Tag Archive: Microsoft

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.

5 Things I’m Pondering Right Now

Changing Landscape

1 – A Changing Mobile Landscape

Wow. The pace of change in the mobile landscape is staggering. Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s mobile handset business was inevitable. Blackberry being purchased by private equity was less inevitable. I think many though Blackberry might be purchased by someone like Samsung or Apple. The private equity move is a bit of a head-scratcher. That’s some serious change. Add in Apple’s launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C, both with the added security feature of finger print verification. Frankly, this security measure was long overdue and it was only going to be implemented well by Apple. We’re on the cusp of some serious changes, but I’m not sure these changes will end up being great for consumers. Why do I say that? Well, as the mobile world shrinks, will we see a slow down in innovation? Google is being less open with Android. Samsung wants to create their own OS. Microsoft has never really been good with leveraging an asset they purchased (see Skype as an example). There’s just a lot going on. While this might not be good for the consumer from an innovation standpoint, this could be great for the market at large. Less players, less devices, less fragmentation should create better standardization and hopefully start accelerating the road map for mobile marketing and advertising.

2 – Career Advice?

Yesterday, I came across this post titled, “Career Advice to My Daughters.” With a title like that, you knew it was going to get a lot of play. It was shared several times in my Facebook and LinkedIn feeds. Friends, called it “thoughtful”, “poignant”, “important” and a “must read.” I disagree with all of those words, except “must read.” I have a daughter, Cora. She’s 6. I became more and more irritated as I made my way through the author’s post. A great friend of mine, captured my feelings better than even I could. She said, “Wow. So, that guy’s advice is to basically NOT have a career? I’m baffled.” Another friend, this one a guy, said, “This is the same type of garbage that drives me nuts about younger employees. They’re “owed” great jobs. Companies do not owe you a job. They certainly don’t owe you a great job or career. It is a financial transaction. Provide value and be compensated. Be awesome and you’ll get the better jobs. On the plus side, if Cora and his kid were in a pool, Cora finishes in the top 50%.” I couldn’t agree more. While, I don’t need, nor expect my kids (both of them) to become CEOs, I do expect them to have an understanding of how the world works and that those who like ambition, drive and a clear sense of direction, struggle.

So Hard To Keep Up

3 – It’s Tough To Stay Digitally Fit…Even For Digital People

Keeping up in digital is challenging. I read. I read more. I try. I try more. I joined Snapchat. I hate Snapchat. I keep trying Snapchat. In a very sobering study from Adobe (PDF), it was revealed that less than half of DIGITAL marketers feel they are highly proficient at digital marketing. On some level, this isn’t surprising. For years, we haven’t invested in making digital important…certainly not important enough to invest in making our digital talent better through formal training-like programs. When we talk about building the digital capability and increasing our level of digital fitness at The Campbell Soup Co., we don’t focus on non-“digital” talent. Everyone needs to get more fit. Even those that are considered the most knowledgeable about digital, can always be smarter, better and more fit. When I read a report like this I feel even better knowing my kids are embracing digital and technology at such a young age.

Real Time

4 – Real Time “Marketing” Fatigue?

I watched, as many marketers did, the “real time marketing” efforts by brands during the Emmy’s. Most brands seemed to sit it out; and I happen to think that’s a good thing that reflects a return back to basic marketing fundamentals. Now, it’s possible, many brands sat out the Emmy’s because the Emmy’s aren’t as big as the Oscar’s. However, I tend to think it’s because marketers are realizing that real time marketing is a fad. Yes, I said a fad. Let me be clear when I say a fad, it’s the idea that an Oreo Super Bowl moment is repeatable every day. What isn’t a fad, isn’t being prepared, actively listening and striking at the right moment with an authentic on brand message that your audience actually wants to hear. What we saw with this most recent Oscar’s, were brands forcing the conversation. They were trying hard to replicate a moment. The problem is, you can’t force a moment. Moments happen, what you need to do is be ready to take advantage of the moment. Now, of course, leaders in the space, took umbrage with people calling them out for forcing a conversation and ultimately delivering off brand and mediocre creative experiences. They would have you believe that “no one” has this figured out and this is part of the evolution of real time marketing and it’s about innovation and test and learn. I’m not buying that. At Campbell, we often talk about how social is 99% preparation and 1% execution. If you spend your time preparing, you’ll almost always be able to take advantage of that 1% moment. If we want social to be better than robo-calls, infomercials and overly aggressive mass market direct mail, we need to focus on the preparation, not on trying to make execution the 99%. Our new soup campaign features a character called called, The Wisest Kid. You won’t find any tweets from him during the Emmy’s. There were certainly some great oppotunities, but we passed on them. Why? Because, we’re staying true to the campaign and our audience…the Emmy’s started after The Wisest Kid’s bed time. To have tweeted during the Emmy’s, with the hopes of catching lightening in the bottle, would have meant we were prioritizing short term gains and the expense of long term growth. Know your brand. Know your audience. Connect with them in a natural way.

