Marquette Appliances Warranty Card

One of the earliest attempts at this was the warranty card a consumer would send in, after buying a product. When you purchased that new stove, back in the day, the store collected some information about you. They knew your address, your name and how you paid (cash, check or card). If they were sophisticated, they kept a log of what you bought, how often you bought and when the items you purchased, needed servicing. That information rarely made it back to the manufacturer though. The way the manufacturer gained some type of understanding about the consumers who purchased their products, was that warranty card. The carrot (or stick, depending on your POV) they used to ensure compliance, was the warranty itself. There was NO warranty covering your product, without a completed card. Sneaky, yes. Smart, at the time, yes.

Cookie Tracking 101

When we graduated to the dawn of the internet, things got a bit more sophisticated. We had cookies. Cookies left a digital set of crumbs that helped marketers understand where you went and what you did on the web. From there, we made assumptions about who you were and what you were interested in. But, we were bad marketers. Instead of using that information to better the customer experience, we used it to retarget them to death…serving them pop-ups at every corner and forcing them to…

Delete Cookies?

The simple solve for improving any browser/web surfing experience, was to delete your cookies. The minute you did that, marketers, were back to square 1, when it came to tracking, understanding and advertising to customers. This became a constant battle of catch me, if you can.

Track Me If You Can

This chase wasn’t efficient or fun. Thankfully, with social media and specifically, Facebook, marketers finally had a method for understanding just about everything they wanted to know about a consumer. Facebook told us who you were…yes, specifically, who you were. We had name, date of birth, location, relationship status, brand/product interests, what places you’d visited and so much more. As Facebook evolved and launched Facebook Connect, we gained even more information. We knew what other sites you visited and the apps you were using. Quick sidebar – I’m convinced, that at some point, Facebook is going to implement a Facebook tax on every call made from a site/app to Facebook Connect. While this wasn’t a perfect solve, it got us closer.

As mobile went from, “it’s going to be big” to “wow, mobile is huge”, marketers would betrayed the trust of customers. There was probably no greater example than that of Carrier IQ. Companies like Apple, HTC, Samsung, etc. would install Carrier IQ’s software services on phones as a means to collect information that would help them improve the phones. On the surface, not a horrible thing. Except for 1 big detail…Carrier IQ, wasn’t providing information anonymously and they were tracking things that weren’t diagnostic related, like every keystroke you made. No surprise, Carrier IQ was sued. It was situations like this and programs like Facebook’s beacon initiative that, in my opinion, accelerated the movement toward the rise of apps and experiences that focused on anonymity.

Today, apps like YikYak, Snapchat and Whisper are growing leaps and bounds. The minute a company releases a new piece of software or an operating system, articles like this are published to help consumers regain some of their freedom, by disabling features that track them. It obviously didn’t help, that the whole, Edward Snowden “thing” happened. Not exactly a situation that makes you feel comfortable about being tracked. That Snowden revelation lead to the growth of Tor, a free platform, designed to stop advertisers and the government from tracking you.

I believe we’re on the precipice of battle around tracking. The more marketers build new ways to track customers, the more customers will find new ways to remain hidden. How long til we’re wrapping our cars in tin foil to avoid tracking from Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. By the way, it’s completely possible to that…

Wrap A Car In Tin Foil

So, what’s a marketer to do? I don’t have all the answers, but wearing both my consumer and marketer hat, here’s a few thoughts:

  1. I don’t think this can be solved by technology…alone.
  2. I think we’re going to see consumers become brokers of their own data. Imagine a BlueKai style approach for consumers. As brokers of their own data, consumers will get to choose not only what data they share, but with whom. They’ll also be compensated for sharing that data on a case-by-case basis.
  3. We’re going to see some type of dashboard solution provided by companies to show customers the data they’re collecting, why they’re collecting it, who it’s shared with (if anyone) and how to opt-out (along with the consequences of doing so) of that data collection. Google already does this, via Google Dashboard. I think others will follow suit.
  4. Custom, not creepy, will become a mantra. Using data to shape and inform the content, offers and advertising that are put in front of a consumer so that they’re relevant, helpful, interesting and actionable, is going to be the key. Using data in a way to trick, trap or incessantly interrupt a consumer, will become the path to failure.

We’re at an interesting and unique place in time. Never before has there been so much data, so many ways to collect it and so many ways to use it. When that data becomes something truly helpful, our trust in data integrity, increases. If you have a Nest thermostat, think about the moment, when the collection of your data, enabled your Nest to surprise you in a delightful way. Maybe it was coming home to your house, in the middle of Summer, on a hot day, but finding the inside of your home, cool and comfortable. Or, if you’ve ever used Waze, that awesome moment, when you were rerouted on a different path, to avoid a an accident that was causing traffic to back up.

