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If you are a CEO in the mall business or major retailer, you had better quit your day job (as you know it) and start making some serious plans. Amazon is eating your lunch. And breakfast and dinner. I see a future for car dealerships. They had better ready themselves for the time when cars will not be bought on lots, but online.

We’re not that far away from virtual reality as a marketing tool and when it hitsit will accelerate direct-to-consumer purchasing. Amazon is fixing the same day deliver problem – one reason to buy in-store — and VR will allow user to try/experience products without a store visit. So buckle your seatbelts.

If you sell anything and are not thinking about direct-to-consumer, you’re napping. If you are thinking about ways to lead your category into direct-to-consumer, you will have an early windfall.

So get with it marketers. Get on the D2C bandwagon.



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A next big thing in marketing will be distribution related. No, it’s not drones — that’s the next, next thing.  It has to do with the last mile of distribution.  A logistics solution is needed so multiple truck deliveries aren’t made to a single location on a given day. Two days ago all these boxes were delivered to my home. You can’t see it from the pic but each box was from Amazon. UPS and FedEx trucks aplenty dotted the curb. (My sister EJ has been going a little bit crazy this year, me thinks.)

All these random deliveries eat up a great deal of gas. Not to mention manpower.  Each package has a tracking code and delivery address. One piece of software and some colocation warehousing will cut delivery costs down to the bone.

This is a job for Amazon, Uber, UPS or an EPA code nerd (after Scott Pruitt leaves his appointment).

The 4Ps of marketing are Product, Place, Price and Promotion.  If we can get the Place right over the next few years it will positively impact the environment, price of goods and even U.S. manufacturing.  



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The new OS.

Riddle me this. When does an operating system really become an operating system?   When it truly delivers a digital assistant that manages all devices by voice activation. As Amazon’s Alexa intends to do.

Operating systems today are made up of software that undergirds other software and applications, e.g., iOS, Windows, and Android. In 20 years voice commands that direct “ons,” “offs” and other device and system activations will be the operating systems.  These assistants will compete with each other for supremacy.  There will be systems by Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and one or two start-ups. None will integrate (at first) but mark my words, these are the operating systems of the future. Because they operate real life things…including cars.

These operating systems will be the battleground of the next 50 years. Will they be free?  Will they be as expensive as cars? Will consumers be paid to use them? Time will tell.



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mass production

I am a big fan of content creation, the new marketing meme sweeping the nation. Content creation has been around as long as the written word. As a tool to promote and sell it has been around since Bass Ale invented its mark and the Sears Catalog was the Amazon of its day.  But the words “content creation” in this age of Google and iPhone movies has taken on, at least for me, a strong commodity meaning.  A creative-by-the-pound activity measured in attention then, maybe, sales.

I am a brand planner who measures success not by hits or vague engagement activities but by sales. And future sales. Sure I’ll write a speech on “web accessibility” for an agency trying to score points at a client’s annual marketing meeting, but I don’t want giggles, attaboys and future invitations, I want new customer contracts. Content isn’t oration, it’s selling.

So the brand planner in me thinks that content creation or content marketing ungoverned by a brand strategy (one claim, three proof planks) is wasted effort. Every act or action that marketing achieves needs to motivate a sale in one way or the other. If you are doing content creation and it doesn’t move a customer closer to a sale, you likely don’t have an articulate brand strategy.




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So the Federal Trade Commission can squash the proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot, whose collective asses are being kicked in by Amazon (over the last two years the two office supplies companies have been forced to close nearly 600 stores), but they say it’s okay for Anheuser Busch InBev to rename Budweiser beer “America” for the summer???

Budweiser America

I love America and I love Budweiser, but this idea crosses the branding line for me. Not that I oppose it – let’s see what happens… what the hell. I just think it’s a bit sketchy and too commercializing. It’s also too easy. Also, for those of us who stop and take their hats off whenever we hear the Star Spangled Banner, it may be off-putting and have a negative effect.

America is not a brand. And that’s the point. For the FTC or whomever to allowed this promotion to happen it’s a rookie mistake. Even for a young 240 year old.




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Fast forward 12 years to a time when Amazon is an online geezer and Wal-Mart is the young, hip tech retailer.  Am I tripping? Nope. How can it happen? Through strategy. Only through strategy.

What can Wal-Mart do to trump world-beater Amazon in online retail? First, it must look at customer care-abouts. Customers want fair prices. They want good value — products that will last. They want product accessibility: same day, same hour, delivered to any address. They’d like to be rewarded for loyalty. Predictive refills would be nice. Lastly, they’d love to remove some carbons from the earth’s footprint.

If Wal-Mart wants to out-Amazon Amazon, it needs to start thinking about these strategies. While Mr. Bezos is playing media mogul, cloud jockey and Steve Jobs, Wal-Mart should focus on the above care-abouts and blaze a new retail trail. Create a new retail equation.

