Farhad manjoo

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Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times tech writer, wrote today “Thanks to automation we now make 85% more goods than we did in 1987, but with only two-thirds the number of workers.”

Well, automation has had a profound effect on the advertising business too. Specifically Google and programmatic ad buying. The algorithm (Google) and ad buying servers that issue media bids in microsecond have removed thousands of people from the business of creating and placing ads.

These two automation facts are not alternative.

So what must we do to slow the robots?  It’s going to be hard to out-think them. But perhaps we can out-emotion them. Out-strategize them. There’s a saying I like to trot out every once and a while “Just when you think you know something about this business, someone comes along and proves you wrong.” Why is that?  Because intuitive rules don’t always work. Science says they should, but people don’t buy that way. People are people. We’re random.

So don’t worry about the robots, worry about your buyer. Engage them in new and exciting ways, and you will outlive the machine.



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I used to say “People who talk about ROI aren’t, getting it.” Today, I amend to say company “CEOs who talk about shareholder value aren’t getting it.”  Look at HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise). They divided from HP, sold off their services business, are selling their software business and tightening the company compression shorts to make themselves even more attractive to shareholders. Consolidations of this sort are focused on Wall Street. But in technology you need the best product not the leanest business. 

Look at Apple.  Do you think Apple’s people really care about shareholder value as they drive to work?  No, they’re thinking product. Product innovation. Product woosh. Today, The NY Times Farhad Manjoo dinged Apple for lackluster product design of the iPhone 7…and you know that had to hurt. From Tim Cook all the way down to the parking garage attendant. But Apple knows the design is good and they know what’s in the pipeline. Apple cares about product, not shareholder value. Leave shareholder value to the tech companies on the way down. 



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I read Farhad Manjoo’s tech piece in the NYT today about Amazon’s drone plans. He seems to be coming around to believing it will happen. Drones will be delivering goods in the next 5 years, reports Amazon in the article. Certainly in the wilds of Africa.  

I was at a wedding the other day and the bride and groom decided a drone’s eye camera angle would be a nice-to-have during the outdoor vows. Have you ever hiked in the woods on a humid day? ‘Nough said.

I’m no geeze when it comes to tech but drones over Babylon or Bumpus Mills are not going to happen as envisioned.  For safety reasons (read security, etc.) home deliveries are not in our future. Not for a couple hundred years.  Perhaps there will be designated delivery posts or lots, like PO boxes, where we can pick up drone deliveries but drones will not be buzzing around our hoods and cities at all hours of the day and night. The idea to have an idea will work in this case. Drones will happen. We just haven’t quite figured out how they will contribute to “last mile” delivery. I’m guessing the last half mile will be more like the 1970s paper boy than a drone drop-off.




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“Apple’s emerging global brand is privacy,” is a statement Farhad Manjoo made in his cover story in today’s New York Times. As someone with access to Tim Cook, Mr. Manjoo has a leg up on me when it comes to statements like this about brand, but this one caught me by surprise. There is an interesting video I watched recently by NYU’s Scott Galloway, in which he shares brand ideas of the top tech brands in the land (Google, Amazon, and Facebook). He smartly pointed out that it’s hard to articulate the Apple brand idea. Using my framework for brand strategy, which is “one idea, three proof planks,” I have to agree with Mr. Galloway. In all my studies and hypotheses of and about the Apple brand I can tell you privacy isn’t a plank I would come up with.  That’s not to say it’s not possible, it just feels a little off-piste. A little “of the moment.”

So when Farhah Manjoo, bandies about the “p” word in a branding context, in the midst of Apple’s kerfuffle with the U.S. government, I think he’s either taking some license or Mr. Cook is playing fast and loose with the brand.






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I love Twitter. It is what it is. As with human lovers the attraction is different for everyone. Chris Sacca, an early investor and dude who is away smarter than me. Okay, way way smarter, suggests the way forward for Twitter and soon to be new CEO is to focus on live events. Farhad Manjoo a NYT tech correspondent agrees. If that happens, I’m afraid the app will revolve around a behaviors that are no doubt powerful and bursty but that will remove the serendipity of Twitter. 300M people are using Twitter just fine thank you. Learn to live with it. Allow it to mature and follow user instincts. Don’t gorge on what I once called the Google’s “culture of technological obesity.”

For me what is so special about Twitter – and this is just me – is that the app truly reflects an individual’s complete personality. It’s not about friends. It’s not all business. It’s not a public picture book. It’s life from every corner.

As a brand planner, when I do homework on a consumer, I’d study his/her Twitter feed. I may look at original posts first rather than retweets and curated OPC (other people’s content). For users with more than 1000 tweets this is a wonderful visage – a view into their soul. It’s a look at the total person. You get to see happy tweets, sad tweets, angry tweets. Indignant tweets.

If we follow Mr. Sacca and Mr. Manjoo’s advice, that visage will be stunted. Please don’t try to fix Twitter. Let it fix itself. It’s alive.

Learn to be happy with who you are. Live within your means. You are changing the world. Peace!


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Couple of things.

There is a new tech writer gaining momentum. His name is Farhad Manjoo and he writes the “State Of The Art” column in The New York Times. Read him, you will get smarter.  Since the half-funny, very good tech analyst David Poque left the confines of the Times for Yahoo, I’ve been seeking a Walter Mossberg-like writer at the Times. Mr. Manjoo may be it. He’s bold, thoughtful, not averse to homework and understands the tech user. Great writers are prescient when it comes to trends and usability, so let’s see if he can keep it up.

His column today was about Amazon. And that’s the second thing. Everybody knows Jeff Bezos is a tech top dog. Amazon’s journey has been fun to watch. Unlike Microsoft, whose cash cow(s) allowed it to buy and launch a number of public duds, Mr. Bezos has launched a luncheonette’s worth of products with varying degrees of success. From books to retail to devises to video and shipping, Amazon touches more consumers in more ways than most brands. Add to that Mr. Bezos move into publishing and one can assume the data he retrieves and the behaviors he notes are preparation for other very interesting plays. But unlike Microsoft, Amazon doesn’t get dinged in the press and among tech elites. 

The difference between Amazon and Microsoft is that Microsoft pizzled away money on new endeavors but always kept a huge bank — Amazon on the other hand continues to lack any meaningful profit.

As a brand planner, Amazon confounds me. As a consumer and business dude I really like them. For a first-to-market company, they do a lot of second-to-market things.

Messrs. Manjoo and Bezos are players. And both are going to be exciting to watch. Peace.


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