beyond the dashboard

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Embrace Change.

Sound familiar? I may have read it somewhere before.

Does The New York Times executive director Dean Baquet have to embrace change when ad revenue at the paper paper is off double digits? Does Mark Zuckerberg have to change HR bereavement policy to stay more competitive as the “new thing” luster (but not revenue) wears off the Facebook brand? Does Michael Dowling, Northwell Health CEO, have to embrace change when facing an insurance market that has to set prices for 2018 in less than three month?

For a professional that spends a lot of time looking at brand and business heritage, mining the perceptual depths of consumer, one might think I don’t embrace change. That I’m not incentivized to embrace change. You’d be wrong. Tomorrow is the only day I care about.

Sure I look for business proof that feeds the framework of brand strategy. Sure I do some rearview mirror planning. But tomorrow is “beyond the dashboard.” Future revenue is tomorrow. All earthly business delights are to be found tomorrow.

Peace.

 

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Let’s hope LinkedIn is not Satya Nadella’s Nokia? A huge investment that goes to shit. There are a couple of cues that scare me. The admission that the “top priority for LinkedIn will be user growth.” That’s code for hurry up and make changes. Mr. Nadella has said LinkedIn will remain autonomous and Jeff Weiner will man the helm, but Microsoft doesn’t “get” autonomy.  It can’t help but play with new toys, tweaking them to what it believes will be the customers’ advantage. (They’ve already said Microsoft Office will integrate more easily with the platform.)

We’ve seen this movie before. In 10 years LinkedIn may be replaced by the “next thing.” Perhaps Snapchat meets NetPromoter?  Or Salesforce Cubed.

Microsoft needs to see beyond the dashboard and allow LinkedIn enough rope to invent the next frontier of business networking. Come on Mr. Nadella have some patience. Observe, learn, then observe some more. It was a good purchase. Let it percolate.

Peace.

  

 

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Charlene Li, a great business mind, recently sold Altimeter Group to Prophet, a long standing brand and marketing concern. Charlene is, and has been, a great meme-alist. She comes up with big business ideas and memes them. These memes helped put the Altimeter Group on the map. Each meme, a mini brand, constitutes a “proof” of her innovative business approach.

Now at Prophet, however, she seems to be doing things a bit differently. Next week she is hosting a webinar on improving employee engagement. No doubt it will be a good one, because engagement has become big business these days. (Back in the early 80s my dad Fred Poppe used the word in a number of Ad Age thought pieces, giving him national cred.) That said, engagement has become a pop-marketing term and the title of Ms. Li’s talk feels a bit “early majority,” perhaps even a little “late majority” to use Geoffrey A. Moore’s framework.

What I love about Ms. Li is her “beyond the dashboard” approach. She needs to settle into her new office before mad redecorating. I suspect she will be back on her game shortly. Then watch out!

Peace.

 

 

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Or keep it in the cloud. That’s the big technology question of the 21st century. That’s the big bet. As a brand planner who likes to operate “beyond the dashboard,” I love looking into behavior, purchase patterns and technology advances trying to come up with macro commercial trends.

Nokia decided it was not good at small handheld devices (after killing it for decades) and sold its device business to Microsoft. This, at a time when Apple was creating continents of wealth in handhelds. Microsoft paid $7.2B for the (shitty) Nokia phone business. (Como se speaker problems with Lumias?) And now, Nokia with its big iron phone and internet switch business intact is looking to purchase Alcatel/Lucent. This is Nokia’s raising its hand in favor of cloud vs. devices.

It wasn’t that long ago when computers were big. Phones got smaller. Comms devices of every stripe shrunk into wearables. And now chips, screens, software and apps are getting so good and “thin” that funationality and decisions are moving into the network (cloud) and in our future “tons” of devices will move into the landfill. Literally.

The Apple Watch people are breathing this stuff daily. I’ll bet Apple’s very best engineers are deployed against all this miniaturization. And all that intelligence has to move somewhere. Apple might be smart to start thinking about the switch (software) business too. That’s my bet.

