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The Masters golf tournament began about 84 years ago. Before Tiger. Before titanium drivers. Before World War II. It has become the most famous golf tournament extant. The brand management of The Masters has been impeccable, with the exception of the diversity issues surrounding membership in the Augusta National Golf Club.  I’m told candy bars have to be packaged in green wrapper in case one accidently blows into the view of TV cameras. All wires are buried underground. Jim Nance. As much as the technology changes, as much as people change, The Masters remains the same: a venerable sports institution.

Consumer products Pilsner Urguell, Coca-Cola, and Tide Detergent have stood the test of time as brands – all through great brand management. It is yet to be seen, however, if tech companies will learn how to last. Bell Labs, perhaps the first (American) tech company, is still around but seems, to me at least, on its last legs. Bell Labs began as AT&T, then went to Lucent, which was bought by Alcatel and is now owned by Nokia. Not great brand management.

If Facebook wants to me more than Netscape and MySpace, it needs to put in play a long-term brand strategy.  People can’t live without Facebook. Now.  Brand strategy is important for service companies and tech companies. Facebook needs to step up.







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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.




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I’m not sure how I feel about Microsoft’s plans to purchase LinkedIn.  Microsoft’s vison as a professional cloud co. sounds like it should marry with LinkedIn’s professional network co., but to date Microsoft just doesn’t seem to have a lot of luck with vision purchases.  I thought Nokia would end up a great idea. My post about lowering the prices point for smart phones around the globe never happened.  

LinkedIn lost money last year. Jeff Weiner and Reid Hoffman are so use to success, it must have been a smelling salts moment.  The buyout money was too attractive. When you are on a rapid rise you don’t have time to think sale. As the corner turns however one starts to consider.

I hope LinkedIn stays independent (under Microsoft) as Satya Nadella suggests. I’m worried it won’t. And don’t get me wrong, I am a Microsoft fan. Still a believer in the Windows phones. Still a big believer in Mr. Satya’s productivity focus.  But it’s the “buy your way to success” mentality that is the concern. It’s not very Gates-ian.  Bill Gates was a ruthless builder.

Still not sure about this purchase. It’s ballsy. If pushed to make a bet, I’d sadly say nay.

Peace to all.                



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Microsoft has blown billions on the mobile phone business. Yes, billions. The Nokia purchase was smart I thought but never got its head above water. All the problems can be tracked back to marketing.   Marketing is best defined by the 4Ps (product, price, place and promotion).  The product, sadly was the first misstep. The handsets could have been differentiated and weren’t. The tiles software is still a good bet, but it could have gone farther to draw in desktop features. Desktop tendrils. The cloud utility and automatic back-up of photos was clunky and poorly executed.  With Price, they should have won the day.  As I wrote in posts years ago, Microsoft could have bought share by giving away low end Windows OS smart phones. Didn’t happen.

Promotion didn’t happen – or if it did I didn’t see an ad.  As for place, they ceded control of handsets to HTC and others (after the Nokia hardware group was trimmed) making it hard to actually find a Windows phone at a Verizon store.

Satya Nadella should be applauded for focusing the company. However, mobile was not a business he should have left. People are carrying two mobile phones around for God’s sake. It may be a growth business…ya think?



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Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new CEO, went on record yesterday in an internal memo saying the company is going to double down its focus. His implication is that the company needs to move faster, smarter and with less layers. Some read that is layoffs are coming — having just assumed 25,000 employees brought on with the Nokia purchase. (You’d think with 25,000 employees they could make a mobile phone with a working speaker. I am “0 for 6” with Lumia 928s.)

If focus is what Microsoft needs, it may be a little hard based upon Mr. Nadella’s explanation of the business he’s in. As quoted in today’s NYT, Microsoft is “the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world.” I’m sure this started out as a fine Is-Does, but somewhere along the way team members, investor relations and business line leaders bolted on language to make it a bit of a porridge.

I never liked the word “platform” in an Is-Does.  It’s such a catch all. Productivity platform may have worked but not “productivity and platform.”  Semantics I know. Then you have the words mobile and cloud. Whoosh, was that a truck driving through.  Plus how can both be first?  This is a smart man no doubt.  That said, it’s hard to be focused and hyper-productive with a broad Is-Does.



