Friday, June 15, 2012
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Reading the avalanche of bad news coming out of Waterloo these past few weeks, there seems to be one small positive that most pundits agree on. When RIM releases their new Blackberry 10 devices later this year, it will be a make or break moment for what was once Canada’s most valuable company.
I actually think there is a subtle nuance in that sentiment that some are overlooking. RIM needs to actually get most if not all of their current 75 million users to actually upgrade to the new devices and platform as soon as possible.
That’s the precariously same situation that every technology company finds themselves in every few years. In the case of Microsoft, usually every 3 years, Apple every year, and RIM will face later this year. How can you ensure the smoothest and fastest possible upgrade cycle?
Existing customers on one hand love familiarity. In my own day to day, I’ve been a loyal RIM user for many years, so the quirks that come with their devices are something that I’ve grown accustomed to. You could almost say that are quirks that I’ve come to expect and as such have accepted as part of my daily routine. On the other hand, those same quirks are what make me consider competing devices as a replacement. In fact on some days those quirks even have me contemplating paying for my OWN better device, in lieu of my “free” company provided blackberry.
As with most technologies, I have no doubt that Blackberry 10 will be an improvement on their current operating system.
So how can they get those better, faster RIM devices in the hands of their most loyal users as soon as possible?
As with many things in life I suspect the secret lies in going back to the basics. For RIM that means focusing on the five Ps of marketing, and tuning them for their core audience. The 75 million people globally who they’ve already captured as customers. Products, Price, Placement, Promotion and Packaging that will appeal to all those people that at some point already bought into the RIM value proposition.
How easy that will be remains to be seen however, not to mention how soon they need to begin executing on this…
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
There was as a youth I dreamt of becoming a rock star. In fact some of my friends from that period never gave up that dream. I got a very exciting message earlier this week that one of those friends was nominated for a Juno this year for Metal album of the year. For any international readers out there the Juno’s are a Canadian version of the Grammies.
I sent over a message of congratulations mentioning that “it must be exciting to soon be sharing the stage with perennial Juno nominee – Nickelback”.
This seemingly innocuous comment got me thinking about NIckelback. More specifically why many people find them so irritating AND how this might actually be a lesson for marketers.
Nickelback is Generic music, like much of pop music, but I suppose they take more abuse because they step outside the world of bubblegum pop into the world of rock or in some cases heavy metal. Nickelback seems to step outside that pop world by having all their guitar effects pedals set to the “Power Rock” setting at full blast, all the time.
On the surface it sounds great. They have high production value and great hooks. But therein lies the problem. For music fans with more discerning taste they want to hear more. Generic power rock doesn’t provoke deep thoughts, there isn’t really much substance. The engineered sound of power rock also all sounds very bland. There is a reason why every Nickelback song sounds like a song you’ve heard before. It blends into the background and doesn’t make a statement about anything. I think their latest single is actually about drinking beer as an example.
Corporate brands and corporate marketers might be well served to take a lesson from this. We are facing a similar challenge - How to not be like Nickelback.
Consumers have more choice than ever before, so brands really need the old unique selling propositions. More and more from a brand perspective people want to know what exactly you stand for. What is the story your brand is trying to tell me? And please, please, please say something meaningful… without your effects boxes set to “power rock”. We’ve been there, done that, and it’s no longer good enough…
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The following is my most read blog post. This was written 2 years ago - almost to the day - and to date has had over 2500 views. A lot had happened since then. Novell was acquired by Attachmate and I've since moved on to a new opportunity at Empathica.
As I read it I reflect back on how daunting a task something that sounds as simple as re-branding is. I recently saw an article about HP having had an opportunity to update their logo for which they passed on. This sparked much uproar online about the opportunity they missed. Well, if my experience tells me anything it's that re-branding and changing the world's perception about you takes much more than a new logo. Or even a new vision statement as with what Novell tried to do. It takes a full company effort, and the new brand you want to create needs to be compelling enough to have widespread adoption in the market at large. Very few companies have been able to do this successfully, particularly large ones.