The future is up for grabs. For everybody. Always has been.



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I’ve written about the brand diaspora as it relates to Microsoft. Diaspora meaning “the spread or dissemination of something originally confined to a local, homogeneous group, as a language or cultural institution.” It’s a topic about which a very boring branding book could be written.

It will be very interesting to see how Amazon handles branding as it continues to take over the retail world. On Long Island, 52 A&P stores are being sold or closed. Wal-Mart earning have slowed, only being kept positive by international sales. Online commerce accounts for a growing portion of all things purchased and it’s not slowing down. Ask real estate sales people – count the brown paper covered windows in local strip malls.

En masse, retail is changing — and the winner is and will continue to be Amazon. Amazon is getting into the industrial distribution business. Hear that MSC Direct? Hear that Grainger? Do you think Mr. Bezos is not thinking about food distribution logistics? And ways to make locally sourced food products cheaper to purchase and deliver?

The future is not now. But one can see it in blurry focus…and Amazon will def be at its center. Plan ahead defenders.



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When your corporate culture and work practices are skewered on the front page of The New York Times, you have two paths forward: respond defensively or not al all. Jeff Bezos and Jay Carney opted to respond. With a tail lowered a few degrees, Mr.Bezos smartly wrote his employees telling them the characterization of his company as a harsh place to work was, in his mind, inaccurate. And in some of the cases cited in the article, very un-Amazonian. Anyone, said he, who feels they have been wronged should “write me directly.” He also suggested, harsh working conditions and lack of empathy will not be tolerated. Mr. Carney brought this internal memo to the NYT and public. Those mea culpas out of the way he went on to say the story was inaccurate.

The second approach would have been to do nothing. Nothing externally. That’s the approach I would have taken. It’s a big company. Nasty happens. Hard work happens. Has anyone ever worked at an ad agency? Doh! Bad managers are just like bad people, they exist.

By going public, extending the news cycle another day, the NYT ended up gathering more stories to publish. Women Bill Cosby raped began “coming out” when the crimes became topical. Hard work at Amazon is not a crime. Slashing a percentage of workers each year is not a crime – it’s Jack Welchian.

I suspect Jay Carney counselled Mr. Bezos to lay low and he did not abide. Or, it could have been the other way. Either way it was a learning moment. Either way Amazon will rule the world (silly drone idea aside) in 10 years.

Peace be up on (not “upon”) you. (Saw Straight Outta Compton last night. Crazy, crazy great movie!)


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Behavior change start-ups (as opposed to technology start-ups) are really moving the VC market. Twenty years ago if you wanted to start a new commercial venture you needed real estate, manufacturing equipment, people to run stuff, a banker, insurance and office equipment. That’s where the money went. These days, a smart entrepreneur can develop a behavior changing business, using apps and software, in his/her home. (S/he doesn’t even need to move to the garage.)

uberUber is one such behavior-changing company. It doesn’t own cars or a drivers. Sure it has insurance and some office workers, but the “there there” is pretty thin. It’s all software. People bring the demand for cheaper transportation and they use their own devices. It is a logistics business, as Elon Musk says.

The best new products and services meet pent up consumer demand. When marketers find the pent up need and can use apps to deliver it, it doesn’t require a huge up-front cost. All you need is an idea, a couple of football fields worth of code, some Rackspace or Amazon cloud services and a VC with a little love.

Behavior changing start-ups are the haps now. Just ask Netflix. When you a launching one of these companies, ask yourself the marketing question “Who is going to lose the sale I am winning? And better yet, “What behavior am I changing that consumers are desiring?”Behavior changing start-ups are the haps now. Just ask Netflix. When you a launching one of these companies, ask yourself the marketing question “Who is going to lose the sale I am winning? And better yet, “What behavior am I changing that consumers are desiring?”


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Facebook’s monetization model is a lot like TV’s, but without the professional content. It is a content sharing platform the lion’s share of which is consumer-generated — friends sharing with friends and acquaintances. It’s not professionally created and that’s the allure. Like TV, Facebook makes money selling ads, interspersed with the content.

When Facebook was young we had no other way to keep in touch with lots of far-flung friends; today we have many ways, lots of apps.  And let’s face it, the content on Facebook is not that great. Add to the equation the fact that marketers are spamming us on Facebook and the pool  becomes even more brackish.

Facebook encourages marketers to be more meaningful and stimulating with their content while it continues to fine-tune the algorithm and targeting hoping to create greater ad investment returns.  It is not going to delay the wear out factor and Facebook knows it. They will have to amp up the quality of content so look for them to start investing in original content creation. It won’t be like Amazon or Netflix originals…it will be more interactive and communal. But it’s coming.

I wouldn’t be surprised if its sole sponsored to begin with. Stay tuned. Peace.


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