beyond the dashboard planning

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I’ve done a good deal of brand work with startups.  It’s not the easiest work but it is exciting because a great deal of the planning takes place “beyond the dashboard.” When I break out the “24 Questions,” (the follow the money questions) there’s not a lot of history to discuss. No last year’s earnings. No market segments. Just lots of nos and nones. (Note: Beyond the dashboard planning refers to tabula rasa planning, contrasting with the more common “rearview mirror” or “side view mirror” planning.)

And let’s not even start talking about how founders, especially in the tech space, can change strategy. Like underwear. More disciplined startup founders may change business strategy only once or twice. Sometimes a meandering proof-of-concept is the culprit, e.g., you build a brand around family doctors and specialists want to purchase, or you focus on ecommerce and people keep paying you for search. Shit happens.

The more flighty founders (the underwear changers) can be influenced by the last meeting they were in; say, an investor or a key industry blogger. (Been there, learned from that.)

But startups are a good training grounds for brand planners. Planners can have a powerful influence on direction. Even if founders don’t abide   It creates structure for them. Yeses and Nos. Ones and Zeroes. 

If you are a brand planner, you need to bracket your experience with some startups. Trust me.




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Just reading an article suggesting that nearly everyone in China uses mobile devices to pay at retail. If it’s in China, it’s going to be in the US and Europe soon-ish.  Marketers in R&D mode may want to start planning and productizing around ways to keep lost and stolen phones from becoming debit tsunamis. When a phone is cash, the bad guys are going to figure out how to take advantage.

Clothing companies will need to make more secure and better fitting pockets. Software cos. will need better sign-on security and/or visual ID programs.  Luggage and/or millinery manufacturers will want to think about phone holsters and such — ways to secure our devices that are fashionable.

Whatever the winning solution looks like, it will be a bah-billion dollar business. Initially at least.       

Beyond the dashboard planners reap higher rewards.



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The Lake House

There’s a wonderful restaurant in Bay Shore, NY called The Lake House.  Bay Shore is where the Fire Island Ferries take vacationers across the Great South Bay to a number of lovely Fire Island communities.  The Lake House used to be a small, cozy fine dining eatery perched on a lake. The Lake House serves great food and with business being good the owners decided to move to a bigger location. Smart business idea.  

I’m sure they invested millions to update the old mainland “Flynn’s,” located on a prime location on the Bay — a location that laid fallow for decades. The new building looks great. That said, The Lake House is not on a lake anymore. It’s on a saline body of water the rivals the Chesapeake in its richness and local glory. The Lake House is on the bay.

I understand brand equity. I really do. But the owners are not looking beyond the dashboard with their brand strategy they are doing rearview mirror planning. I wish the establishment the best, they deserve it. But the restaurant and brand also deserve a new, more fitting name.  Happy to help.  I’ve been known to work for beer and appetizers.





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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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Research in Motion (RIM) headquartered in Ottawa, Canadia (as my son calls it), is playing catch-up. I don’t want to say it is floundering because it had good sales last quarter overseas, but if I were to ask you to close your eyes and said the word “Blackberry,” the picture that would come to mind behind those eyelids would be a black, short qwerty keyboard below a screen filled with email headers.

The Blackberry is a great device that does one thing well but it’s awful for web surfing.  Slow, slow, slower, slow. And who can read .025 size type…so you know where to zoom. The Playbook is a me-too tablet and the company just seems rudderless.  If I read articles about RIM’s business strategy that sounded focused I’d feel better, but I don’t.  Today there was an article saying the company is relying on carriers and IT depts. to keep growth alive.

I don’t want to go all RIP RIM, but there needs to be some leadership and focus on the future here. Motorola did it. HP is doing it. Nokia is juggling, cutting, partnering with Microsoft and may have a neat bottom-feeding strategy.  RIM, even with its strong user base, seems to be playing the harvest rather than the growth game. It is spending too much time looking in the rear and side view mirrors and forgetting to look beyond the dashboard.  The last 18 months have been a bitch.  The next 18 months will tell the complete story. Peace.

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