John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Failed Marketing Campaign?

jyb_musingsHave a failed marketing campaign? Are you still, after attempting multiple promotional strategies, still struggling to break through?

Here is one of my father’s favorite explanations. Mine too.

Maybe the dogs don’t like it:

Once upon a time a pet food company created a new variety of dog food and rolled out a massive marketing campaign to introduce the product. Despite hiring a first-rate advertising agency, initial sales were very disappointing. The agency was fired and a new agency and a new campaign was launched. Sales continued to disappoint. If anything, they fell even further. In desperation, the CEO called in all of the top executives for a brainstorming session to analyze what had gone wrong with the two campaigns and how a new campaign might revive sales.

The meeting went on for hours. Sophisticated statistical analysis was brought to bear on the problem. One VP argued that the mix of TV and print ads had been messed up. Another argued that the previous campaigns had been too subtle and had failed to feature the product with sufficient prominence. Another argued that the TV ad campaign had focused too much on spots during sporting events and not enough on regular programming with a broader demographic. Another argued the opposite–not enough sports programming had been targeted. After the debate had raged for hours, the CEO felt they had accomplished very little. He asked if anyone else had any theories that might explain the failure of the new product. Finally, one newly hired employee raised his hand and was recognized.

“Maybe the dogs don’t like it,” she said.

Jason Grill: JGrill Media One of Kansas City’s Top Companies

From ThisisKC.com:

Superstar Service: JGrill Media

 

Whether he’s interviewing local innovators on KMBZ’s “Entrepreneur KC” radio show, writing a piece for The Huffington Post explaining why our burgeoning Midwestern tech hub is “not flyover country,” or helping a tech firm gain exposure through his PR firm JGrill Media, Jason Grill is your quintessential Kansas Citian who keeps his hometown close to his heart.

Through a unique combination of media and government relations, business consulting, and local and national commentary, JGrill Media helps establish mutually beneficial relationships among key players in the community that all want the same thing: “To make Kansas City the best to place to live and do business,” Grill says.

“Whether you need advice, are looking for capital or want to meet with someone at the Kauffman Foundation, people here have a vested interest in seeing other entrepreneurs succeed and will actually help you build your business while building their own,” he continues. “There’s a Midwestern value here that believes that strengthening the community is very important.”

kansas-city-top-companies-j-grill-media

Building relationships and making introductions is one of the key ways Grill does his part. Although he “never would have guessed” he’d someday have his own company—or rather companies, plural, since he’s also one of the owners and cofounders of Sock 101—JGrill Media is basically the culmination of Grill’s illustrious career as an attorney, author, adjunct professor, entrepreneur, political advisor, media correspondent and two-term Missouri state representative.

“I’ve always liked media, politics and connecting people, and all of those things are important for what I do now,” Grill says. “I know who the players are, how to get meetings set up and how to interact with the media. Being a legislator taught me how to campaign and how to fundraise. And as a business owner and startup co-founder, I understand the needs of young companies from a relationship, media and growth perspective.”

Drawing upon his eclectic background, business savvy, legal knowledge and strategic media approach, Grill has a seemingly effortless knack for fostering partnerships that not only help his clients grow and get noticed, but solidifies his own position as a superstar in the community.

His contagious optimism and unwavering civic pride only fuel his popularity. “I just like talking to people and building relationships,” Grill admits. “It keeps you sharp and helps you grow as a person so you can build more relationships.”

It’s hard to predict what this serial entrepreneur will do next. “I don’t think I’ll ever settle into one role,” Grill says. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a football player one year, and then the next year, I wanted to be a baseball player. I think that’s the nature of being an entrepreneur. And I think that’s what makes JGrill Media unique because it works in different verticals to provide services that no other affordable and hands-on KC company can provide.”

- Kathryn Jones

Brooke Masters: On-site supervisors a good start for ECB

brookemastersBanking union is the flavour of the month. Faced with investors who doubt the ability of some eurozone sovereigns to make good on their debts, the 17 members of the single currency have agreed to work together to channel aid directly to troubled lenders. But the deal is conditioned on the creation of a single banking supervisor, empowered to crack down on risky banks, no matter where they are located.

