jeff dachis

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I was reading B-school management stuff this morning and came across some smart thinking from a few years ago.  Treacy and Wiersema suggested success was earned through “operational excellence, product leadership and customer intimacy.”  Who could argue?  Crawford and Mathews started by expanding or segmenting the 4Ps to include “product, price, access, service and experience,” but their unique thesis, explained in their book The Myth of Excellence, is that they want companies to pick one of those areas in which to excel, one to be strong in and simply maintain parity in the others.  This, they posit, will create focus, consumer meaning and differentiation. Who could not listen to this argument?

These two school of business thought differ from mine, though, in that they are organized around corporate structure not brand structure. Huh?  Well, with the b-school approach, you could walk into the building and visit these departments using the office directory. In my brand planner view of the world, the company is organized not by department but by brand plank – or value proposition. Every company has a marketing dept., a finance dept., and product management, but few companies are organized to deliver value based upon the things that consumers care about – what moves them to preference and purchase.

Companies chatter about differentiation all the time yet organize themselves the same as every other company.  Companies that want to be different, that want to create greater value for their customers, are companies that focus their energies on the planks. In the healthcare system space, the plank covering “information and resource sharing” is not the IT dept. or the quality control dept. For a commercial maintenance company, the “preemptive” plank that prevents mishaps before they occur, is not the customer care dept.

Now before you get crazy. or think me crazy, I’m not advocating reinventing corporate structure – well maybe just a little.  I’m suggesting creating value at companies by better mirroring what customers care about. Companies with employees that understand customer needs, rather than operational excellence, etc., will be the market leaders of the future. How’s that for social business design, Peter Kim and Jeff Dachis? Peace.

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An important target for What’s the Idea? is the technology company. I’ve worked with AT&T on the digital applications side, helped launch Lucent (now Alcatel-Lucent), wrote a lauded brand strategy for ZDNet and have helped scads of mid-size tech companies and start-ups.  Beyond experience, why tech companies are so important is the fact that they don’t get branding. The best of the lot are engineer-driven and see brand and marketing nerds are empty jeans.

So for you tech engineers and entrepreneurs, here’s a simple metaphor: Brand planners are like back end developers. If the back end is the hardware and engine and the front end the software and user interface (UI), then we brand planners work the former. The back end creates the organizing principle that determines which 1s and 0s to turn on and off.  The brand plan creates and governs the same and the pathways.  It’s simple really.  Perhaps marketers have tried to make it sound so complicated with all our markobabble and talk about silly things like transparency, activation and, and, and.  But a brand plan is one meaningful strategy and 3 governing principles. On or off.  

The front end in the metaphor  — what users see — is advertising, newsletters, digital content, acquisition programs.  Without good governance, these things show up on a corporate homepage as 38 buttons.  What I love about people like Robert Scoble, Brian Solis, Steve Rubel, Peter Kim, Bob Gilbreath and Jeff Dachis to a degree, is they get the brand “back end” and, so, their front ends are meaningful. People understand them.

Engineers need to hear and live this lesson. If they do, they’ll see the market through infrared goggles. Peace!

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I’m a bit of a stalker and one gentleman I’ve been following the last couple of years is Jeff Dachis. Jeff started Razorfish, a pioneering digital agency, and the words "big thinker" are an understatement when describing him. Anyone who has been involved with large corporations the last 20 years knows they are not particularly fine-tuned machines. With good leadership and good structure corporations can outperform competitors, but there is still a good deal of waste and me-ism, keeping productivity down. Jeff Dachis knows this, and has a plan.


Mr. Dachis and his bullpen of strategic thinkers (Peter Kim, David Armano, Kate Niederhoffer, and Jevon MacDonald) have been trying to wrap their heads around this inefficient corporation for a year now and today made an announcement coinciding with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston today.


It is fascinating to see how each of the Dachis strategists frame the new, still-to-be-named product. (To do so, please check out their links today at The explanations are the same, yet different. You can tell who came from which discipline in their posts.  


First off I love what they are calling the product category “Social Business Design.”  It’s descriptive, implies a benefit and is understandable. That’s the IS in the Is/Does. But here is a graphic schematic of the DOES. Hee hee. No one said redesigning business in a 2.0 world was going to be easy. Peace!  





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What’s wrong with the newspaper business is the “paper” not the “news.”  And paper is also a metaphor for the old centralized news, ink and engine business that hasn’t really changed for hundreds of year.


I posted yesterday about how Rupert Murdoch and News Corp are best positioned to transform the newspaper business.  No one else has amassed the resources and other media expertise to translate the news “paper” business into the news “digital” business. Microblogger sites such as Twitter have shown us a glimpse of the future, in terms of real-time reporting, but we all know that the best news and analysis come from professionals — with editors and fact checking as part of the equation. All of which in the digital age should be easier, not harder.


News gathering and reporting are a special competence of news organizations; printing and distributing are not. The former must be brought up to date.  


Today it was reported that Rupert Murdoch’s #2 executive, Peter Chernin, is leaving. Allowing him to go is a huge mistake. Mr. Chernin is the entertainment, social media, non-newspaper guy on the team. My timeframe for News Corp’s delivery of newspapers 2.0 was 2 years.  Jeff Dachis — a transformative executive himself – is on record as saying 2 years is too soon.  Now I wonder if it can be done in 4 years. Or at all…by News Corp. 

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If anyone is in position to renew and reinvent the newspaper business it is Rupert Murdoch. First and foremost he is a talented businessman. Second he is willing to spend to learn. Check that, invest and lose to learn. Third he is daring. For a septuagenarian to jump in and buy MySpace with nary a friend request was a bold move to say the least.


I applauded Mr. Murdoch for buying the Wall Street Journal because I expected him to take his understanding of the financial news business and marry it with the community building expertise he purchased in MySpace. Then, I thought, he’d build an online business property the likes of which we’d never seen — think LinkedIn meets Facebook meets the Allen and Company Retreat.  (Well, I may have over-thought that one. Hee hee.)


But Mr. Murdoch understands news, the human condition and what people want in entertainment (Fox).   Within 2 years I expect him to make a big online move that will cross all these platforms. It will be news-based, globally branded, locally relevant, and will make reporters out of all of us. It will be huge. Peace!


PS. Are you listening Jeff Dachis?

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