In fact in 2012 we can all watch in real time how this same exercise will unfold at RIM. Once having defined the smartphone, they now struggle to change the world's perception of what they do and why they do it. I'm sure some will suggest a logo change, or a new vision or mission statement, but the reality is it will take much more.
Maybe they can even pick up a lesson or two from NASCAR...
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I have a friend who happens to own and run the largest privately owned hardware store back where I’m from. Granted it’s a family business that was started by his father. But by most accounts he’s managed to not only maintain the business but grow it as well. He’s done all this in the face of the Home Depot, Loews and a world of competition that his dad never had to deal with.
He also happens to be the first person in his family to ever graduate from university. He’ll tell you that all the book smarts he picked up about business and management strategies combined with all the hard work put in by the family is the secret to the success. No doubt those are huge factors, but I think there’s something else at play.
For some bizarre reason his favourite artist has always been Madonna. Always has been always will be. In our younger years, when out on the town. When Madonna came over the sound system. Watch out! My buddy would spread his arms as though he had wings and would spin around like a helicopter on the dance floor. If only more camera phones existed back then...
This gregariousness and larger than life personality carries over to all aspects of life. He’s the guy that nobody has anything bad to say about. In fact, he’s the face of the hardware store which markets itself as a place where the staff will remember you and where you’ll get a level of customer service that you simply can’t put a price on.
Contrast that with who he competes against, big boxes. Faceless corporations, the type of businesses that Michael Moore makes documentaries about.
That disparity between the culture of small business and the culture of big business is something that as marketers I think we can all help to improve.
Social media and a renewed focus on the experience provided to customers across all channels at its core are humanizing the world of business. Consumers don’t want to be looked at as sources of revenue on a pie chart. Consumers want to be a part of a community, and they want to know the people behind the businesses and be a part of an active dialog on how to improve them. This is grounded in not only psychology but biology. We’re a tribal species, and I think that business is really on the cusp of an era of understanding this again.
That’s why as long as Madonna still sells albums; my friend will be ok…
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
The world changed on January 11, 1992. On that day, the album Nevermind by Nirvana replaced Michael Jackson’s Dangerous as the number 1 album on the Billboard album chart.
Symbolically this was the end of the era of manufactured pop music, which MJ came to represent. A new age of real music began, some even called it the coming of age for American punk. Kids started buying guitars again, and a new generation fell in love with the glory of punk rock. I was one of them.
Hit songs were once again written in garages and basements, rather than being engineered in clinical Hollywood hit factories. Thanks Kurt…
That’s the same context in which I see the legacy Steve Jobs leaves behind. He was the greatest storyteller of his generation. He also happened to be businessman. His success also in many way marks the emergence of a new era; perhaps a new era of business.
Before Apple became the most valuable company in the world, the model of success that everyone agreed on was different.
Sam Walton turned a local variety store in to the world’s biggest retailer by taking a clinical view of his supply chain, and with laser focus squeezing out as much efficiency as he could find. The relationships people used to have with their local store owner were forgotten, but it worked. And it worked very, very well.
Jack Welch took a scalpel to the cost structure at GE and turned around one of the world’s oldest companies, by making them profitable again. Sadly this came at the price of massive layoffs, and a huge hit to the corporate culture at GE. Employees were just cogs in an assembly line, and a job was never guaranteed.
Steve took a different approach. He believed that you could think differently. His focus wasn’t on a spreadsheet, it was on his customers. He created a passion at Apple for elegant design, and a perfect customer experience. From the packaging, through the retail experience, to the products themselves; the customer experience of Apple was and still remains different than every other brand. Apple cares about its customers; that superior experience, has made them not just a computer company, but for some almost a religion.
Perhaps with his passing, this will mark an era in business where Apple isn’t the outlier, rather the model of success for others. Take a customer focus, invest rather than cut, and innovate rather than stand still. You might end up being the biggest company in the world. Thanks Steve…