Setting up an impartial expert to oversee the banks could well be a key step toward restoring trust. Freed from local political concerns, a central supervisor might well have a clearer view of the problems and the fortitude to take the almost certainly unpleasant decisions needed to solve them.

But well-informed banking supervisors can’t be summoned with the wave of a wand, and key eurozone finance ministers this week repeated calls for something to be put in place by the end of the year. Given that tight deadline, the options are pretty limited. The fledgling European Banking Authority, which opened its doors just over 18 months ago, currently sets standards but it has no legal authority to supervise banks. Its mandate to create a stable and level playing field throughout the single market also runs counter to taking on a specific eurozone role.

The European Central Bank is seen by many as the only operator with the credibility and resources to crack down hard on recalcitrant lenders. The current plan is for the ECB – or some offshoot – to take charge of the bigger, cross-border institutions while smaller banks would continue to be supervised locally. That arrangement – which parallels the UK plan to hand supervision back to the Bank of England next year – raises concerns about an overly powerful central bank trying to do too many jobs at once. It also contains a problematic fudge. Small banks can be dangerous too. Witness the woes of the Spanish regional savings banks and the 2007 depositor run on Northern Rock, a middle-sized UK lender.

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Brooke Masters: On-site supervisors a good start for ECB

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Building Blocks

Building BlocksYou know, maybe…. learning to play with building blocks is the most important activity we learn as children.

Because we continue– metaphorically speaking–to play this game our entire lives.

Everytime we experience something new or learn some new piece of information or glean some new insight about life it is like we collect a new block we can play with–to help build something with.

So, I guess we should ask ourselves each day, “What are we building today with our building blocks?” And, “Which building blocks are we choosing to build with?”

jyb_musings==

Success milemarkers for a new business.

The day you replace the two chairs in the entrance you purchased from Wal-Mart six years ago and assembled yourself with two chairs you purchased on clearance from Z Gallerie. That come pre-assembled.

Dave Goldberg: Barcelona and the 6%

“We could simply pack our bags and catch a plane to Barcelona ‘cause this city’s a drag.”

- Holiday in Spain by Counting Crows

Dave GoldbergIf you’re reading this, there’s a decent chance I’m catching you on a mobile device. And according to the latest Pew data, 6% of U.S. consumers are mobile ONLY. No home phone. No computer. And from what I saw at Mobile World Congress(MWC) last month in Barcelona, this number is guaranteed to rise.

One of the major conversations at the conference centered on device form factors – they’re getting bigger. Samsung, Nokia and Sony all announced new phones with larger screen sizes, and Huawei showed off its new “phablet,” a phone-tablet combo with a 7.1-inch screen.

The other major trend we kept hearing about is the rise of wearables. Samsung announced a new smartwatch family – the Gear2, Gear Neo, and Gear Fit – while perpetual rumors about a similar Apple device continue to swirl. Things like smartwatches have yet to prove themselves, but simpler wearable technology that tracks daily habits without incorporating other messaging and connectivity components (FitBit, Nike Fuel, etc.) have clearly filled a consumer need.

Another trend that continues to gain momentum is the increasing use of consumer friendly tools and services in a business setting. The trend of people bringing their own devices, or BYOD, has been around for quite some time. It’s now evolved into BYOS – or bring your own services. I participated in a panel discussing BYOD/BYOS, along with executives from Evernote, Merck, AT&T and others.

