Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Best Of

How I Did With My 2016 Predictions

With only 2 weeks left in 2016, I’m at a point where I can fairly assess, how I did with my 2016 predictions. As I do every year, I look at each prediction and score it as an accurate prognostication, a miss or somewhere in the middle. An accurate prediction nets 1 point, there are no points for a miss and a 1/2 point for something in the middle. I try to be a tough grader; accountability is important.

F Report Card - Credit IndieWire.com

For a recap of my 2015 predictions, click here; you’ll see I scored a 6.5/10. Not bad, but not great. It was certainly not as great as my 2012 predictions which were 90% right or my 2014 predictions, which had an 80% success rate, but certainly better than my 2013 predictions, which was a laughable 60% hit rate.

With all that said and out of the way, let the judging begin! Note, the original prediction is listed first, with the analysis and scoring in bold font, after.

  1. VR, be it Oculus Rift, Cardboard or whatever, will fail in a manner only bested by Google glass. The price point will be too high, the platform too closed and the novelty too limited. I’m taking this as a win. There’s some clear diagnostics. For example it’s not a holiday must have / best seller. Let’s then add in the fact James Cameron (yes, that James Cameron), thinks VR is laughable. And, then of course, you have actual sales figures that paint a dismal situation.
  2. FourSquare will be purchased for less than 60% of it’s high point valuation. It will sell, not to Microsoft or Yahoo!, but to a platform like Yelp!, FitBit or OpenTable. Basically, it will sell to something unexpected. Complete miss. I’m shocked. If there was one thing I was sure of, it was this.
  3. Marissa Mayer, will choose to pursue other opportunities and the board will thank her for her efforts and service. I was close on this. Being practical about it, she’s just about gone. You have activist investors looking to replace the entire board and they announced a sale to Verizon. I can’t imagine her staying on when that deal closes, to work for Tim Armstrong. I’ll take a 1/2 point here. The spirit of what I was forecasting has come true.
  4. There will be a major hack of either “connected” cars or the connected home. You will see a major exploit of something like HomeKit, Weave or BMW’s connected service. This happened. It was big. But, it wasn’t as much a hack of specific platform or product as much as a hack of the “web” powering them. I’ll take a 1/2 point.
  5. A major sport will adopt digital technology in a way that changed their game and starts to make humans obsolete. For example, we’ll see a chip put in footballs and in the pylons to determine if a touchdown is a touchdown. There were a lot of small things throughout the year, but it took until last week for this article about Major League Baseball and wearables to give me a full point. Nothing like making it close!
  6. Tesla will start or continue, depending on your point of view, it’s long, slow, death spiral. I hit this one, but not quite out of the park. The stock is down 30 points from the start of the year. You also have the autopilot issues. Then of course there’s their inability to hit production forecasts. Tesla may not die, but my prediction was good.
  7. Chip credit cards will bring retail to such a slow crawl for checkout, that NFC forms for payment (eg Apple Pay), will become promoted by retailers, thus doubling, if not tripling, NFC transactions. Close, but not quite a cigar. Chips were a huge problem (leading to a lawsuit), but NFC didn’t take off. 1/2 a point.
  8. Tied to #7, walled garden payment systems, like Walmart Pay, will fail miserably. Nailed it, not much more to add.
  9. Social media will influence the election in a way that will bring about changes to how elections are run. For example, it’s well known that when you tell a population X candidate is winning by Y%, voter turnout suffers. Yes, social media influenced things in a major way, but too early to tell if future elections will change. 1/2 a point.
  10. When Donald Trump wins the election we will see a re-writing of how the role that the media plays, in general. This will be the tipping point for the decline of mainstream / traditional media and the rise of platforms (particularly, social media) as more important than TV and companies like CNN. This was a home run, grand slam, slam dunk and whatever way you want to describe it. Not only did Trump win, but it was his counter approach to mainstream media that sealed the deal.
  11. Snapchat will look to go public. It’s IPO will flop. Didn’t happen. When it does, I’ll be right.
  12. Twitter will rebound and regain 25% – 30% of its previous stock, high point of $69. Major miss. Not even close.
  13. Cell phones will reverse trend and get smaller, not bigger. With the launch of the Apple iPhone SE, I was on trend. There were other manufacturers who produced smaller phones, but we didn’t see a complete trend reversal. 1/2 a point.
  14. Drone delivery will happen. Amazon will be first, followed by Taco Bell. Amazon did complete a drone delivery. There were not first. Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer on who was, but I think it’s clear, Dominos was ahead of Taco Bell. All in all, a miss.
  15. Uber will face a period of growth flattening, due to democratic/blue states siding with unions to restrict growth. This will force Uber to seek new avenues for growth, beyond its core transportation delivery business or via other markets. This happened in a variety of ways. Let’s start with the Didi deal. Then you have the subscription service. You have the exit from Austin, a very blue city. And, we’ll finish with the overall growth slowing. Basically, yeah, I was right.

Wow, that was a lot. So let’s tally it up. The clear misses: 2, 11,12 and 14. The clear wins: 1, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 15. The half right predictions: 3, 4, 7, 9 and 13. All of that makes for a total of 8.5/15 or 56.7%, bringing my year tally to 70% (35/50).

Not the best year, but like I said upfront, I’m a tough grader. Some of those 1/2 points, other might view as a full point. 60% is an F, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. Maybe, next year, I’ll be better.

I Want To Believe

By every definition of the word, I’m a mutt. In the classic representation of what it means to be part of the melting pot, that is America. My maternal grandmother is Puerto Rican and Spanish (from Spain). My maternal grandfather is Arabic and Yemen. They brought together a household that balanced traditional Roman Catholic ideals and Muslim beliefs. Yes, you read that right. Then you have my dad’s parents. For as long as I can remember, they argued over whether they were Austrian or Polish. If you know anything about Poland’s complex history, you can understand why that was an argument for 20+ years. The birth certificates of my grandparents said Austrian, but they and I, for a period of time, spoke Polish. My dad and his family were quite Catholic, though my dad had a much more liberal and worldly view of religion.