Spartan

5 – Does Your Digital Org Road Map Include Blowing It All Up?

Digital moves quick. Every day it seems like there’s something new to keep up on. When you’re building a digital organization or looking to transform an organization into a more digitally fit one, you have to have a plan. I know that sounds basic. I realize you’re thinking, well gosh Adam, tell me something I don’t know. Ok, now, think for a second; do you have a real 5 year road map for where you’re taking the organization? Does it have vision and strategy? Does it include how you’ll evaluate your progress? For some of you the answer is yes. That’s great. Now, let me ask you, does your plan include and account for blowing up your entire model at some point? I didn’t think so. Why is this important? Part of it is as simple as the old adage, what got you here, won’t get your there. The other part though is that the skills, staffing dynamics, focus, priorities, partners and economic environments change often. While your vision and strategy should be consistent, the road map to get to bright will need to evolve and ultimately, at some point, you’ll need to blow it up if you want to be successful 5 years out from the end of your 5 year road map. We’re 15 months into our journey to be the most digitally fit CPG in the world. It’s a marathon. But, a marathon that we need to run at a sprinter’s pace. The more I think about things though, it might be less marathon and more like a Spartan Challenge style race.  In Spartan Challenges, you need to adapt and adapt quickly and often. You have fire, mud, hills and other obstacles. Those obstacles force you to reassess your path quickly. You need to be nimble, but not sloppy, as you keep your eye on the end goal.

The PowerPoint Conundrum

If you’ve been working professionally for at least 1 year, I’m sure the phrase, “death by PowerPoint” is etched into your brain.  PowerPoint and how we use has become a joke.  A colleague of mine often jokes that with PowerPoint, it’s the one time that there’s too much time spent on foreplay.  I chuckle, but she’s right.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before; but here’s how the typical PowerPoint presentation is structured:

  1. What we’re going to talk about (aka the agenda)
  2. Why we’re (the people in the room) here
  3. The challenge
  4. The research done on the challenge
  5. The hypothesis/point of view/recommendation
  6. The budget
  7. The timing/schedule
  8. The obligatory discussion slide

Are you cowering in the corner, under the harsh light of this reality?  Me too, and I was the one who just wrote it.  Even Microsoft, the architects behind PowerPoint are fed up with this approach.  CEO, Steve Ballmer was recently quoted by the New York Times with the following insight about Microsoft’s decision to move away from death by PowerPoint:

The mode of Microsoft meetings used to be: You come with something we haven’t seen in a slide deck or presentation,” he said. “You deliver the presentation. You probably take what I will call ‘the long and winding road.’ You take the listener through your path of discovery and exploration, and you arrive at a conclusion.

I decided that’s not what I want to do anymore. I don’t think it’s efficient. So most meetings nowadays, you send me the materials and I read them in advance. And I can come in and say: ‘I’ve got the following four questions. Please don’t present the deck.’ That lets us go, whether they’ve organized it that way or not, to their recommendation. And if I have questions about the long and winding road and the data and the supporting evidence, I can ask them. But it gives us greater focus.