As part of the panel we unveiled the results of a SurveyMonkey Audience survey to find out how many of us are downloading and using services on our mobile devices at work, independent of those recommended or offered by our employers. Here’s what we found:

Employees are spending more and more time on their phones for work purposes

  • Almost 30% (29%) of people report that half of their time – or more – is spent using their mobile phones for work
  • More than half of respondents (56%) report an increase in using their mobile phone for business over the past three years

And most believe they will spend even more time on their phone for work in the future

  • The majority of respondents (52%) believe that they will increase their use of mobile phones for business in the future

Now that employees are bringing their own devices, they are bringing their own services, software and applications into the workplace

  • Slightly more employees (31%) report bringing ALL their own services into the workplace vs. those that only use services approved/suggested/provided by their employer (28%)
  • 29% of respondents report using a mix of services/applications that they downloaded themselves and those provided by their employers
    • 8% do this a lot
    • 8% do this a good amount
    • 13% do this some of the time

With productivity tools continuing to be more consumer friendly, like Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google office apps, etc., and more mobile (we launched our own mobile app last month), this is another trend that will continue to generate lots of momentum. Innovations like these, and the others I saw during my trip to MWC, are going to accelerate the growth of that 6% mobile only number. Gracias, Barcelona!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Marshmallow Test

jyb_musingsThe “Marshmallow Test,” Batman, and law school (and life) lessons.

Ever since my sophomore year in college, after renting the movie the Paper Chase (about life at Harvard law school) and watching it three consecutive times (the third time as the sun was rising the next morning), I knew I wanted to go to law school.

25 years ago this fall I started law school at the University of Kentucky. Law school, for me, was one of those transitional and transformational experiences. The experience has a way of introducing a student to him or herself. During law school one has to come to grips with realities about himself or herself that can be both humbling and heartening. In my case, law school proved to me that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I had secretly hoped; but proved to others that I was considerably smarter than they had assumed. The experience also proved to me I could work much harder than I thought I could. And proved to my parents that I not only could –but would –work much harder than they thought I ever was capable. It was an important and defining time for me.

A few weeks before heading from Louisville to Lexington for law school a wise mentor took me to lunch and asked me what I hoped to achieve there. I told him I wanted to finish in the top 10% of my class (or Order of the Coif, as it is known in most law schools). He was unimpressed and said he only hoped -–and believed—that after law school he could say that “I was a fine young man.” And that is what was really important. He was right, of course, and over the next 3 years I never forgot his response. But I also never forgot my goal.

Over the past week, I have been texting a friend and law school classmate from a quarter decade ago about our law school experience. What has been most striking is the detail with which we each remember the many facets of our experience, but most especially the detail with which we recall grades and class rank. We each noted if we had had a single class where our grade increased by a single increment (from a B+ to an A – or a B to a B+) we would have graduated law school with a notably higher honor than we did. In my case, I pointed out to my friend, I would have graduated “Order of the Coif.”

And this is where the “Marshmallow Test” comes into play. That test was made famous for demonstrating that young children who could delay gratification (by saying “no” to the tempting offer of a single marshmallow now in favor of being rewarded with two marshmallows 15 minutes later) was a better predictor of life success than any other test devised for young children. What does this have to do with law school? Well, the night before one of my final law school exams, I got invited, cajoled, and ultimately persuaded to scrap studying for several important hours to go see the movie Batman. Prior to that night, I never—ever—had compromised on studying during law school exams. My first year I had no cable TV and would only see and go on dates with my now wife once a week. I missed an aunt’s funeral during first year finals and spent Thanksgivings alone so I could get a possible studying edge on my classmates. But this one time—when I knew I was on the bubble for Order of the Coif and that anything lower than a B would probably drop me below Coif—I went for the “instant” rather than the “delayed” gratification.

I got a “B –“ and didn’t achieve my long held goal of making Order of the Coif. And I had only myself to blame. My former classmate and I, while texting about our “near misses,” concluded that we both took it all too seriously back then and that now, fortunately, we were much less competitive than our younger selves and how that was a good thing.

That is all true. I even added that “Life with our competitive tendencies kept in check,” is much more rewarding, both personally and professionally. But I also had to confess that despite my 25 years of additional maturity and, supposedly, wisdom, I would never have anything nice to say about the Batman movie franchise.