Don't Stop Believing

Think about that. A farm boy from New Hampshire somehow found love with a Puerto Rican, Spanish, Middle Eastern girl from Brooklyn. If that’s not America, I don’t know what is. I will tell you this, family get togethers were always amazing. Only with a diverse family like mine could you have kielbasa, rice and beans, paella, hummus with pita bread and baklava at the same dinner table.

Growing up in Brooklyn, I had friends who were Jewish, Arabic, Spanish, German, Asian and more. My kindergarden seemingly mirrored a United Nations meeting. There was diversity like nothing else I’ve ever seen in my 34 years walking and traveling this Earth.

In 1986 we moved from NYC, the great cultural mecca of the world, to the suburbs of NJ. Now NJ itself isn’t small, but the town I grew up in was Vernon, NJ – population 20,000…diversity, virtually nonexistent (95.1% white).  To say I experienced a culture shock, would be an understatement. I’d also be downplaying it, if I said, I faced some racial prejudice. I was called a SPIC, camel jockey, sand nigger, dot head, porch monkey and a host of other names. I fought when ignoring the barbs became too much. I went to therapy to discuss my anger and resentment. I resented my parents for moving me to the middle of nowhere and for not being able to make the hate from others go away.

There was a period of time when I simply tried to hide my cultural heritage. I embraced KMIEC (said Kim-yeche), a clearly white-European name and I shunned all the other parts of my family that made me, me. It’s fair to say, I had some awkward adolescent years.

In high school, things changed a bit. I was an athlete who had brains. I was never part of the popular crowd, but I also wasn’t shunned by them. For what it’s worth, I think that’s the perfect sweet spot to be in during high school. You can be you, without the pressures of being who the popular crowd expects you to be. I finished in the top 25 of my class and had scholarship offers from MIT, Columbia and Clemson. All great schools. I chose Minnesota. I chose it for 3 reasons:

  1. It was the furthest away from where everyone else I grew up with was going to be attending. Most of my peers were staying on the East Coast, with the majority attending schools in the Boston area.
  2. It had a great Business program.
  3. They gave me nearly a 100% full scholarship.

Let me focus on the scholarship. Come college admission season, I exploited every ethnic loophole that existed. While the majority of public scholarships are distributed to “white” individuals, it’s no surprise that the majority of “need based” scholarships are given to minorities.  I knew how the system worked and I maximized the system to my financial advantage. I graduated in 3 years and with zero college debt, despite attending The University of Minnesota as an out of state resident. A big part of graduating debt free was a benefit afforded to me by University for being an “outstanding minority” who wanted to attend The Carlson School of Management. That’s right, my minority status netted me a nearly 40% reduction in total tuition fees. Add in the scholarships I earned, that were only possible, because of my minority status, and my tuition, room and board was essentially 100% funded.

This was the first and the only time I would ever characterize myself, on a formal piece of paper, as a minority. Upon graduating, I felt ashamed. I questioned whether I’d earned the right to attend the university, on my own merits, or if I was merely someone who fit a quota. This shame and self doubt propelled me to always work my ass off. I believed and still believe, that while I may not be smarter than you, I will outwork you. I try to instill the same work ethic to my kids.

While working at a large agency in Chicago, during the dot com boom and bust, I was advised by a Sr. leader that I should make sure my file indicated I was Hispanic, African American (Egypt is in Africa ayer all) and/or some other minority status. I asked why? She remarked, it would protect me during layoffs. The company would never eliminate a person of color like me. I’m dead serious. This was a real conversation. When I explained to her that I had checked the Caucasian box, she shook her head and was aghast that I would eliminate the potential opportunities, advancement and protection that my minority status would have afforded me.

I’ve been working full time since 1997. I’ve never checked a box other than Caucasian. I want to believe that the world is fair. I want to believe that race, color, gender or creed don’t play a role in hiring. I want to believe that companies only hire the best candidates. I want to believe companies only fire or let go the worst candidates. I want to believe.

Fast forward several years and apparently as a person of color, I was supposed to vote for Obama. I didn’t. My mom basically called me a traitor to my race. I tried to reason with her; explaining that I voted for a candidate based on their beliefs and policies, not their gender (I voted Hillary in the primaries) or race. She would have none of that. Obama’s win was supposed to demonstrate to me and my children that a presidency was not of reach for a mixed race family like mine. I quipped, well, seeing as we’ve never had a female president, I guess my daughter can never dream of being one. This was clearly not something we were going to see eye to eye on.

Yesterday, when it was announced that the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on racial preferences in university admissions, I was supposed to be irate. I wasn’t. The color of my skin (a golden brown) should not afford me a benefit, an extra consideration, a better chance or higher likelihood of something happening. My skills, my work ethic, my desire and my contributions, however, should.

When I got engaged (the first time), my mom explained to my fiancé (a blonde hair, blue eyed, Norwegian, from Minnesota), that she would never understand the sting of racial prejudice that may one day be placed upon her future children. She based that point of view on the inability of my father, the 6 ft 1 in Polish Chemist from New Hampshire to understand the pain I suffered growing up in Vernon, NJ.

She might be right. She might not.

What I do know is that my children are taught that nothing is given to them, there are no handouts and every day they need to work harder than the last. As I look forward 10 years, when my daughter is 17 and ready to apply to colleges, I may be faced with an interesting conundrum – apply as a minority (gender, race, etc.) and open up a world of financial aid options or file as a non-minority and potential pay more long term. Dollars and cents vs. stubbornness.

I want to believe that in 10 years, it won’t be a conundrum, because we will have evolved as a people, culture and society. I want to believe that in 10 years, we will neither be granted nor suppressed opportunities because of our ethnic makeup. I want to believe that instead, we will be afforded opportunities based on the content of our character, the effort we have put in and the value we bring to society.