In theory, that sounds perfect. Doesn’t it? But, it rarely happens, in my experience, for a few reasons:

  1. Lack of Accountability: We sent you the deck ahead of time, with the notes, but you still didn’t read it ahead of time.  Even I’m guilty of this one.
  2. Lack of Trust: Similar to Gladwell’s points in Blink, it’s tough to believe the conclusion, without the foreplay.  All the upfront slides help sell the conclusion.
  3. Reliance On Linear Story Telling: We’ve been taught from a young age that stories are told in a linear fashion, with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Telling stories in a non-linear fashion does not appeal to the lowest common denominator.
  4. The Need To Make The Presenter Dance: And my personal favorite…if you’ve called the meeting to present your “deck,” then I owe it to the room to make you dance, sweat and present.

I’ve seen this behavior daily, especially in the agency-client RFP scenario.  The number of times we’ve been asked to present “credentials” in the final presentation, even though by now (usually round 3) you should know who we are, what we stand for and why you should trust what we say, is just immeasurable.  But, that’s the dance we dance.

It’s not PowerPoint that’s the problem.  PowerPoint, Keynote and the rest are simply tools.  And, great tools in the hands of poor craftsmen are disasters waiting to happen.

So how do we break this cycle?  How do we change this PowerPoint culture?  The short answer is, we won’t anytime soon.  So long as corporate cultures punish risk takers, applaud playing it safe and treat “innovation” as a buzzword instead of a mindset, we’ll be stuck in the PowerPoint Conundrum.

In my own organization, I’ve tried to break free of the PowerPoint Conundrum.  Ironically, I find the people above me on the organizational chart most open to change.  It’s not the top of the pyramid that struggles with change; in fact, they’re often the ones demanding the change.  It’s the rest of the pyramid that has the problem…or rather perpetuates the problem, because they believe the organization isn’t ready for change and it’s better to play it safe.

But, I ask you if MadMen, a series set in the 1960s can understand there’s a better way to tell a story, tell me why we can’t figure it out 50 years later?

 

Mad Men: The Carousel from ray3c on Vimeo.

It’s a shame, really.

It’s The Hardware Silly

I’ve been using computers since from the age of 12. I’ve had a CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL and of course a Gopher and Telnet account. To date, I’ve built no less than 30 computers from the ground up. PocketPC, yeap I owned one. 10 pound laptop, for sure. First set of tablet computers launched in the early 2000s, guilty. Windows 3.11, 95, 98, ME (to this day I have no idea why), 2000, XP and Vista were all familiar friends.

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to computers, there’s just no denying it. I’ve owned a Compaq, HP, Gateway, Alienware and a Micron. In addition to those brands, for work I’ve lugged around a Sony, Dell and a Toshiba. In roughly 20 years of using computers I’ve never felt an emotional connection to a single PC device. That’s not Microsoft’s fault, yet they get the brunt of the blame. I’m not a PC guy or a Mac guy. In fact, I’m actually pretty rationale about that debate. I’ve been satisfied with products from both companies. While I don’t worship at the Keynote Podium of Steve Jobs, I can look on with admiration at the innovation his company churns out. I can be just as objective with Microsoft; recognizing their innovation with the XBOX, knowing that the Zune could have been a killer device and scratching my head regarding the Kin.

In the Mac vs PC debate, the problem Microsoft has isn’t that OSX is a better operating system. This isn’t a battle of operating systems. No, the problem is that Apple’s hardware is simply sexier, lighter and better. I’ve yet to come across a laptop designed for Windows that’s even remotely in the same galaxy as what Apple brings to the table. I’m focusing on laptops because let’s be honest, the concept of the desktop is basically dead. This is a sad state of affairs and one that perplexes me. After all, it’s not like Sony is a lightweight in the design department, right?

I purchased my first Mac 3 years ago. It was a 15″ MacBook Pro. I installed Windows Vista on it and finally was in love with a “Windows Device.”. It was light weight, had great battery life, offered a killer screen, integrated a responsive track pad and things like a built in camera…all while running Vista. Believe me, I looked for a comparable offering from Sony, HP and the like. But, there wasn’t anything worth considering.