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Tomorrow Apple is announcing a lower cost iPhone along with its latest version of the new iPhone – what will that be the 6?  (Were he around, Steve Jobs would have killed the number thing.)  Anyway, as mentioned last week and long before, I think the Nokia/Microsoft strategy will be to cover the planet with Windows-based smarties and the way to do that will be, though a nice phone at a low, low price. Sold at cost (or a hair below), these Windows phone 8 Nokia hardware devices will be cheaper than two rounds of drinks with your signif. at a NYC hotel bar. Before tip.  I’m thinking US$49.  That’s my price point and I’m sticking to it.

Messrs. Ballmer and friends will create a Costco-priced, beautiful smart phone and price it in a way that the ROW (rest of world) will be hard pressed to ignore. It will offer the cool tiles interface, a good camera and enough design panache to bump iPhone and Androids growth aside for a while.

Rather than pay taxes or sit on the billions in the bank, MSFT is going to be bold and give people without smarties an affordably priced piece of hardware (and software) — effectively buying market share.  It will lose then make them billions. It’s a nuh-uh brainer.  (Go Geno and the Jets.)

And, of course, peace!

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Market Share Junkies

Back when Microsoft and Nokia did their first deal a couple of years ago, I thought it a bold move intended to speed Microsoft’s growth in the mobile operating service business. I predicted together the companies would offer a really low cost Windows smart phone and cover the planet with them – buying share at the expense of some near term profit. Nokia handset sales were sliding and Windows phones owned only 3% of operating system market share.  It didn’t happen.  Stephen Elop and Steve Ballmer didn’t pull that low-end-of-the-smart-phone-market trigger.

With the report today that Microsoft will full-out buy Nokia, I think we may finally have contact. Mobile is the innovation lab of the 21st century and MSFT are share junkies.  Softies love being techies, they love innovation, but market share and market power are their DNA.  Forget share price, forget war chest, forget Xbox Connect. Domination is what gets the softies up in the morning.

This purchase will unleash beast. The way forward — the big first step – will be global. Nokia should be a big help here. IMHO, Elop will not be the leader. And I think we have not heard the last of Bill. Peace.

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Branded Utility has a number of definitions in the marketing world. In my world it is more than simply a branded public service; it’s something that moves a customer closer to a sale or position of greater loyalty.

Ingmar de Lange did a neat presentation on Brand Utility, but we are not always on the same page.  Nokia providing a quiet room on city streets for mobile callers is nice, even with a big logo on the door, but it’s not uniquely Nokia.  MasterCard providing an ATM finder phone app is helpful but not uniquely MasterCard. 

A branded utility, to me at least, is one that no one else can offer.  Users need to plug into the product or service grid of the marketer a for a utility to be truly branded — to use an electricity metaphor.  Simply slapping a logo on something useful and making it free is lazy.  It may be less lazy than a poor boast and claim ad but we can certainly do better.

I once suggested that Ben Benson give away golf umbrellas to customers of his expensive steak house caught unprepared on rainy days.  Branded utility. Why was it unique? Because the customers were at Ben’s.  When thinking about branded utility ask yourself “Has the usefulness of the gift or a value made the customer more committed?”  Or just similarly committed? If the answer is more, then the investment was worth it.  Peace!

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In February of last year I predicted Google would split into 3 companies.  With its intent to purchase Motorola Mobility, announced this morning, Google is one step closer.  The point of my original prediction post was lost in favor of a searchable sound bite reposted by Steve Rubel: “Google’s culture of technological obesity” but that trivestiture angle may now take on some weight.

This is a very big move for Google and will continue to blur the lines between hard and soft ware companies no doubt with an expected response from “Guess who?” Microsoft. (Look for a potential full purchase of Nokia within the year.) Mobile is so hinky and malleable right now I think the Android/Moto thing will work. And then open may be out the door — guess we’ll see.

For all the tech prognosticators this announcement will create some serious buzz and take eyes off of Google+, a half-baked though still tasty cake.

Como se wow!  September should be an interesting month. 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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