I want to believe.

What It Takes To Be A Truly Enterprise Social Platform

It’s 2014. I can tweet from 36,000 miles up in the sky. I can turn the lights in my house off and on from my phone. I can adjust the temperature in my house from 1000s of miles away, with just a few taps on my phone. Taking selfies on stage, during a live event is common place. We have public political discourse on platforms like Facebook and Reddit. Edward Snowden can live stream in for an interview at SXSW. With platforms like IFTT I can have have every photo I take on Instagram be automatically backed up to my Google Drive account and then have a text sent to my wife, letting her know they’re backed up. Yeah, technology is amazing. It really is. Tech has evolved to a point where anything is truly possible. We don’t think in terms of “can we do that” – we think in terms of “how we’ll do it.”

With such maturity in technology, business adoption of digital/social and the marketplace as a whole, it’s perplexing that we still don’t have a truly enterprise social platform. Oh, we have platforms. We have no shortage of platforms. These platforms are like tools that go into a toolbox. Ask a social marketer what’s in their social toolbox and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. The toolbox will run the range of small and niche platforms that do 1 thing exceptionally well, to platforms that do nothing exceptionally well, but do everything. You’ll find platforms that you pay for monthly on a credit card and you’ll find platforms that are hundreds of thousands of dollars and billed every quarter.

There are platforms for publishing (Hootsuite). There are platforms for sourcing (Percolate). There are platforms for monitoring (Sysomos). There are platforms for analyzing (Crimson Hexagon). There are platforms for reporting (Simply Measured). There are platforms just to make data look better in the form of dashboards (Geckoboard). We have platforms for everything. What we don’t have is 1 truly enterprise social platform that can do it all, and do it all exceptionally well.

We had the promise of such a platform. Remember the marketing behind…SalesForce’s Marketing Cloud? It was to be the end all, be all answer for a social business. But, it fell flat. Actually, it imploded. Don’t take my word for it though. Marc Benioff, SalesForce’s CEO, at DreamForce 2013, all but admitted, Marketing Cloud never realized its vision. The revenue numbers reported at the end of fiscal for SalesForce back that up as well. I’m not picking on SalesFore, more so, it’s important to note that if a company like SalesForce can’t get it right, you can’t expect others to as well. It’s hard. Social, at scale, is hard.

At any marketing conference, you can bet, leaders of social are discussing the tools/platforms they’re using, with one another. If you were to listen in to these conversations, it would sound a lot like something connected to something via tape, bundled together with rubber brands, with Google docs in there somewhere, filling a gap. It’s a mess. And, honestly, as we close Q1 of 2014, I can’t believe it’s still a mess.

I always say, don’t shake a stick at something, if you aren’t willing to offer a recommendation for how to fix what’s wrong. With that in mind, here’s what I think a truly enterprise social platform needs to have…actually, before I get into that, first let me outline what companies building platforms need to understand:

The “Plumbing” Isn’t Easily Changed: If you’re already working with a suite of platforms and partners, and chances are, you are, changing platforms and partners can be painful. While there are some platforms you can change out with very little pain, the fact is, often times, changing platforms brings upon legacy challenges. There’s also the likelihood that there are some platforms you’d like to retain. With all that in mind, what makes a buyer’s life easier is if your platform works more like a connector than a pipe. If you’re coming into a situation where there’s already existing plumbing in place, your platforms ability to connect and play nice with all the existing platforms that are in place, makes your platform enterprise ready.

The Seat License Model Is Antiquated: There’s simply no reason you should be offering a seat license model, if you’re claiming your platform is designed for the enterprise. A truly enterprise approach would mean that anyone, at any time, from any team, any partner, across the globe, should be able to access and use your platform. What makes your platform sticky in an organization is having it used by a significant number of people. The more people who use, enjoy and rely on your platform, the better. When you charge per seat, what you’re conveying is that you don’t want your platform used at the enterprise level. Let’s use some simple math to illustrate this point. Let’s assume your platform uses a $100 per person per seat per month approach. At a company like Walgreens, where we have 200,000+ employees, you’d in essence be charging $240,000,000 a year. Yes, I said, $240,000,000. Even if I go with a 90% discount, and it’s only $10 a person per month, we’re talking about $24,000,000. That’s insane. Beyond the fact the dollar amount is ridiculous, it also positions your company as someone who nickels and dimes. If you have a great platform, price it like one. Don’t try to compensate for how much your platform lacks, by charging on a per seat basis.

Sell The Platform or Services, Not Both: Building on my nickel and dime comment, don’t adopt a car dealer mentality where after I’ve bought the car you keep selling everything from warranties to undercoating. If you make a killer platform, make a killer platform and charge a fair price for it. If you’re great at enterprise services and strategy, start a consultancy. When you try to sell both, it makes buyers wonder if the reason you’re pushing your enterprise services so hard, is to compensate for an inferior platform.

Ok, now on to what a true enterprise social platform should look like. It’s actually quite simple. A social enterprise platform needs 7 core features:

Light Listening: A light listening feature needs to answer one simple question, “what’s going on, right now.” That’s it, it’s that simple. I’m serious. This feature needs to address the business scenario that often arises, where someone asks, “what do consumers think/feel about X.” This feature takes the pulse of a situation. It’s directional. It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. It needs to be accurate enough to offer some directional context.

End To End Publishing: Your platform should allow for the sourcing of content, review of content, editing of content, distributing of content and the evaluation/measurement of content. Many platforms do 1 or 2 of these things really well. But, no one does them all at an A-level.

Rich Analytics: Where light listening answers the question, what’s going on right now, rich analytics answer the question, “what happened.” Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20. Rich Analytics need to be 20/15. If we’ll accept 70% accuracy for sentiment analysis with the light listening portion of a platform, the rich analytics must be 90%+ accurate. You also can’t lock this data behind a wall. It needs to exportable into a wide variety of formats. It should also have the ability to mashup other data sets. For example, a conversation volume chart, is a nice 1st step. If everyone is talking about a specific link on your website, wouldn’t it be great to be able to see your Omniture data related to that link, in the same enterprise platform?