We are all data now. There’s no denying this. We can track our steps, our heartbeat, the purchases we make, the beer we drink and the friends we talk to. The dawn of big data for the little guy, is here. What becomes of that data and how it’s used, will shape the type of relationship we, as consumers, want to have with marketers.

Will Making Us More Connected, Make Us Less Connected?

CES came and went. I with it. I started working on a recap of my week at CES, but every time I started to craft it, I felt it was something that was already written. You’ve seen the recaps I’m talking about. They read like an Apple product launch ad:

Thinner: The televisions

Lighter: The cars, with carbon fiber everywhere

Faster: The chips powering cameras, 3D printers and of course tablets/laptops

The above is all true. But, as I walked the trade show floors, talked with company reps and traded thoughts with our media, agency and platform partners, I think there’s something deeper going on.

Internet Of Things?

At a surface level, beyond Thinner, Lighter and Faster, CES 2015 was all about Connected. Some called this the year of IOT (internet of things, because you know, we need another acronym). The concept of IOT is that everything is becoming more connected, all the time, which in theory makes us smarter. A great example of this is Whirlpool’s new line of “Smart Appliances” which can sync with your Nest thermostat. Why you ask? Good question. Your Nest will pull the current rates for gas/electric usage and then run your Whirlpool washer and dryer at times when the rates are cheaper…saving you money. There’s also a companion app that allows you to keep tabs on your washer and dryer. You’ll know that it’s home and not partying – running, working as expected and if it’s being environmentally efficient. Connected. Smarter. Right? It definitely is, but, I’m not sure I need it…at $1699 a device.

There’s a whole host of these types of devices and they’re all getting more connected and smarter. For example we have:

Parrot Pot: “the most advanced connected plant pot” – yes, a pot for your plant that has sensors. With a database of over 8,000 plants, this pot, will provide you diagnostics on the health of your plant and with a special water reservoir that’s sensor based, it will provide the right amount of water at the right time. Of course, it comes with an app, so that you can check in on your plant, while you’re traveling to Davos.

Big Ass Fan’s Haiku With SenseME: An $1,100 fan? Of course you need that. First, it’s made from bamboo, which makes it Earth friendly. Second, it has SenseME technology which among other things, “knows when you enter or leave a room, turning Haiku on and off automatically.” It has an app so I can keep track of its performance. You never know when you’ll be out to dinner and need to “Use the app to set schedules for both the fan and light or select from several unique control modes.”

Motorola Scout 5000: “The Motorola Scout 5000 from Binatone doesn’t just tell you where your pet is — it’ll show you a live video stream and even let you talk to your roaming loved one.” At only $200, how could you possible not buy one? Imagine, you’re at work. You leave your pet at home, per usual, but you wonder, was he abducted, did she meet up with a pack of dogs from the wrong side of town or did he call in sick and take a beach day. You won’t have to wonder anymore. Of course, there’s an app. You’ll be able to stay connected to your pet, even while you’re in your yoga class.

Look, there was some snark there. I’m sure for some there’s a need and these products satisfy that need. I have a Nest Thermostat, a Nest Protect, an August Smart Lock and Philips Hue lights in every room of the house. Add in my WiThings scale and the countless number of fitness band trackers I’ve experimented with and you’d think I’d be all for: Connected and Smarter.

Texting In Meetings

But, like I said, coming back from CES, as I reflected on all the gadgetry (and there was a lot of innovative and interesting stuff…many of which I wanted to buy), something deeper was gnawing at me. Nearly a month later, I think it’s two things, that are very inter-related.

