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Blog | Value is in the eye of the beholder

Value-true-worth Much like beauty, the value one places on anything is based on their perspective and not some universal metric. In business it is the intersection between what they value about your product and what you value providing that the true worth of a company is found.  The greater your worth, the more people will be willing to pay you for what you do best.  Therefore, continuing to expand that intersection is the key to building a sustainably profitable business. So how do you do that? Well, the first step is to discover what people value.  You can use secondary research, customer surveys, focus groups, social listening tools.  Or you could just make it a habit to talk to your customers as much as possible to get their honest feedback. Once you know what they care about, you can look inside and identify the areas you focus most on your business.  Where are you spending the most time and resources?  What are you intent on optimizing? After you determine that, ask yourself how much are those areas overlapping?  Are you spending the most time on delivering what your customers actually care about? Expand that intersection and you’ll consistently grow your worth.

Blog | Advertising’s battle of good vs. evil

Good VS Evil To paraphrase SocratesIn advertising, the only good is creativity and the only evil is banality. That is the war marketers and advertisers, alike, face everyday. How do we communicate our message in new and original ways?  How do we avoid being trite and uninteresting? While others may feel that advertising is the central cause of the commercialization and materialism of our modern world, I do believe that finding creative ways to communicate a message makes our lives richer and more fulfilling.  And that is at the heart of advertising’s true purpose. Yes, true, advertising is about convincing people to buy a product.  However, it’s also true that people rarely change their preconceived notions about anything.  As John Kenneth Galbraigh said, “Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” In truth, people cannot truly be directly persuaded to do anything.  So they actually cannot be so easily duped, as some would have us believe.  If only it were that easy. However, they can be shown a choice in a way they’re most likely to appeal to, based on their set ideals.  That’s creativity. Evil comes from dullness, shallowness.  It spawns irrelevance and frivolity.  When people focus on things that don’t truly matter, no good can come from it.  It is when we strive to resonate with others, when we truly reach someone, it is only then that we are doing good in advertising.

Blog | 7 Golden Rules of Strategy

strategy gameplan Here’s a compiled list of foundational guidelines on developing and executing effective strategies. 1. Never play someone else’s game. In Guys and Dolls, Marlon Brando gives this bit of advice: One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you're going to wind up with an ear full of cider. An established competitor will always try to force others to play by their set of rules, to get consumers to use their set of criteria to evaluate the product category.  Don’t play their game.  Make your own set of rules.  Show people another set of criteria to care about.  The only way to victory is on your terms. 2. Find out what your competitor is doing and do something different. Michael Porter said that the heart of strategy is in doing a different set of actions that people value. This is a kind of obvious, yet time and time again companies follow their competition.  If they’re doing it, it must work, right?  But ask yourself this: If you do the exact same things as your competitors, how can you possibly beat them? 3. Identify lots of options. They say all chess strategy and tactics boil down to making moves that increase your options and narrow you opponent’s options. Options give you flexibility.  They allow you to adapt as the situation changes.  You should never have just one way of how to do anything.  And you should be always looking for another, better way. 4. Strategy is all about surprise. Sun Tzu said that all war is deception. I think what he meant was that it’s all about doing things that your opponents wouldn’t expect.  In competition, your opponents are always looking for ways to counter your actions.  Misleading them disrupts their thinking and gives you an opportunity to counteract their moves. 5. The best-laid plans still require constant adaption. 19th Century Prussian Officer, Carl von Clausewitz, believed that the key to victory lay in a commander’s insight—what he called coup d’oeil “glance of the eye.” Plans are essential as a framework and starting point for any initiative.  However, a leader needs to be able to quickly adapt to changing conditions. Being able to read the field is one of the most essential skills for a quarterback.  A great play is important.  But being able to assess the situation and make the appropriate moves in a split second is what separates victory and defeat. 6. Strategies should be as simple as possible. But no simpler. This is the essence of Strategic Intent first coined by professors Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad.  It is the “big idea” that gives a company purpose and direction. It should be clear, but it should also be inspirational.  Nike could just be in the business of producing athletic products.  Or they could be about designing products that help bring out the athlete in all of us.  Small difference, but one that changes the entire outlook of what they do and guides the direction of their actions. 7. Always define winning in every situation. Vince Lombardi famously said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” But I have a slightly different interpretation of that. At the outset of any endeavor, it’s essential to define what winning would be in that circumstance.  Because you can’t beat every enemy.  You can’t reach every goal without failure.  You can’t eliminate all competition.  But you can create small wins for any situation.

Blog | What to do with a complete and total advertising failure

failure Be thankful for the opportunity. In the Last Lecture, Randy Pausch proudly declares that “the walls are there to show you how much you want it.” Instead of being discouraged by a failure, think of it as an opportunity to prove how good you and your company are.  Sustainable competitive advantage only comes from doing what other companies are unwilling to do.  The easy way is for “other people.” No great thing has ever been developed from consistent success.  So failure means you're getting closer to something breakthrough Edison famously took 10,000 experiments before inventing the light bulb. Apple has a tremendously tumultuous history.  When Wal-Mart had the grand opening of their first store in 1962, they had pony rides out front.  As customers walked in, they tracked in the “residuals” of those rides all over the entire store floor. Coca-Cola had New Coke.  Toyota has had massive recalls.  3M made an adhesive that wouldn’t stick well, for which I am personally forever grateful.  It is only from our failures that we learn how to make exponential leaps in our work. When asked whether he thought it was easier for young comedians in today’s YouTube-social-media driven world, Jerry Seinfeld said that it’s actually so much harder for them to become great comedians because it’s so easy for them to get out there now.  You need the opportunity to bomb (a lot) with little recognition so that you learn what works and what doesn’t.  There is no real other way to learn comedy than constant trial and error, so too in business. As Oliver Wendell Homes said, “If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I would not pass it around.  Trouble creates a capacity to handle it.  I don't embrace trouble; that's as bad as treating it as an enemy. But I do say: meet it as a friend, for you'll see a lot of it, and had better be on speaking terms with it.”

Blog | The value of a brand: The Chicken Nugget Thesis

Donald's Chicken Nuggets If you doubt the value of branding, listen to this story. In Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, Sally Hogshead talks about a Stanford research study where kids were given two different sets of chicken nuggets.  One was wrapped in McDonald’s packaging and the other set in plain, unmarked packaging.  The chicken nuggets themselves in both sets were completely identical.  The participants categorically noted that the McDonald’s branded chicken nuggets tasted better than the unbranded ones.  Let me repeat that, they believed they actually tasted better.  Not just preferred.  Not just liked.  They believed they tasted better even though both sets were exactly alike. That’s the power of a brand. How can you transcend the pure physical delivery of your product?  How can you get people to believe your product is actually better, even if it has the same or even less quality as your competitors?  How can you create loyal unwavering fans? Focus on building your brand.