Customer Care Management: If you want to be a serious enterprise player, you need a customer care module. The key here is that module must work as a stand alone feature, because in many orgs, care is handled by a separate team. It also needs to fit into the other modules for situations where an org has 1 team working across all aspects of social, including care. Most platforms can only do 1 of these flows well.

Mobile At The Core: We don’t want to hear it’s mobile web friendly because it’s built in HTML 5. That’s a nice first step. But, your platform better have an app there iOS and Android ready. Simply put, 75% of everything I can do from a desktop experience needs to supported in your app.

Flexible Integration: This is the hardest part. I get it. I want you to integrate with Simply Measured, but you see them as a competitor. I get it. But, I also need you to figure it out. Again, if you want to be enterprise and you want to become the irreplaceable plumbing, you’d better figure out how to play well with a whole host of other platforms and partners.

Multiple User Roles: Probably the easiest feature to nail. Some people need to be administrators, capable of changing, creating, deleting, etc. Others require just read only access. There’s also a host of other roles in between those two end points.

I don’t pretend to know how to build software. It’s not easy. I can appreciate that. I can also appreciate that in the Wild Wild West that has been the last 5 years, in social, it was much easier to build a half baked platform that sorta did 1 thing really well. Clients were lining up to buy your version of Windows ME and there was little reason to think bigger and establish a higher bar for quality of experience.

It’s 2014. Social is growing up faster than we all thought. The bar is high now. It’s no longer amateur hour. I’m sure I missed a few things in this post. But, I’m also confident I hit on 90% of the pain points and requirements, expected by Sr. leaders in social.

You can do better. You need to do better. If there’s one thing history has shown us, the first one to really nail it, wins. In this space you don’t want to be 2nd place.

The Human API Is The Future Of Big Data

You are the next app. Yes, you. And you. And you over there in the back. You are all the next app. Ok, technically, not you. But, your data. No, I don’t mean your name, your email address or your birth date. Those are old school pieces of data that will continue to depreciate in value, over time. When I say you and when I say your data, I literally mean all the data you generate.

On some level, the near future is mobility, big data and personalization. The irony of course is that’s not really a new trend. Companies as far back as the catalogue business models of the 1930’s relied on our data. Where we lived. What we ordered. How much we spent. How often we ordered. Since that boom of the 30’s companies have always valued our data and tried to collect it. Remember those warranty cards you filled out? They were really just an easy way for the manufacturer to learn more about the person who just bought their item. Smart, right? Today, when you login to a site with Facebook Connect, you’re trading your data for simplicity.

Digital DNA

We trade data all the time. But, something is changing. As companies look to advance their product pipeline, they’re more reliant than ever on us to power those products. Let me offer some examples:

  1. For Nest to continue its meteoric growth, it’s going to need more data about you and your home. Devices that are part of “connected home” will take off, provide value and offer a wow factor that leads to broad adoption when it’s powered by more and more data about us. Imagine Nest changing the temperature of your house when it knows you’re within 5 miles of it. How does it know? Because you allowed Nest to track your location so that this happens automatically.
  2. What about Samsung’s entire foray into wearable devices, including the biometric tracking that’s part of the Samsung Galaxy 5? Those “wow” features are only of value and help Samsung provide better phones and better experiences if YOU allow them to have access to your fingerprints, your pulse and more.

Those are just two very simple examples that underscore a simple truth: companies will need our “DNA” to make their products work.

It’s been long said, if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product. That’s helped us accept the pervasive tracking by platforms like Google and Facebook. We get access to their great platforms at no financial cost, because we’re providing them with data that they are able to resell to advertisers for a significant upside.

But, what happens, when you’re not only the product, you’re also paying for the product? Shouldn’t my data lead to some type of financial benefit? After All, without my data, they’re products are underpowered, which slows their roadmap, which leads to poorer financial performance.

We are entering an age of mutual exchange. Never before have we been on such a equal playing field as companies. They need us as much as we need them. Let’s take a relatively small example that proves this theory out. Today, Progressive Insurance gives you a discount for letting them track your car driving habits with their Snapshot product. You’re getting a financial value for your data. That’s mutual exchange. That’s the future.

Now, let’s take a bigger example. Today, Google takes your data and in essence sells it to companies to market you; you don’t see a dime. Yes, you get to access things like Gmail for free, but even with those products, you’re at the mercy of Google’s roadmap. Remember, Google Reader and how Google killed it, despite people not wanting it to be killed? If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product.

Well, what would happen if Microsoft’s Bing, said, you know what Joe Consumer, you’re in control of your own data and in doing so wrote you a check every month for how they’ve used it, based on how you’ve opted in. The more data you shared, the more you’re worth and the more you’re paid. Would you use Bing more?

You AND your personal social network are now the new API.  Don’t turn your most valuable asset, your data, into a commodity. You’re worth more than that. Companies should be paying us to access our API, not the other way around.

Why Your Super Bowl Real-Time Marketing Will Fail

The Super Bowl is a peculiar American tradition. Over 100 million people will tune in, with the advertisements as big a draw as the game itself.

Last year, with the success of the tweet from Oreo heard around the marketing world, a new tradition was born: big-event real-time marketing through the second screen. Since the Oreo tweet, brands big and small have attempted to recreate the perceived success of that one tweet. No doubt, judging from what we saw at the Grammys, we’ll see many, many more attempts to replicate the “Oreo moment” during this year’s Super Bowl. And they’ll all fail.

Having been on the inside of large complex organizations and having worked at agencies challenged with leading large complex organizations, I have seen up close and personal how brands grapple with being successful in social media.

From our couches, it’s always easy to second-guess a brand’s decisions and motives for engaging in real-time marketing. It’s even easier to critique those efforts. It’s become a bit of an event within the event, for marketers to make fun of a brand’s efforts and tag their efforts with the dreaded “#fail” hashtag.