Today I was at the Mall of America at the Apple Store to check out the new MacBook Air. It’s a wonderful device and I cant wait to see the new lineup of 15″ MacBook Pros get slimmer, smaller and smarter just like the Air. Across the aisle from the Apple Store was signage touting the new Microsoft Store opening in November. I’m going to visit the store, no doubt, but my expectations are low. As much as I’m a fan of Windows 7, it’s still being crippled by inferior hardware that fails to establish an emotional connection. Well unless you think a shoulder shrug and indifference are emotional connections.

Maybe the so called Apple Tax is worth paying…not for the software, but for the hardware.

5 Reasons The iPad Will Fail

While everyone else is falling in love with a product that’s not even released yet, I’m opting to take a more realistic view on the iPad.  I think it’s going to fail.  I don’t see it being 1/10 as successful as the iPhone.  Here’s 5 reasons why it will fail to connect with consumers.

  1. Price: Simply put, it’s too expensive.  Considering you can get nearly ALL of the functionality the iPad has to offer in an iPod Touch, which starts at $199.99, I don’t see many folks opting to upgrade.  Also consider the number of people who already have laptops.  You get infinitely more options on a laptop than you do with an iPad.  This essentially makes the iPad a “treat” or “splurge” item.  Considering the sorry state of the economy, can you see the average family of four spending a minimum of $499.99 for a “nice to have” product?  Me neither.  Lastly, consider all the people with Kindle’s or other eBook readers.  Buying an iPad makes no sense for these folks either.
  2. The Network: The smartest thing Apple could have done was choosing any other cellular provider over AT&T.  Despite all of the uproar over AT&T’s shoddy network, it makes zero sense that they’d choose AT&T.  Can you imagine downloading a 500mb TV show from the iTunes Store over the AT&T Edge network?  Ouch, it would be painful.  But, ok…what’s done is done.  They chose AT&T.  Fine. The next smartest thing they could have done was use a normal SIM card to access the network.  This would have let people who have iPhones simply swap their SIM card from their iPhone, place it into their iPad, and then connect away.  I think this wasn’t done for only one reason.  By choosing an alternative SIM card design you are forced to pay AT&T even more money to access their horrible network.  Bad move.
  3. No Camera: How they missed the boat on this is mind blowing.  The iPad with a built in camera would have been a killer device for people who are frequent travelers (business or personal).  The ability to video chat from such a lightweight and compact device would have made this a must have product for travelers.
  4. No Flash: Say what you want about HTML 5, but not having Flash essentially eliminates the ability to watch over 50% of the meaningful video content on the web.  Hulu is no dice.  Network television sites like ABC.com are no dice.  Entertainment sites like Funny or Die, MetaCafe, and Break.com are no dice.  People want things to work as anticipated.  So when they visit Hulu.com and essentially get a giant fail whale, there will be huge disappointment.  That disappointment will manifest itself into negative peer to peer recommendations.  So much for buzz driving sales.
  5. Walled Garden: I still can’t install apps like Office.  I still can’t install programs like Photoshop.  The ability to create and edit files is limited to the iWork software bundle.  Sure, that would be great…except no one really uses it.  Like it or not Microsoft Office is still king.  When pundits described the iPad as a large iPhone, they weren’t kidding.

The iPad could have been killer.  Instead, it’s about as exciting and will be as successful as the Newton.

UPDATE 4/3/10

This morning I headed over the Mall of America to visit the Easter Bunny.  But, seeing as I had some extra time on my hands, I decided to swing over and check out the “scene” at the Apple Store.  Well, there wasn’t much of a scene.  The Apple Store clearly was anticipating one.  There were two sets of gated lines; one for pre-orders and one for new purchases.  The gates stretched about 200 feet.  I think they were over-prepared.  When I walked by, there were 4 people in the pre-order line and 6 people in the new purchase line.  It took me all of 15 minutes to go from being the 7th person in line to purchasing the iPad for my daughter as an early birthday present.  That kind of “scene” isn’t exactly reminiscent of the iPhone release scene.  It was more like the scene at a 7-11 at 3 in the morning.  Newton, here we come!