I was joking, of course. But not entirely. The texting conversation made me realize that 25 years later I still know—and can relive— every detail about how I botched my shot at graduating law school with that distinguised honor. But what I can’t do is recall with even the slightest detail any of the movie Batman, which I chose instead that night. In other words, I have no memory of the single marshmallow I chose 25 years ago. But a vivid recall about not holding out for just 15 more metaphorical, and perhaps literal, minutes for the bigger and longer lasting prize I sacrificed.

I like to think I still graduated as a “fine young man” as my mentor friend had hoped for me—and that, in many respects, my goal of wanting to graduate “Order of the Coif,” was just an extra marshmallow I missed out on, so to speak, but nothing much more than that. But the lesson I really learned –and am quite sure I’ll never forget—is that when faced as an adult with the equivalent of the Marshmallow Test, I will remember that the second marshmallow is always much sweeter and more satisfying than the first. If for no other reason, the second marshmallow is worth much more because of the sacrifice required to earn it.

Marshmallows, like life, are like that

Saul Kaplan: Weird Is In

Saul KaplanI have to admit when I was growing up and when we raised our children I thought weird was out.  Weird was isolated, ostracized, dismissed, and definitely not cool. Turns out I was wrong. Weird is in.  Weird is unique, refreshing, remarkable, and definitely cool.  It just took me a while to figure it out.  The evidence is all around us.  Two personal reminders of how weird can be an advantage are a recent trip to Austin, Texas and reading Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.

I was asked to give a talk on business model innovation to a group of association leaders in Austin, Texas.  It was my first trip to Austin but the city’s reputation for embracing weird preceded my visit.  I love the city mantra Keep Austin Weird.  How many cities would have the guts to rally around such a weird positioning?  I think it is brilliant.  It is differentiated and sends a clear message to both residents and visitors that Austin is an edgy and interesting place where creativity is central and you just might learn something new.  It makes me want to live and invest there. The night I arrived the positioning was realized immediately as I joined an eclectic crowd forming on the Congress Street Bridge to watch North America’s largest urban bat colony emerge from under the bridge. You don’t experience that every day.  It was delightfully weird and the gathered crowd was a great manifestation of Austin’s community aspiration for a collaborative fission of coordinated individualism.

The discussion I went to Austin for with a diverse group of association leaders focused on declining association membership and how to design and test new business models.  Turns out that many young professionals are not joining associations and the group wondered if those professionals most receptive to innovation and changing the role of their professions are the least likely to join associations leaving an aging membership uninterested in being and celebrating weird.  Maybe associations could benefit from a little more weird.

I just finished reading and highly recommend Delivering Happiness by my friend Tony Hsieh.  Tony reveals his Zappos playbook and no surprise weird plays an important role.  One of Zappos’ 10 core values is Create Fun and a Little Weirdness.  Can you imagine your company explicitly celebrating being weird as one of its core values?  Zappos means it.  Not crazy or extreme weirdness but comfort with unconventional approaches, learning from mistakes, and the ability to laugh at themselves.  Zappos wants a touch of weirdness to make life more fun and interesting for everyone.  Tony is serious when he says the company must have a unique and memorable personality.

I experienced the weirdness first-hand when I visited Tony at Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas.  It is remarkable to see the Zappos culture up close and personal. If you are going to Las Vegas definitely take Zappos up on its standing offer to visit the headquarters.  None of what you have read about Zappos is as powerful as seeing it in action.  From the way you are greeted at the airport to a memorable stroll through the company.  On the outside the buildings look like any one of a million suburban office complexes but once inside you will not forget the experience and uniqueness of being warmly greeted by each department with an eclectic mix of streamers, parades, kazoos, cowbells and what ever expression strikes the Zappos team at the moment.  The Zappos culture Tony talks about is obvious, tangible, and infectious.  In Tony’s own words to Zappos employees, ” We want the weirdness in each of us to be expressed in our interactions with each other and in our work.”  I am thrilled that Tony is joining us as a storyteller at BIF-6 (not to be missed, hint, hint, only 60 seats remain).