Ain’t this fun? Peace.

 

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apple

I write often about “beyond the dashboard” planning and cite Steve Jobs as a main practitioner. Mr. Jobs asked not what consumers wanted, instead he gave them what he knew they would want…after he built it.  This approach is all well and good until it’s your job to start thinking about what people would want and you have to come up with the products. It’s easy talking about the future, much tougher predicting it. Just look at the sports betting business.

Apple’s current CEO Tim Cook may have just taken a page out of Steve’s book this week. In fact, he may have trumped him. Though the Apple Watch (Anyone notice the lack of i?) may not be the design breakthrough we were all expecting, the healthcare applications it promises are going to be market-changing. And if that was not enough, the new iPhone 6’s Apple Pay may be such an innovation that global banking, currency and commerce platforms will change forever. (Does anyone remember standing in long lines at Blockbuster for movie rentals 10 years ago?)

When you do innovation planning you start with pent up demand. Who, I ask, does not care about money and health? Hourly. This is not just another week at the office for Apple. This, as the kids say, is some shit!

I’m not saying the Apple Watch health apps and Apple Pay will hit on all cylinders, but this week and these “ideas to have ideas” will long be remembered. A little coming out party for Tim Cook, me thinks. Peace.

 

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I’ve said before that “a brand is an empty vessel into which we pour meaning,” but that isn’t exactly correct. If a product, the brand is not an empty vessel, it’s a thing – a thing to which we “attach meaning.” A bottle of water is a bottle of water. We expect it to be clear, tasteless, and priced reasonably. It bring meaning that marketers must work with when branding. The same can be said, somewhat, for a service. Though not a thing, it does come with prepackaged meaning: a lawyer provides legal service, physicians healthcare, etc.  Services can be branded but present a slightly different challenge.

My approach to brand development for both is the same. I work to understand at what ta product or service is great and what consumers want most.  This is the area in which I live as a brand planner. As a beyond the dashboard planner I may think delve into what the customer doesn’t know s/he needs (but will need)…and dial that up a bit.

Where a service differs from a product is often in process. For a healthcare system a brand plank might be about “sharing.” For a website, maybe “community.”  Services, though they may not have a visual or taste appeal, can open up exciting new ground based on the simple fact that employees who deliver the service, who affect the experience, become part of the strategy. Done well, with a tight plan, that can be very meaningful. And very appealing.

Product brands live in your hand and your mind. Service brands only in the mind. But that’s a powerful place to be. Peace.

 

 

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Thanks to its car ignition problems, General Motors is recalling 29 million automobiles worldwide. If you’ve ever scanned the price of an auto repair you know the labor is what gets you, not the parts – so you can imagine how that number is going to hit the GM bottom line. Like a 29 million pound tank. GM’s most profitable cars are its huge SUVs. It is reported that a $60,000 Suburban provides $10k in profit while an energy efficient Chevy Cruz yields $1,500 in profit. We all know which car is better for mother earth, but GM, which has the power to move the market away from gas guzzling, likely won’t.  Too much to lose. GM’s share of the SUV market is now up to 70%. (Seen a picture of the smog in China lately?)

Ford’s new aluminum body F-150 pick-up truck is a step in the right direction. SUV loving Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat is bracketing its large car and truck sales with some much better looking Fiat 500s…very cool and efficient cars of the future. My Prius has over 165,000 miles on it, saving me about $9,000 in gas and cutting pounds of carbon into the atmosphere.

Here’s the point. GM, which is about as American and Apple you know what, continues to lose its way. The corporation needs a strategy and a leader. A leader with beyond the dashboard vision. The old gray mare is not too big to fail. Not anymore. American’s love our metal, but we love our amber waves of grain better. Peace.

 

 

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CBS and Google.

A little over 4 years ago I predicted Google would break up into 3 different companies.  It would happen in about 48 months, the non-prescient post suggested. I was wrong. The post had over a 1,000 hits, partly because of a point I made about Google’s culture of technological obesity, a tidbit picked up by Steve Rubel and Life Hacker. Who knew?