That said, here’s why real-time marketing will come up short at the Super Bowl.

Immature client organizations.
Can you believe it’s 2014 and organizations still debate the value of digital and social marketing? It happens more often than you think. When you’re part of a team trying to change that fact, you’re looking for anything to demonstrate the merits and value of your team. You’re hoping that one tweet, that one blog post or that one Vine video catches lightning in a bottle and starts creating some type of buzz internally. Buzz eventually leads to interest, which leads to funding. It’s tough to fault an organization that’s so early in their digital maturity, for delivering something not at a Cannes Lion-worthy level. That said, you probably shouldn’t step onto the Super Bowl field, if you’re playing at a junior varsity high school level. Rarely, does something good come from that.

Social media by committee.
Social media is a team sport. Since it’s the Super Bowl, let’s look at a football analogy. The Broncos have a game plan that they’ve created for the game. The coach created that game plan. Members of the team know their role in executing that game plan. Some are meant to block and tackle. Some are meant to score. When Peyton gets into the huddle, it’s his huddle. The plays are chosen by a single person, not a committee, and only one person (Peyton) can audible the play. The person you’ve empowered with the responsibility and accountability for hitting the “send” button to deliver something on brand, on message and in context is in effect, Peyton Manning. He or she needs to have their finger on the pulse of the game, what people are talking about online during the game and how their brand fits in, if at all. For them to be effective, they need to be fast. Fast doesn’t come from committee. It doesn’t come from running every single tweet by the brand team, legal team, corporate communications team, media team and so on. Fast comes from trust.

Not enough preparation.
Measure twice, cut once. When it comes to social, 90 percent of the time should be spent on preparing and 10 percent on executing. If your planning is poor, if you haven’t thought through scenarios, if you haven’t identified your goals and if you haven’t pre-created a base foundation of content to pull from quickly, you’re not preparing enough. You can’t prep on the fly. You can make adjustments to the game plan in real time, but you shouldn’t be creating your game plan as the game is unfolding.

The wrong objectives.
What’s measured matters. It’s a tried and true maxim of corporate America. If your objectives are to make sure you drive “frequency of message” or drive “reach,” you’re more apt to post often; even when you don’t have great content to deliver at the right time. If your objectives are generic (e.g., engagement) or if they aren’t aligned with the nuances of each social platform and how people consume, share and interact with branded content, they won’t be successful.

Mistakes happen.
If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. Peyton Manning has thrown 219 interceptions in his career. But without forcing it sometimes, he wouldn’t have 491 TD passes. The best thing you can do after you make a mistake is learn from it and apply the knowledge to the next effort. Being able to do that is made so much easier if your organization understands that mistakes happen. And sometimes being lucky is better than being good. For example, Miley Cyrus could incorporate your product into one of her songs and all you need to be doing is paying attention to hit social media gold.

There is no formula for real-time marketing success, even if the endless debates over it seem to expect one to emerge. On Super Bowl Sunday, there are only two guarantees: One team will win, and real-time marketing won’t.

Please note, this post was also published on DigiDay.

Why Are P&G’s Blades Growing Dull?

Before we get into this, let me get 2 things on the record:

  1. I usually opt not to provide an arm-chair POV about a company’s marketing, plan, etc. Why? Simple, I don’t have access to the real data, like they do and I don’t know what their real objectives are. There’s nothing worse than a marketer from the outside, without access to those 2 crucial pieces of information, offering recommendations and critique.
  2. These are in fact my ramblings and opinions. They could be completely wrong, because again, I don’t have access to their data, insights, sales figures, product pipeline forecast, etc.

So, that begs the question, why even write anything? Simple, the news that P&G is basically blaming a the new found popularity of  beards for their slumping razor sales, has been in all my social feeds. Being a marketer, I have a lot of marketers in my feeds. Many of them are providing some type of POV, which in turn inspired me to get my thoughts down…in a longer format than 140 characters.

Facial Hair Types

Let’s get out the known facts, first:

  1. P&G’s earnings are down 15.5% from a year ago. source
  2. Sales in their grooming category (which is where their Gillette business is located) were flat. source
  3. The decline of Gillette didn’t happen overnight. It’s been ongoing for a few years, with major launches from competitors, like the Schick Hydro eroding share quickly. source
  4. The grooming category (P&G’s words, not mine) is not just made up of razors for your face. It’s much broader. It covers everything from body grooming, man-scaping, bikini waxing, mustache shaping and so much more. source
  5. Innovation in that broader grooming category, combined with lack of innovation by Gillette/P&G in the category has contributed to their eroding share. source and source
  6. New direct competitors have appeared in the space like Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and Bevel.
  7. Beyond direct competitors we’ve seen a resurgence in the experience of shaving and grooming. For example, look at the rise of places offering hot towel straight razor shaves.

That’s a lot to digest. The reason I struggle with the simplistic summation of the Gillette financial performance, by P&G, as: the hipster movement is the problem, is because it sounds like a cop out. While at Campbell, we weren’t allowed to use the “weather” as rationale for sales performance. If you will, a poor quarter could not simply be explained by saying, “well it was an unseasonably warm winter.”

When I look at how P&G has characterized the current situation:

Increased interest in facial hair

and they’re clear lack of hubris when new disruptive competitors started entering the market

Gillette spokesman Damon Jones said his company became aware of the Dollar Shave Club the day it launched because of the Internet buzz. He said the shaving giant isn’t worried about losing market share, in part because other subscription-based companies have tried and failed, he said.

It makes me think of this fantastic article by the New York Times’ Digital Bits blog, titled, “Disruptions: Innovation Isn’t Easy, Especially Midstream.” The great writeup by Nick Bilton, outlines why companies like Kodak and Polaroid struggled to evolve. To oversimplify, when 1 product, feature of category of your business is such a dominant lion share contributor to financial performance, it’s very difficult to invest in other categories. Why? The fear of harming the existing cash cow business creates an environment of paralyzation. The perceived risk of rocking the boat, stops further innovation. This is what makes companies like Apple growing and those like Microsoft stagnant.