  1. Every device that keeps us connected to it, ultimately makes us less connected the people we’re supposed to be connected to. Let me explain. We’ve all been in a meeting and seen someone pull out their phone to read an email. 5 years ago it was rude. Today, it’s common place. Our phones keep us connected to our email, which make us less connected to the people in the room we’re supposed to be building relationships with. Take email and multiply it by 1,000 to cover notifications and the ability to check in on your: Nest, Hue Lights, Motorola Scout 5000, Dropcam and so on and so on. Staying connected takes time. It takes time to do and it takes time away from things we could and should be doing. Having seen it up close, I think it makes us less human and less connected to people, society and life.
  2. While #1 won’t ever be completely solved, it can be mitigated. The problem with all of these connected devices is they rarely play well with another. Not unlike VHS and Betamax, we’re in a format war. Although, instead of it just being a format war, we’re also in an ecosystem war that looks similar to the mid 90s Mac vs PC battle, where little to nothing was cross platform compatible. Do you want your Samsung Smart Home device to talk to your Apple HomeKit device? Good luck. Not happening any time soon. Maybe you’d really like your We-Mo Crock-Pot to play well with your Jawbone Up; it’s unlikely to happen. Everyone thinks they have the answer to you IOT problem. Samsung thinks they do. So does Google, Apple, Belkin and others. Consumers though, we don’t care about the ecosystem territory wars. We just want things to work. Yep, that simple. If everything worked together (and there’s really no technical reason they can’t), simply, with data moving back and forth via APIs, doing things behind the scenes without our need to stay connected to stay informed, we’d be on to something. We’d see a connected world, become a smarter world, without a connected world make us less connected to the real world and the people in it.

In some respects, it’s still very early days for the Internet of Things. Companies like Wink are trying to solve for a fragmented ecosystem. It’s a good start. But, we need more access, more collaboration and more focus on the end user, instead of each company protecting their walled garden. If not, we’ll find ourselves more connected than ever before to things, but less connected to people. I just can’t see that being good.

So, You’re Starting A New Job

The New Year. It is upon us. The New Yea is full of “new.” There are new promises. There are new resolutions. Some of us have new rituals, like opening up new notebooks. hitting the gym (after not hitting it since a year prior) or a version of “Spring Cleaning” that we do in January. Yes, there’s a lot of new.

One new that often appears is the start of a new job. It’s not uncommon for people to resign in early December, take the last 2 weeks off and start their new job right at the start of the New Year. It’s a good strategy. I should know, I did it last year!

The Roman philosopher, Seneca, eloquently stated “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” That refrain is as poignant today, as it was circa 50 AD, when it was first stated. The thing about new is that to make way for it, you have to have something “old.” Have a new job? Great, it means you’re leaving previous one.

Closing Time

As someone who has left a few jobs, managed people who have left jobs and hired people who’ve left previous jobs, let me offer 3 pieces of advice to those of you who are starting new jobs.

  1. Resist the urge to trash your former employer, manager, team, colleagues. I know you want to. I know it feels good to leave and to start something new. I know there’s some amount of “see, I’ll show you”, but resist. Why? Because there’s no upside to be gained from it, but there’s nothing but downside. You will look petulant. You will look immature. You will look exactly the way that turns a future employer away from hiring you. Make no mistake, this new job you have, it won’t be the last. Also, especially in marketing, advertising and technology, it’s a small world. You may end up working with the same people you just trashed. That’s the very definition of awkward.
  2. Learn from your last job. You’ll be quick to just put your old job behind you. You’ll want to set your sights squarely on your new job. My advice; take 2 days, just a weekend, to think on the time you spent at your previous job. Think on the good. Think on the bad. Think on the things you wished were different. Think on the experiences you wish you could change. Use them. Use them as knowledge to guide how you handle your new role. The best thing about “new” is that you get to paint a new version of you. You get to reinvent yourself. But, you can only reinvent yourself if you’re willing to recognize how to emphasize the good and learn from bad.
  3. Send written thank you notes. To whom? To everyone. Everyone? Yes, everyone. Send them to your mentors, the interview staff, your previous colleagues, etc. Everyone. First, it’s something you should have probably done earlier. Second, the written word leaves and indelible mark. In today’s world of tweets, texts, snaps and what have you a handwritten note goes a long way.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Not every one of my beginnings came from an end that I couldn’t have handled better. I’m certainly not perfect and not every situation was handled perfectly. That said, what I do have is a track record of working with people who would work with me again and at places that would welcome my rejoining.

If you’re starting a new job in 2015, congratulations. I wish you the best of luck in that new endeavor. But, be smart, be mature, be an adult and be professional as your new beginning comes at another beginning’s end.

Here’s What’s Going To Happen 2015

I love predictions. A prediction, at best, is like spinning the roulette wheel. It’s a gamble. No one actually knows what’s going to happen in the future. But, if there’s one thing our industry loves, it’s to pretend like they do.

Let me be clear; I have no idea what’s going to happen. in 2015. But, I will say, over the past 3 years, my intuition about what’s going to happen has been more right, than wrong. My 2014 predictions had an 80% success rate , my 2013 predictions saw a 60% thumbs up rate and my 2012 predictions were 90% right. Thus my 3 year “Lipper Average”, so to speak has been above 85%. Also, if you looked thru my previous year’s predictions, I hope you’ll see, I didn’t opt for softballs.