What If Motorola Was The One Who Created The iPhone

The other day Michael Gartenberg, one of my all time favorite people who I’ve yet to meet, and I were having an exchange on twitter about an article he wrote for Engadget regarding the iPhone’s ability to be both a tool for work and play leading to it’s success. Our exchange, eventually lead to my asking Michael “If Motorola came out with the iPhone, would it be as well loved?”  Michael’s response was, “if they did the same job as apple with hardware and software. Of course.”  This got me thinking.  It got my brain working overdrive.  Here’s what I think.

  1. Apple love and fan-boyism catapulted them forward.  They provided the loyal fan base that would have bough the iPhone if it were priced at $1,000.
  2. Their massively large built-in audience of iTunes users made the iPhone a logical, if not the only, choice for people who wanted to sync their media library with their phone.  Keep in mind iTunes as 69% of the digital music market in the United States and 25% of all music sales.  As we’ve seen with the back and forth between Palm and Apple, the folks at Apple are not going to allow other devices to sync with iTunes.  Essentially, if you manage your music and media with iTunes, the iPhone was the ONLY option.  That’s huge.
  3. There have been lots of example of companies offering a more superior product than Apple, but Apple still winning the war at retail.  There’s certainly a lot of factors that influence the cash register ringing, but it can’t be denied that products like the Zune offer more features at a cheaper cost, yet still gets crushed by Apple’s products.  Why?  First mover advantage is certainly 1 big reason.  But, consider, Creative Labs had many other MP3 players on the market before the iPod, yet Apple still dominated.  I tend to think the reason the Zune has failed is the brand perception of Microsoft.  If Microsoft had opted not to brand the Zune, the Microsoft Zune, and instead simply branded it as “Zune,” would there have been a big difference in sales?  I think so, but still not to the level of the iPod.
  4. Let’s look at the Droid.  It’s an amazing product.  But, people weren’t lining up in mass to buy it, like they were for the iPhone.  Let’s call the Droid a product on parity with the iPhone (I actually think it’s a better device) for arguments sake.  If that’s really the case, why didn’t it soar to success?  What if the Droid, was the Apple iPhone Droid?  My guess is, it would have sold like hot cakes.  In short, it’s the Apple name that matters, not the product.

Apple, isn’t perfect.  Apple, in many ways is more flawed than Microsoft and other large companies.  But, Apple has passionate followers (bullet point #1) that continue to offer a baked-in audience ready to create a Groundswell of support for any Apple product.  It’s that reason why I think if Motorola had created the iPhone, it would have flopped.

What do you think?

10 Things I Think I Think

Peter King is easily one of my favorite sports writers. His Monday Morning Quarterback column is simply some of the best writing out there. Perhaps the best part of his column is a section called 10 Things I Think I Think.

He’s been on vacation the past few weeks, leaving Monday Morning Quarterback in the hands of guest writers. They’ve all taken their crack at filling the void, but none have really nailed it.

With that in mind, I got the inspiration earlier this week to write my own 10 Things I Think I Think column. So hear it goes…

