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THE Economist.

The U.S. Federal deficit is at its lowest level since President Obama took office. New home sales rebounded in July and consumer confidence is at a seven-month high. Best Buy just announced way higher than expected profits, attributed to consumers spending more on their homes as the housing market improves. It all sounds like great news right?

Sure, but the stock market has been in the serious shitter the last few days. So what’s up?

Big data is up. Back in the 50, 60s and 70s economists didn’t have all this data. They had a fewer economic indicators and the world was a lot more compartmentalized. There were a few kingly economists and we all listened them. It eased our minds and our understanding of things.

Today there are so many indicators that we can’t tie market reaction to symptoms. The macro excuse for the recent market plummet is “anxiety over China’s economy.” I believe that. But can someone explain it to me?

We need a hero economic czar. Someone (anyone) who can explain all this stuff. How about a writer from The Economist?

Who is the U.S.’s smarted economist today? Does anyone have a nomination?

Peace.                  

 

 

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Last Christmas I went into a Radio Shack looking to buy a good FM radio. I was trying to get my mother to listen to NPR in her kitchen where she can only get A.M. radio and has had to listen to a station (WOR) targeting the older set with let’s just say less than stimulating programming.  I asked the salesperson where the radios were (at Radio Shack) and the she directs me to two possible areas, one of which was correct. As far from the front door as you could get.

The selection was horrendous. Two brands — none of which I was familiar with. No Sony. No GE.  Pathetic. I left and went to Best Buy and found one Sony model. Don’t buy radio station stock is the moral to this story.

As Radio Shack tries to organize its way out of insolvency, with a hedge fund at the helm, one of the questions posed is “Should we rebrand?” “Should we hold onto the old name?” AT&T used to be America Telephone and Telegraph…someone smart over there decided telegraph was not a technology forward name and opted for change. So the answer to the new guard at Radio Shack is a resounding “yes.”  A new name is in order. And let’s look beyond the dashboard for a name shall we?

I should add a very big good luck. From what I’m reading of some of the partner decisions so far, they’re going to need it. Peace.

 

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Who is the Mark Zuckerberg of retail?  Who is the David Droga of retail? (You never heard Mr. Droga ask the question “How big can we get before we suck?)  Is it Jeff Bezos? Where is the vision in retail?  Who is going to makeover Sears as the first national Spanish language seller of goods and services?

Radio Shack lost $120M last quarter. Sears, J.C. Penny, Best Buy are hemorrhaging or are under pressure. Penny’s brought in a visionary retail guy — from Apple. Off the shelf vision?  Didn’t work.  

All those marketing folk with their PowerPoints talking about “disruption” and “market discontinuities” aren’t making any money by changing retail, they are getting honorariums and speaking in front of pop-up tables topped with water cruets and note pads. The seminar circuit.

Where’s the vision?

Some kid is going to have an epiphany while in a college books store and it is going to lead to real idea.  That kid just might have the huevos to turn things upside down.  Perhaps a free retail channel powered by advertising. Or the opposite — a high cost, high touch, high value, all-in subscription approach.

This is one ripe category. And there are a few dollars at stake.

Peace.

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Do you know your product’s top 5 twitch points? You should.  Customer journey is a new age marketing tool used by comms planners to find better ways to intersect with and influence customers. The journey maps out awareness, activities, research, purchase and out-of-box experience. (Chart courtesy of Frog Design.) Some use the old school taxon AIDA (awareness, interest, desire and action), a dumbed down version.  It’s truly good stuff and a lot more valuable than a simple DILO (day in the life of) media planning approach, but if you follow the Frog Design rigor (chart) you may also end up a little dizzy.customer journey

Twitch Points are moments when a person twitches way from one media or device in favor of another in search of clarification. Kindle to Google Earth. Newspaper to Wikipedia. Car dealership to JD Power. Best Buy to Amazon. Car radio to Shazam.