Today CBS, a proclaimed content company, has made public its plans to spin off and IPO its outdoor business. A $3.3B advertising and real estate venture, it is deemed non-core. CBS is rolling financially, owning an amazing share of prime time TV viewership as well as a successful film business, a cable channel and online properties. CBS is making the move during a period of earnings strength. It’s still about portfolio focus.  

My Google trivestiture prediction was also about focus. But without any government pressure, Google has decided that a diverse portfolio, kept buoyant by mad ad revenue, is the best way forward.  Google can afford to pizzle away money on Motorola, and self-driving cars and, and, and.  Google is taking the GE approach, becoming a diversified technology company. And I’m liking it.

CBS gets what it is good at — content. Its diversity comes from flavors of content: prime time, movies, cable and online. Google is good at putting the world’s information at our finger tips… yet it is looking beyond the dashboard toward what’s next.  And as long as Google can turn a profit, it’s a brilliant approach. (That’s why Facebook bought Oculus Rift.  It’s non-core, but it is about the future.)

For businesses, focus gets you smarter and better. Diversity gets you smarter and better. No wrong, until the shareholders start to wince. Peace. 

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My first experience with the term Data Driven Decision Making was in the K12 education space. Sharnell Jackson, who helped the Chicago Public Schools improve online student learning, is a leading supporter.  As much as I tried, I couldn’t quite get the concept until she talked about taking student learning data and scrubbing it with outside demographic data, e.g, address, parental situation, income and the like.  For some reason I thought data driven decision making was more deeply based in education, such as learning styles, teaching styles, means and methods. Not demographics.

Data Driven Decision Making is also the rage in marketing.   Here’s some boilerplate from a leader:

Neustar is the first real-time, cloud-based information services and analytics provider enabling clients to effectively promote and protect their businesses. By using our unique, authoritative data combined with our clients’ information, we make data-driven decisions through actionable analytics. We uncover insights for our clients, thus making complex problem-solving easy for Marketers, IT and Operations professionals through our suite of complete, cloud-based workflow solutions.

Whether we are talking about education or marketing this dashboard approach is after-the-fact. It’s execute, automate and monitor, in that order. This is a billion dollar business and counting. It’s tactical, not strategic. It’s Ballmer, not Jobs.

Let’s take some of that billion and invest it in strategy. Start looking “Beyond the Dashboard.” I wrote the brand strategy for ZDNet in the late 90s “For doers not browsers.” It implied browsers were stepchildren of doers. I can see a time not too far off when the “dashboard” is stepchild of strategy. Peace.  

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In Berlin, they are taking the car-rental-on-demand thing to the next level. In Berlin you can use a smart phone app to find a car near you, drive it where you want to go and leave it — for an annual fee and a per minute charge.  The logistics are handled by the app.  (In the future, the renting companies may contribute to the logistics by moving cars around in response to expected demand, but for now it seems to be working fine as is.)

Big picture.  Cities have too many cars. Too much carbon.  Lots of cars with one person in them. Limited parking spaces. This is a solution. Brilliant. (Though walking and bicycling would be better.)  In the article I read about this program someone was quoted saying this couldn’t have happened in the 90s. Smarties, GPS and apps make it happen today. This is beyond the dashboard stuff.

It’s how marketers need to think. How do we take inefficiency out of the marketing process.  Price shopping is easy. Geo-pricing and deals are easy. Inventory is easy-ish. But how about creating preference?  We haven’t really cracked the code on that one. Sure we have friend recos, likes and reviews. We also have videos to see products in action.  But we haven’t killed that visceral selling thing yet –the moving of customers closer to a sale through unexpected. exciting means. I’m guessing this task will fall to artists — enabled by technologists. It will be born of Twitch Point Planning, but with a poetic, artful and multidimensional twist.  I’ll share as I get closer. Hope you do too. Peace.

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