  1. I think I’m ok with TechCrunch posting all the “secret” and “confidential” documents. TechCrunch is only slightly above the National Enquirer, so it’s not like they have journalistic integrity. Their decision to post didn’t surprise me and the voyeur in me was fascinated to see the inner workings of a company clearly struggling with their own success.  I also think it was nice to see the folks at twitter realize they weren’t gods.  Sometimes you just need to be knocked down a peg or two.
  2. I think Google is the ultimate frenemy. You need them to succeed, but you clearly don’t trust them. I think this distrust of Google is exactly why twitter decided to partner with Microsoft to create Bing Tweets even though Google would have given them even more exposure.
  3. I think I’m just not all that interested with Posterous.  It could just be that I’m stubborn, but I don’t see the value in the platform over what WordPress, tumblr, etc. already offer.
  4. I think the best aspect of the social web is that it’s helped me meet new people in person. Through twitter alone, I’ve made 6 new “real” connections. These are people that I now call upon for advice or just to talk shop. That’s the real power of social media. It’s not the technology and the platforms; it’s the people.
  5. I think in the next 3 years, we’re going to see a quantum shift in the cell phone business. Consumers will be able to buy their phone and then be able to use it with any service provider they choose. This will change the face of mobile in the United States and force service providers to rethink their business model.
  6. I think expectations are a good thing, but ridiculous expectations are completely silly.
  7. I think the term “partnership” is overused and generally misunderstood. True partnership means more than 1 person/team/company/etc. working together for the greater good. It means give and take is expected. It means you look out not only for your own interests, but also the interests of your partners.
  8. I think the whole green movement is a fad and that when put to a choice between a green product that costs 40% more than a non-green product, the non-green product will always win with consumers. When I was looking at houses in Minnesota, I explored so called green houses. The concept was cool and the payout was supposed to be fantastic because of how energy efficient they were. Sure, they are…but they also cost nearly 60% more than a non-green house and the payback happens after roughly 15 years of being in the house. Not exactly what I’d call an exciting return on investment.
  9. I think as video game systems advance, I’m finding them less exciting. The wii doesn’t do it for me and if Microsoft is serious about the next generation in gaming being a controller free world, I’m done with gaming.
  10. I think I’d rather work with passionate people that want to be better than smart people who are devoid of emotion. It’s not even a question.

I enjoy writing. I enjoy sharing my thoughts. The self publishing capabilities that have launched in the last 3 years have made my life infinitely easier and brought me closer to all of you out there. That’s the beauty of an always on, easily connectable, and simple to use internet. I think I’m really thankful for that.

Competition Is A Good Thing

I like competition. I believe that competition keeps companies and people hungry. For too long Google has had very little competition in search. Frankly, I think that lack of competition has lead to a product that really hasn’t changed very much since its initial launch. When you consider how much the interactive landscape has evolved in the last 10 years, that’s a really scary thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there weren’t several attempts made to compete with Google. AskJeeves, Microsoft Live, and Cuil are just a few. However, none of them were serious competitors to Google. That’s why I’m so excited about the recent influx of serious competitors in the search game. Yahoo! Glue, Wolfram Alpha, and now Bing represent serious competitors.

The naughty truth is we need them to do well. We need them to succeed. We need them to pose a threat to Google. Why? Because, a serious competitor or set of competitors would force Google to evolve, innovate, and learn a little bit of humility.

Have you ever sat through a presentation by Google? They’re amazing. Basically, the presentation focused on how infallible Google is and if you aren’t using their tools you’re clearly not very bright. Seriously. I’ve sat through more than my fair share. Google doesn’t “sell” because they EXPECT you to “buy.” Healthy competition would change that attitude.

Google needs a foil. Should Bing, Wolfram Alpha, Yahoo! Glue, or another option become a legitimate foil we ALL win. At the end of the day don’t we all want a better search engine? Sure, there are still 18 people using Excite and 25 people holding on to AltaVista, but the majority of us want a better search engine…even if we don’t know it.

Ohhhhh, competition is a beautiful thing. Let’s hope we see a real competitor emerge from the shadows. Google needs one. We need one.

People Believe 90% Of What They Do

I like Microsoft. I think Windows is a great operating system. The Office suite of products including Outlook, Project, and Visio are the tools I need to do my job on a day to day basis.

People, really smart people, continue to talk about Microsoft’s demise. They point to Microsoft’s decision to hire CP+B as an example of desperation. On some level, I agree. At the same time they’re shoveling dirt onto Microsoft’s grave, they’re placing Apple on a ridiculously high pedestal. On a lot of levels this is quite funny when you consider that Microsoft maintains more than 89% of the market share. But, I digress.

Microsoft’s problem as it relates to Apple has always been the same. Apple not only develops the software/operating system they’re also designing the hardware. They design the look and feel of the MacBook, iPhone, and iMac. They have 100% control over what the visual expression of the brand will be. That’s huge. Think about it. People don’t understand the nuts and bolts of an operating system. They can’t articulate memory leaks or poor coding. The options for hardware also confuse consumers. Does the consumer need 2gb of memory? 4gb? What about the video card? Oh and don’t forget do you need a 80gb or 200gb hard drive. There’s simply too many options.