Twitch Point Planning is simpler than the above Frog Design learning scheme. Less complex. Understanding, mapping and manipulating customers closer to a sale is its goal. It needn’t be overthought.  Don’t get me wrong, it needs to be thought, just not overthought. If you find your top 5 twitch points, your five most commerce producing twitches, you don’t need a road map, journey, or KPIs.  You need a good accountant…to count da monies.

Peace be upon you.

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Many moons ago there was a fairly famous advertising campaign that asked the question “What in the world isn’t chemical?” The question sticks with me and as a marketing consultant, and I often ask myself “What in the business world isn’t marketing?” 

In many companies, marketing is a silo. “Marketing is sales support,” some say. Well it’s that. To others, marketing is “material.” Things to distribute to customers, e.g., collateral, samples. That too. And these days marketing is heavy online – the web, social media, search and data collection. Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Best Buy is tanking.  Until May of this year, its CMO Barry Judge, was famous for his oft-quoted stance “customers own the brand.”  A big early proponent of social media, he advocated ceding control of the brand to customers.   And he was not alone in this belief; in fact, he created a lot of pop marketing fantasies. Though while spreading this nonsense, the rest of his marketing kingdom seemed unattended. 

Marketing is everything. Distribution (Amazon), pricing (Amazon, Wal-Mart), promotion (Target), and product (retail CRM, store experience, data).  I would never suggest listening to customers is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s called research. But customers do not own the brand. Marketing does. Not sales, not finance, not the product managers and certainly not customers.

Mr. Judge has learned an amazing lesson. As the center of gravity for the social media in marketing movement, I suspect no one has learned more about its effects on all the Ps (of marketing).  Now he needs to take that learning and share it with the rest of us.  I smell a book.  This is America and we are all about turn around stories. I’ll buy one. On Amazon. Peace!     

PS. Mr Judge, if you’d like to disabuse me of these observations, please weigh in.

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I’m a man. Here’s how I shop: I go to a store, walk around, talk to a salesperson, maybe another shopper and I buy.  If the store doesn’t have what I want, I either go home or visit another store.  More often than not, it’s a one store and buy experience.  Price is important, but usually only when comparing choices in the store.  Convenience.

As technology wends its way more and more into the shopping process and the best price on a skew (product number) is only a click away, (#bestpricesamsungTV) many of the shopping choices we make will be made for us. And price variation will be minimized.

There will be Amazon for eshoppers and for those who want instant gratification there will be SuperRetailStoreCo or something.  Variability will be minimized in marketing. All that will be left, variability-wise, will be the brands. But marketers who spend too much on branding, will have reduced margins and will likely fall off.  Will it be a brand new marketing world in 2050?  Oh yeah. Should be exciting. Peace!

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Look, I’m no genius.  When I predict things like the trivestiture of Google (gonna happen) or that Best Buy will suffer at the hands of its current CMO  — predicted at the pinnacle of his celebrity – it was just simple brand and marketing logic. Larry Downes’ article in Forbes, on the other hand, is a little bit of a genius. Entitled “Why Best Buy is going out of business…gradually” it is beautifully organized, a story well-told, and emotionally charged. It’s hard to read it without being convinced.  (That said, I don’t agree Best Buy is going down, but the case is compelling.)

What I found striking in Mr. Downes’ article was a not-so-new Web phenomenon that occurred after Thanksgiving when Best Buy could not fulfill some online orders. A situation. Here’s the missive they sent to customers:  

 “Due to overwhelming demand of hot product offerings on BestBuy.com during the November and December time period, we have encountered a situation that has affected redemption of some of our customers’ online orders.”

I was at a start-up not too long ago with some under-cooked technology that fried the night of Beta release.  We were a media darling at the time. The response of our CTO was “Due to extraordinary demand, the servers went down and…”  Turning negatives in to positives might have worked in 2007 but not in 2011.