P&G has a lot of smart people. I know this because every organization I’ve ever worked at waits for P&G to say or do something on the record, before taking the plunge. After all, if the smart people in Cincinnati say it works, it must work. Yes, I’m serious. I’m sure they have a team of people thinking about how to reverse their slumping Gillette business. I’m not hear to pass judgement, but I would offer 2 pieces of advice.

  1. Don’t double down on today at the expense of tomorrow.
  2. Every business is open to disruption today. Create a team focused on being the anti P&G/Gillette. Yes, I’m serious. It’s an awesome project. You take a team of up and coming leaders, from across the company. They’re given the fun and important task of answering 1 simple question, “if you were us, but you weren’t confined by our traditions, existing process, etc., where would you take the business next, to disrupt ourselves and the industry.” Now asking the question is easy. Turning the answers from that team into real action, is far more challenging.

Oh, and by innovation, I don’t mean making a 10 blade razor. Adding more blades ins’t innovation, it’s a short term product improvement. Think bigger. Look toward behaviors mapped against a trendscape to regain the growth and trim the competition.

But, what do I know. I’m just a GenX Guy from Brooklyn, who switched to Harry’s and loves a straight razor shave for events.

We’re Living In The Now Economy

Of late, I’ve had a string of familiar in-store shopping experiences. I’d like X. I’d like X in color Y. I’d like X in color Y and size Z. The person helping me at the store, comes out from the back room with a disappointed look on his/her face and says, “I’m sorry, we don’t have it here, but we can order it for you and have it sent to your house at no charge.” Three years ago, this would have been the store going above and beyond, while filling a distribution gap and retaining my business. When Nordstrom first started offering this model, it was mind-blowing and revolutionary.

But, what worked 3 years ago, doesn’t satisfy the hunger for those of us living in the Now Economy. Want a song? Download it from a plethora of options. Want to watch a movie, fire up NetFlix, HBO Go, Amazon Video or another platform, click on it and stream away. Want dinner? Order it on your phone and have it delivered to you in 30 minutes from GrubHub. We are in a Now Economy. We want it now. And if you can’t satisfy the itch, that is now, we’ll find someone who will.

Now, I Want It Now

A few months back I stopped into the Nieman Marcus at King of Prussia mall. There was a jacket I’d lusted for, the past 2 years. Elliott, the salesman, who at this point, knew me by name because of all the times I’d stopped in to see the jacket, was there that day. I said to Elliott, “today’s the day I buy the jacket.” He smiled. Went over to the rack. We both had the same look. I’m a 40R and the smallest jacket was a 44R. That’s far too big to tailor. Now at this point, Elliott could have said, “I’m sorry, we don’t have it here, but we can order it for you and have it sent to your house at no charge.” But, he didn’t. He understood the Now Economy. Elliott did 3 things:

  1. He checked to see if there were other stores in the area that had the jacket in my size.
  2. He found one and called to confirm the data in the computer matched what was really there.
  3. He said, I can have it sent to your place today, via courier, for a nominal fee, if I wanted it today (aka now).

That’s pretty amazing service. There’s no denying that. But that amazing service stems from understanding that we were both operating in the Now Economy. Elliott knew he’d miss out on the commission if he didn’t sell it now and he knew I wasn’t going to wait. This wasn’t easy, I’m sure. I’m also sure, today, it would be nearly impossible to scale to 100s of 1000s of shoppers, every day. But, as Amazon teases the idea of drones that can bring you same day delivery, make no mistake, we’re all destined to be part of the Now Economy. ZipCar is the Now Economy. iTunes is the Now Economy. The food you see on the perimeter of grocery stores, is the Now Economy. Uber is the Now Economy. The XBOX One enabling you to download games instead of buying the in-store, is the Now Economy. It’s everywhere, if we only look.

The Now Economy brings about even more disruption for retailers and service providers. Specifically, I think there are three critical challenges they must solve for.

  1. Incorporating An On-Demand Service Model: This isn’t a new idea. Ever have dinner delivered, where there’s a delivery/service charge on top of the cost of goods? Great, then you’re familiar with an on-demand service model. When we get something on demand we usually pay a premium. In theory, this would be great for the retailer or service provider. In practice, it’s mayhem, because it brings about the need to create new models to support an on-demand consumer. For example, we’re all familiar with restaurants that simply won’t deliver. There are good reasons for them not to deliver. Some chefs will say the quality of the food experience is marginalized. That’s a fair reason not to deliver. But, a bigger reason is trying to figure out the business model around predicting demand and staffing for that demand.
  2. Surge/Value Pricing: People love to hate on Uber for their Surge Pricing model. For those not familiar, let me offer a quick explanation. Uber has a fixed pricing model for time/mileage. You request a Uber and the car ride is governed by those rates. This is similar to every cab you’ve ever taken. You pay a premium on those rates for a better car and having the car come to you. Simple enough. Well, during peak times, when there are more people requesting Uber rides, than there are drivers, Uber charges a massive up-charge. How massive? It could turn a ride that would normally cost $40, into a ride that costs $240. Folks, that’s economics. It’s the simple supply and demand concept. Nothing new. Even the surge pricing isn’t really a new concept; it’s just a slight modification of a “rush charge” associated with services like tailoring. But, let’s say you’re a clothing retailer. You have a shirt I really want. I call to see if you have it in my size. You do! If you’re like most stores, you might hold it to the side for an hour or a day. But, if it’s something that’s inherently in limited supply, it’s unlikely that you will. But, what if I offered to pay double your asking price? Crazy? Perhaps. But, if you have the financial means and value it at 2x the asking price, why wouldn’t you accept that? I can give you a great reason…your prices are governed at a corporate level and your point of sale system can accept a discount, but not an up-charge. Infrastructure, logistics and policy…all holding you back.
  3. Sourcing Logistics: Have you heard of Pappy Van Winkle? It’s a bourbon. But, not just any bourbon. It’s made in limited supply and without traditional distribution. Bottles are allotted to stores. Your store might get 4. It might get 12. It might get 1. The bottles retail for roughly $50.00. They’re re-sold on the secondary market (aka Craigslist) for 3X – 10X that amount. That’s the free market economy at work for you. Capitalism, at its finest. There’s an urban legend story about a Zappos customer care specialist going well above the call of duty. A woman had called to inquire about a pair of boots/shoes. Zappos didn’t have the size the customer needed. Rather than lose the sale, the specialist, ordered the shoes from Nordstrom, who had them in the size needed and then cross-shipped them to the consumer. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this urban legend were 100% true. That’s the Zappos way and I think it represents the future. Auto Dealers are quite adept with this model. Let’s say you want a specific car with a specific set of features. It’s not uncommon for your dealer to trade a car on their lot with a dealer that has the car with your specifications. In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I purchased my last car. These dealers are simply swapping inventory. This works well when you’re all a part of the same family, but it’s much more difficult to do what Zappos may have done. I think organizations are going to need to grapple with a logistics model in which they don’t own all the inventory that they may sell you.