If the goal is to get better faster and learning is optimal at the edge we could all benefit from a little more weirdness.  We need to make room in our personal lives, organizations, and communities for embracing weird.  Everything else seems boring and stagnant.  Weird is in.

 

Jay Steinmetz:

Jay SteinmetzAmerica is at a crossroads.  We sit here on the edge of a fiscal cliff fighting to determine if tax hikes or entitlement reform is going to lead the day.  As we fight to raise our debt ceiling critical questions are not being answered and seem to be ignored time and time again.  How did we get here?  Why did we get here?  And how do we avoid getting here again?

When we rescued two of the three American car companies we did so by removing huge debt and the liabilities of their underfunded pension liabilities.  Did we address why they were all failing to begin with?  Were VW, BMW, and Mercedes in Germany rescued?  Did Japan step in to support Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru or Mitsubishi.   There are concrete reasons why two thirds of the American auto industry was failing.  The truth is that America’s other smaller industries are just as affected but don’t have the glitter and prestige of the auto industry.  Many have already disappeared.

Unfortunately, the hidden statistic that never reaches the lips of leaders in Washington is that the United States of America has had 38 years of consecutive trade deficits.  Our current account deficit is 10 times worse than the worst country in Europe.  The EU as a whole carries a $32 billion trade gap with the world which sounds large until you realize that the United States of America has a trade deficit of $600 billion annually.  So the question needs to be asked, how is it that a continent stocked full of high cost socialist governments, scarce natural resources, expensive energy prices, speaking 23 languages, and with a 200 year history of intra-continental war, can out-produce and out-ship the United States of America.   Aren’t we the most innovative entrepreneurial land on earth?  Are we not the land of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Under Armour?

If you ask many of today’s leaders they will tell you that the new order of the day is an economy based on services, or they may tell you that manufacturing has left and will never come back.  Some will say the cost of manufacturing in this country is just simply too high.  Has anyone told LEGO’s, made in Portugal, or Playmobile, made in Germany that costs are too high?  With 300 million people in this country why was it considered impossible to find a few hundred willing to work for reasonable wages so we could outfit our Olympic athletes in clothes made in the USA?

It is time for a reset.  As a country we need to reflect upon the structure of how we operate and then begin to make the necessary structural changes – regardless of the blow-back from those seeking to benefit from the status quo.  There are many things that need changing as America’s issues are not the result of just one or two burdening policies, but many small issues that together can seem overwhelming. The Chinese call this death by 1000 cuts and we can’t allow this paralysis to threaten the future of our country.

Complicated tax rebates, loans, grants, and special incentive programs while well intentioned, are actually a burden to business, especially small businesses that don’t have the resources to handle them.  A business that is losing money cannot use a tax deduction when it is already losing money.  What business in America needs are not specialized manufacturing technology centers and special start-up technology programs, what a thriving economy needs is simplification.

An entrepreneur to be successful must focus.  They cannot be distracted with complicated tax codes, layers upon layers of insurance protections, human resource processes, burdensome licensing and environmental regulations, and complicated legal contracts. When an organization reduces operational processes it increases efficiencies which in turn creates the necessary focus on providing a better product or service.

Starting a business with core knowledge is not as difficult as some may think.  However, growing a business to any substantial size is exponentially harder.  Once a business grows to $40 million or 100 people it becomes subject to a bevy of interstate and intrastate rules and regulations that don’t affect smaller businesses.  Most companies are completely unprepared both financially and operationally to handle the overwhelming onslaught of regulatory obligations that come when a company achieves these new milestones.  It is my opinion that this is one reason you rarely see new small manufacturers opening production plants in the US.  The labor regulations, the environment regulations, and necessary permits are just the beginning.

If none of these regulations stunt the growth of a new manufacturer, the product and worker liability burden will surely take a huge bite out of any potential profits.  For in America, where companies are not reimbursed for successfully defending themselves in court, the cost of unwarranted litigation is a serious threat.  With over 1.2 million licensed legal professionals in America, frivolous litigation is rampant.