No doubt ecommerce has reshuffled the 4Ps. Some might argue Ps have been removed. Others might suggest Ps have been added. I’m sticking with 4. Get them all right — you will still encounter situations but you’ll be prepared to deal. Peace!

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I love making predictions.  When I started disagreeing with Barry Judge, CMO of Best Buy, a few years ago about marketing and brand management, implicit in that disagreement was that Best Buy would have earnings troubles. You see, Mr. Judge jumped on the pop marketing band wagon proclaiming “companies don’t own brands, consumers do.”  My response was this view was lazy and opened the door for disorganized brand management. Even a number of P&G digitists were agreeing with this fallacious notion.

Best Buy’s net income is down 30% this quarter, all due to price cutting.  If your name is Best Buy and you ask customers what they want they’ll say “coupons and low prices.” If you don’t create another value for your customers they default to price.  And when customers default to price you’re not marketing, you’re simply selling.

Mr. Judge and his army of Twelpforcers and sales assistants needed a plan. They were in the right neighborhood (providing assistance), but bounding about without a motivation.  Had they a plan, had someone at the top managed the brand rather than turned it over to the masses, Best Buy would be killing it now as we slide step out of recession. 

The good news for Mr. Judge is it’s not too late to fix this thing. He has more data, more inputs and more mindshare than he knows what to do with.  If he organizes his house with some serious brand management chops, next year Best Buy won’t be covering up price tags to fend off the smartphone price scanner apps, they’ll be smiling with gold teeth. Peace.

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My old  TV gave out this week so I went off to Best Buy to get a flatty.  Nice deal but I have to wait until Wednesday – post NY Jets. 1080 something, twice the inches (size queen), 120hz.  Anyway, lots of friends have hi-def and large screens and I’ve always been impressed by the quality of the picture for sports, but last night for the first time I was impressed (watching at my friend Ed’s)by a large format, hi-definition ad.  An ad for New York Presbyterian. This ad would be good on a 4 year old iPhone with a broken screen, but with awesome audio and huge video it made my world stop.

You’ve probably seen Munn Rabot’s first ad in the campaign a while ago with Ed Koch.  Well, this spot could win Sundance. As a movie.  Check it out.

What an “amazing” use of the medium.  The size of the little girl in the screen. Black and white format. The script. I’ve done and seen a lot of good work in the healthcare space – as has Devito/Verdi – but Munn Rabot has pretty much perfected the practice of selling healthcare. Are any of you pharmaceutical advertisers listening?  These guys are surgeons.  Peace.

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Partly Cloudy

So I go to Best Buy yesterday and purchase a new PC.  Toshiba Satellite, a suped -up version of its predecessor. It has an Intel i3 processor which should hold me for a while.  Hopelessly (as my carpenter used to say.)  As exciting as it is having upgraded to Windows 7 and Office 2010 Pro, there are still quite a few things to worry about.  How do I export then import my contacts from old Outlook to new (big problem, as the translator won’t work), how do I move my bookmarks over (.pst file or something), how do I get my old software over (McAfee anti-virus, Snag-It, etc.), and then learn a new keyboard and where the delete key is, etc?   Oy.

But here’s where the cloud comes in. Once we put all out shtuff in the cloud, these laptop, PC and Mac change-overs should be quite seamless.  I haven’t even thought about getting my iTunes over – but the cloud will presumably back all that up and allow the devices to quickly cut-over.  That’s going to be cool for half-wayers like me.  I know technology but I’m a guy and don’t read directions.  Not innately techy, I have to work at it.  The wifus does all the tech heavy-lifting. If we need to escalate we call the boy.  Off at school, twenty something tech friend gets the call at $20 an hour.

I’m pumped to learn Microsoft OneNote and to have up-to-date versions of PPT, Word and Outlook.  I’m not pumped to relearn everything…but soon the cloud will help. The cloud will facilitate ease-of-use and access to the latest and greatest service tweaks. Usability will be a byproduct of the cloud and though it may cost a shekel or two, I can’t wait. Peace cloud.

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