Speed is life, as Facebook says. I say, Speed wins. We live in an on demand world, where our phones hold more power than the computers from 10 years ago. The business, operating and logistics models of the past will not be able to support the Now Economy. Start rethinking about rewiring now. You don’t have time to wait.

Why Speed Wins In Today’s Marketplace

Speed. Real speed. Without it today, you’re dead in the water. Consumers are not stagnant. They advance, morph and change faster than ever before. Technology advances at the blink of an eye. Everything is happening faster.

Speed Wins

You can have the best strategy, the best team, the best product, but timing, yeah timing, that’s the tough part. Bob Davis the founder of Lycos often said

Speed Is Life

In Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to Wall Street, he evolved on that phrase with this breathtaking passage

Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.

Unfortunately, that maxim is lost on the majority of large legacy brands and organizations. In today’s marketplace there’s an uneasiness and tension in those organizations. Moving fast isn’t often in the DNA of those organizations. What feels like fast to them is still slow for today’s marketplace.

So why can’t brands get wired for speed? I think it comes down to three key elements:

  1. The Double Down On Today Dilemma: It’s easy to talk about “results” and “ROI.” While important, they also offer a great defense for changing. I’ve often said, there’s no value in doubling down on today at the expense of tomorrow. It’s easy to focus on today. Today, really means yesterday. The fact, econometric marketing mix models are still in use, is a testament that it’s easier to focus on looking back than looking forward. Those models are based on historical data and therefore favor TV and print, which have significantly more historical data than digital, social and mobile.
  2. The Emphasis On Safe, Secure and Right: There are 2 organizations that should never lead social “marketing” in your organization: Legal and Corporate Communications. Legal’s role is to protect the organization. In a perfect world, you’d never do any marketing. That would make their life a lot easier. Corporate Communication’s focus is on message management. In a ever changing dynamic digital world, you can’t expect to, nor should you want to manage the message. Today’s marketplace is messy. Things can’t be planned out months in advance. Disruption is the norm. But, if you’re focus is always on Safe, Secure and Right, you’ll never move quick enough.
  3. You’re Just Not Wired For Speed: Organizations are built on silos, divisions, departments and teams. Each one of them has a set of objectives, strategies, tactics and KPIs. In theory, they’re supposed to all ladder up to a broader set of organizational objectives. In practices, it’s often a set of mini fiefdoms. Speed comes from wiring. A great “digital” org isn’t built vertically. It’s built horizontally, by leveraging resources across an entire organization. That’s easy to do when there’s 1 single common mission. It’s very challenging when there’s so many competing agendas.

Make no mistake, this isn’t easy. If it was, there’d be case studies that go beyond the typical cast of characters: Red Bull, JetBlue, Starbucks, Zappos, Oreo and Audi. But, also make no mistake, if you’re organization is built with “results” as the end game where experimentation that leads to failure is punished, you’ll never acquire the speed you need to stay competitive in today’s marketplace.

The Complicated Shelf Life Of Change Agents

When I interview for roles, one of the first observations about my background is that I generally leave organizations every 2 years. This leads to a whole line of questioning that’s clearly probing to see if:

  1. I’ll stay longer than 2 years with their organization
  2. I’ve left those roles on bad terms

It’s a fair critique. The idea of “job hopping” 30 years ago was simply unheard of. But, look at the resumes from the people who’ve been working for the last 15 years and you’ll see a different story.

My standard answer is simple and honest. Most organizations bring people like me in to drive change…quickly. When enough change is in place, those organizations don’t know what to do with me. If you take an interest in my career and have a plan for me that allows me to keep growing while providing you/your org value, I’ll be here longer than 2 to 3 years

I think that’s a fair answer to their very fair critique.

Change Course

Let me provide a little bit of context. In most traditional organizations promoting someone like me to a VP title, would be heresy, because I lack an MBA. Look across the landscape, there are very few VP and above ,heads of digital. Their org charts haven’t evolved much in the past 10 years and they don’t know where a “head” of digital/social should sit, elevate to or ultimately become. What they do know, however, is they need strategic leadership iand growth quickly, in digital. They’re hiring based on an immediate need, without a long term plan. I’ve seen it happen up close and from afar.

Why 2 – 3 years you might be asking? Good question. Here’s my simple and basic 5 year plan for building an organization while trying to change the organization

Year 1: Asses, Triage, Stabilize, Test
In the first year you want to understand the organization, its pain points and where it wants to go. You can triage any immediate issues. I usually try to triage areas the create immediate costs savings and avoidance. Then you can turn your attention to focusing on a variety of initiatives designed at stabilizing your organization. Stabilize doesn’t mean tread water. It means focus on the initiatives that will enable you to put your attention on growth. Lastly, test out a variety of ideas, concepts and models. You’ll learn fast.