So what does all of this mean? Nothing. As the pace of change increases at a more rapid rate, it’s more challenging to predict what’s going to happen.

That said, let me offer 5 quick predictions and then 5 meaty ones.

  1. Apple Will Launch A Music Streaming Service, It Will Rival Spotify, Crush Small Players, But It Will Not Be A Universal Success: See #2, but I don’t think an Apple streaming service is going to push out Pandora. I actually think Pandora is going to thrive. Apple’s streaming service, because it will be pre-populated on every iPhone, iPad, etc. will have massive scale, but will struggle to convert users from rival services. It will pave the way for 2016 though, when I think Apple’s streaming model will take off.
  2. We Will See A Resurgence In Radio: Similar to vinyl’s growth and comeback, I think the shift toward a streaming and on-demand world is going to propel radio forward. Additionally, people’s desire for local information and knowledge will keep them coming back. We might see some consolidation in radio stations or a consolidation in large network holding companies, but, the overall health of radio will be much better than it has been the past few years.
  3. Google+ And Google Glass Will Be Retired: Google may evolve these products and then call them something else, but you will not see Google+ and Google Glass as platforms or products, come the close of 2015.
  4. A Governing Body, Most Likely The FDA, Will Crack Down On The Wearables Market, Forcing Many To Fold: Ultimately, these products are edging closer and closer to medical devices. But, manufacturers aren’t treating them as such. They’re instead treating them like casual gadgets, when they are obviously more than that. This is going to cause a problem for these who didn’t take the time to work with governing bodies to ensure they’re products were legit, honest and legally factual.
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens Will Become The Highest Grossing Movie Of All Time: Technically, this won’t happen until 2016, but the movie launches in 2015. The total worldwide sales will make Frozen look pedestrian.

A good list for sure, but you might argue that some of these were a bit too easy. That’s fair. So without further adieu, here’s 5 more controversial and meatier predictions.

  1. Google’s Search Business Will Have A Down Year: Yes, I’m serious. Their dominant core product is going to run just a tick above flat. I want to make sure I’m clear here when I say “core product.” At the end of the day, Google’s core product is making money of off search results. The majority of those results take place in the traditional Google.com experience. It will retain it’s overall dominance on broad searches, but as people continue to browse and discover, we’re going to see search volume shift to places and platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Spotify, Flickr, fourSquare and YouTube. Yes, YouTube. Instead of going to Google and typing in “Star Wars Trailer”, people are going to start going directly to YouTube to perform those searches. Net-net, we’re going to see a big shift from “search” to browse and discover.
  2. The Apple Watch Will Be A Success For Apple, But Will Fail To Propel The Smart Watch Category Forward: You might be saying huh? Ok, let me explain. Apple has a problem. Specifically, they have a problem with the iPad. The core iPhone business is great, but the iPad is so good, it doesn’t require people to upgrade often. The Apple Watch will fill the void of the slumping iPad sales, but it won’t be a big enough to make smart watches a must have accessory for the broader consumer market.
  3. There Will Be A Major Cloud Services Hack That Will Take Down A Number Of Major Platforms: I don’t know which service is going to hacked. What I know is that something is going to get hacked and it’s going to have a major impact. For example, imagine Pandora getting hacked and having that hack impact all the cars that have Pandora installed. It’s going to be something like that.
  4. The C-Suite Will See A Major Overhaul: Two things are going to happen. One, we’re going to see a premium on digital experience and background. For example, instead of seeing the traditional CMO model (brand management + MBA), we’ll see someone that comes from a tech background. Additionally, we’ll see a premium on ethics and “clean” backgrounds. You can’t pull another Gurbaksh Chahal and stay employed. It just can’t happen. To be bold, I think we’ll see 3 C-Suite execs, from startup/tech organizations, eliminated because of public / negative PR. Additionally, I think we’ll see a major organization, like Target, follow the Walgreens playbook and elevate a digital leader into a CMO role.
  5. Publicis Or Another Large Agency Holding Company, Will Take A Run At A Major Merger: Following the failed Publicis-Omnicom merger, we’re going to see pride, ego and financial pressure force an attempt at another mega merger. I could see IPG and MDC combining forces, or WPP and IPG. This will happen, if for no other reason than the world isn’t big enough for 5+ holding companies.

So that’s what I think. What do you think? Where am I wrong? Where am I right? Time always tells the truth. A year from now we’ll do the reflection needed to see if I was right or wrong. Accountability, I’m a fan.