We need to be able to stop pandering to the entrenched interests and start creating visibility to the obstacles of business then remove them one at a time.  This is not as difficult as it sounds.  What is difficult is finding those with the courage to get this done.

Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc. is a Member of the Maryland Small Business Commission

Matt Ranen: GROWING PAINS FOR THE INTERNET ECONOMY

Matt RanenThe debate over what the FCC should do in regards to net neutrality is getting a lot of coverage these days. It’s no wonder, since where the policy lands will have immediate impact on profits and strategies in the media industry. But more generally, this is also a debate over our assumptions about and aspirations for what we want the Internet to be, and whose values are most important to respect. Is “open” more important than “speed” and “innovation”? And which type of innovation is most valuable given today’s economic and social context—one very different from the late 90’s boom time.

Turns out, this is just one of a number of more broadly impacting policy issues that are about to come under the microscope of public debate and government action (or, inaction…which itself is also a choice), as the Internet and the “online” economy of digital goods and services re-integrates with the “offline” or “real” economy.

One of those issues will be about data—big and small—and the property rights assigned to it. There is no need to repeat the hype about how big data is changing everything. Everything from the mundane (cost effective 1 hour delivery!) to the profound (our understanding of climate change impacts!) will look to use data—about individuals, groups, places and things—to find patterns that suggest ways to improve services or deepen our understanding of how our world really works. And as with most technological revolutions, the ability to use data most effectively will lead to changes in who has the potential to hold power within an industry.

But because most of the applications for big data so far have resided in either niche areas or beyond the public’s view, we have not yet seen what happens when the promise of ‘better with data’ rubs up against real human lives and emotions on a large scale. As data-enabled business models grow in their reach and have more economic impact, more questions loom and will have to be addressed by the consuming public, regulating agencies, or the courts. For example: is your refrigerator or car or any other high end consumer good a natural monopoly when it comes to the data it collects?  Who should have access to your consumption patterns—just the company that made the product?  To what extent is targeted pricing—which some would label as simple a highly efficient market clearing mechanism—discriminatory?  When is it okay to essentially make public information about someones’ private life  through commercial behavior(e.g. Target and its infamous promotion of pregnancy products)?

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Matt Ranen: GROWING PAINS FOR THE INTERNET ECONOMY

Will Meyerhofer: What You Never Hear

Will MeyerhoferHere’s what you never hear anyone say at a Biglaw firm – followed by a discussion of why you never hear anyone say it.

Here we go…

Let’s work on this together. It’ll be more fun.

People write me all the time, complaining I’m too down on Biglaw. Nothing new there, but one guy, recently, expanded on the topic, adding that he works at a firm where everyone, so far as he knows, is happy – enjoying a rewarding career in a supportive, non-exploitative environment.

Perhaps you can see this coming: It turns out this guy owns the firm – and specializes in oral arguments before federal appellate courts. Prior to becoming managing partner, he attended top Ivy League schools.

By way of a reply, I opined:  “Your experience might be considered atypical.”

In reality, his experience should be considered ridiculously atypical. Redonkulouslyatypical. Yet this presumably brilliant legal mind couldn’t manage to grasp that reality from where he was standing – at the top of the heap.

This man claims, without irony, that every lawyer at his firm is happy. But, that little voice in the back of your head begins to counter, before you’re even aware of having the thought: it’s your firm.

They work for you. Of course they act happy, just as the maid cleaning your hotel room – the one without a green card, with a family to feed, smiles and acts delighted to see you when you pop in to grab your extra iPad mini and she’s on her knees scrubbing the shower.

Presumably, someone else, some possibly unhappy little person at this guy’s law firm, is doing the work he would rather not think about – the work that has to be done. Maybe it’s a junior he’s never met. And I’d bet good money that other guy’s doing it all by himself, probably late at night or on a weekend.

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Will Meyerhofer: What You Never Hear

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