Year 2: Put More Wood Behind Less Arrows
Building on your stable foundation and your accumulated knowledge you can double and triple down on a few key things will drive the organization forward. At Campbell this was things like getting our arms around content, loyalty and how to turn data into actionable insights.

Year 3: Accelerate And Expand
With 2 solid years under your belt it’s time to start moving even quicker. Speed wins. Speed is life. Now is not the time to slow down. Expansion can come in a variety of flavors. It could mean expand your influence, your scope or the markets and teams your enabling. It shouldn’t, however, mean expanding your focus. You need to have relentless focus and keep focusing on what matters most.

Year 4: Blow It Up
80% into the growth cycle, it’s time to shake things up. Why? As Rishad Tobaccowala often says, the future can not be held by the containers of the past. In digital, things move quick…far quicker than the traditional analog world. Your models, team structures, processes, partners, etc. will need some tweaking. It’ll feel like a 1/2 a step back. That’s ok, because you’re setting yourself up to be relevant in another 4 years.

Year 5: Optimize
After that 1/2 step back it’s time to take 2 steps forward by smoothing things out. There will be chaos created in Year 4. Just as people were getting accustomed to how things were working, you’re changing it on them…again. Year 5 is all about getting rid of the friction points so you can be wired for even more speed and growth.

The really hard work is in the first 2 years. Once that’s done an organization can approach Year 3 differently or choose not to do Year 4. I think, most organizations feel good about the work done in the first 2 years. It looks epic, especially if you were starting from scratch. But, getting that far is painful. It’s painful for the “change agent” and it’s painful for the organization.

The problem that generally arrises as you’re approaching year 3 is that both parties, the organization and the “change agent” start to wonder if they need each other anymore and if the juice is worth the squeeze. There’s no right or wrong answer to this dilemma. Ultimately, the organization needs to decide if they want to keep evolving. Many don’t. Many organizations see change as something that has a start date and an end date. Personally, I think that’s an easy path to purse, but the wrong one. Change is iterative; it’s not a project. On the other side of the coin, the change agents must ask themselves, do I still believe in our mission and do I still believe the organization is investing in me and the mission.

This is a cross roads.

I often reference an email exchange I had with Seth Godin about his book, Tribes. When I asked Seth about why transformation leaders leave organizations he wrote:

often, tribe leaders leave because they won’t sacrifice the tribe to please management

cost of changing the world…

I can sympathize with that concept all to well. This happens far too often. My favorite example of this playing out was Ray Ozzie’s departure from Microsoft. After Ray’s company was acquired by Microsoft he was placed into a role in 2006 that lasted only 3 years. Microsoft, though, rather than lose Ozzie, put him in a new role as a change agent focused on Future Social Experiences. That lasted only a year, before Ozzie left the organization entirely.

The price of being a change agent, especially one focused on organizational enterprise transformation is that the self life for those roles is very short. But, remember, just because the shelf life is short, it doesn’t mean significant impact isn’t created that lasts for years. As Jack Black asked in the great movie High Fidelity, “is it better to burn out or fade awaaay?”

Me…I’ll take the burn out.

Is Facebook Failing Marketers?

Earlier this week, Forrester published a report that basically told marketers they were wasting their time, if they were investing in Facebook. Specifically, Nate Elliot, the principal analyst for the report, stated:

Facebook creates less business value than any other digital marketing opportunity

That’s a pretty bold statement. To truly dissect this, I think we need to start at the beginning. As with any research, garbage in equals garbage out. I don’t know who Forrester connected with for their survey, but I do know they didn’t speak me me, nor did they connect with 8 of my colleagues leading digital for fortune 150 companies. That, alone, is reason to pause and not simply take the survey results at face value.

Forrester Survey Results

Beyond that though, if this “research” had come out 2 years ago, I’d probably be nodding my head. Facebook hadn’t yet solved for mobile, they were constantly making wide sweeping changes to the “feed” algorithm, the Facebook Insights platform wasn’t sophisticated and it was tough, unless you were an Ecommerce company, to connect Facebook efforts to actual sales. Heck, Timeline had just been announced and was slowly starting to roll out.

But, that was 2 years ago. Today’s Facebook is not the Facebook of yesterday. The majority of those challenges no longer exist. For example the partnership with DataLogix enables CPG companies, like us, to understand the impact of our efforts, at the cash register. While Facebook’s team, approach, model, partners and products have matured rapidly, unfortunately the thinking by marketers hasn’t evolved at the same pace. In my opinion, too many organizations are treating Facebook like a direct mail platform. There was a time we were guilty of trying to manage Facebook and social media, as a whole, like we’d managed other more familiar marketing channels. We learned. We evolved. We’ve gotten better. It’s clear, today, Facebook isn’t designed for a spray and pray or blast away approach. Today it’s more scalpel than axe. But, that takes work. It takes effort. And it certainly takes a willingness to rapidly test and learn.

While we can’t share exact results, I can say our results and experience with Facebook, don’t mirror the results from the survey. Our organization’s commitment to getting closer to the consumer and iterative learning through experimentation grounded in insights are helping us make Facebook and other social platforms a business driving part of our integrated consumer plans.

Facebook isn’t “failing” marketers. But, it’s possible those paneled, have an unrealistic viewpoint of what Facebook can do for their organizations. The greatest tension in the ROI discussion always comes from what you expect your efforts to generate and what they actually generate. Before we point the finger at Facebook, or any other partner, we must first look inward and ask ourselves, did we give the organization a fighting chance to succeed? If you expect a $50,000 Facebook fan acquisition test campaign to out perform a $10,000,000 TV campaign, I’d think Facebook was failing me too.

Perhaps, Facebook isn’t failing us, but we, as a marketing community, are failing Facebook.