But, what consumers do understand is the look of the actual hardware. The Macs are sexy. They’re sleek. They stand out. They’re light weight and have features their PC counterparts overlook; like the magnetic power cord. When you touch the Mac it feels good in your hands. When you consider that this concept is part of Apple’s culture it’s easy to see why the do such a great job with design. From the minute the consumer looks at the Mac and then subsequently touches it, an emotional connection is formed between Apple and the consumer. This is what allows them to leverage the Apple Store so well and why the newly announced Microsoft stores will fail.

Microsoft has little to no control over the actual hardware. Toshiba, HP, Dell, etc. all pick and choose different design options. Frankly, their design options are bland and lack a visual appeal. They just aren’t very sexy and because of that, it’s rare the consumer makes an emotional connection with a PC laptop or desktop. Now don’t get my wrong. You’re paying for this style, design, and emotional connection. Microsoft would have you believe you’re paying about $500.00 more.

The problem with this campaign and these ads are that Microsoft isn’t selling Microsoft – they’re selling HP or whatever computer manufacturer they feature. That’s a major disconnect, don’t you think? So long as Microsoft is at the mercy of their hardware partners they will continue to have this problem and all the advertising in the world won’t fix fix it.

They need a product that people want to touch, feel, and pick-up.  They don’t have one.  Not one consumer product (Microsoft Surface isn’t a consumer product) from the Zune to the Smart Phones is desirable.

Microsoft may be the only company where the standard advertising agency recommendation or “you need to evolve from a reason to believe to a reason to care…and establish an emotional connection with your consumer” – is 100% true.

Will Advertisers Influence The Quality Of Video Games?

I like video games. They’re a release for me. I really enjoy sports game. Be it Football, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, or Golf (no Soccer) – I play sports games. Over the past 3 years I’ve noticed two trends:

  1.  Sports games are getting worse
  2. Advertisers are spending more money on in-game advertising

I picked up MLB 2K9 this year, despite a sub par review from IGN. My choices were limited because 2K Sports, the manufacturer of the game, has an exclusive agreement with Major League Baseball. Essentially, if you wanted to play a baseball game this year on the XBOX 360, they were the only choice.

To put it mildly, the game is a disappointment. It doesn’t even meet the basic expectations I had. The one thing that did impress me was the amount of integration Pepsi had in the game. As you can see from this screen shot they are, well, everywhere.

This got me thinking. Television networks price costs for 15/30/60/etc. second spots based on the show. Better shows, that attract more viewers, cost more. This chart does a nice job of showing how this has played out over time.

In some way, the advertiser (in this case Pepsi) is banking on the show being good. If the show explodes, they make out ahead. If the show tanks they lose. So that all makes sense. Let’s take it a step further. When a brand does a sponsorship of a show they are taking a larger risk and on some level engaging in a partnership with the show. The show now has an obligation to the advertiser to deliver the goods. On many levels this is exactly what it’s like for in-game advertising. Pepsi’s sponsorship of the game (that’s really what it is) is a partnership between some combination of Pepsi, Microsoft (XBOX manufacturer), and 2K Sports.

If you’re Pepsi, do you really want to be associated with a game as bad as MLB 2K9? A game that even die hard fans are saying sucks. There words, not mine. Of course not. You want to be associated with with things that are analogous to your company, image, and audience. If I’m Pepsi, I’d be asking for a make good on the ad space. I don’t even know if that exists in the in-game advertising space.

Thanks for hanging in this long. So what’s the point? Simple. Will advertisers have a say in the final quality of video games? Will they be able to demand, on some level, a game that meets the expectations of the fan base? After all if the games continue to be garbage, no one will buy them, which screws up the whole in-game advertising circle of love. No one makes money. No one connects with their consumer. Nobody wins.

If in-game advertising continues to increase (eMarketer says it’s on the massive upswing) game manufacturers will have even more pressure to deliver and quality product. That spells good news to the consumer. The real question, is how long it will take for this to happen. My guess is within the next 3 years.

About
Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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