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Market !NC Blog

Gut Decisions Drive Innovation

Gut Decisions Drive Innovation


I worked in the camera business when all cameras used film. And then the change began. A handful of digital camera prototypes were showcased under glass at trade shows to demonstrate the ‘new era’ of photography. Although tech lovers were intrigued, market research clearly demonstrated that the general market didn’t think much about this new concept and wouldn’t consider buying a digital camera. And so, our corporate headquarters decided it would be too risky to bring a digital camera to market … and that we’d sit this one out. Most of our competitors did as well.

Fortunately there were a couple of passionate visionaries at the company who trusted their gut. They courageously put the wheels in motion and, soon we were one of the first manufacturers to offer a digital camera for sale. That vision eventually resulted in a billion dollar global business that has maintained its innovative edge for the past 15 years. If we had played it safe and let the numbers guide our every action we would never have gained our position as a market thought leader.

And as I look back, I realize that Mr. Jobs didn’t focus on research or big data. The focus was imagining a customer experience that was bigger and better than the experience they imagined for themselves.

A recent McKinsey study outlines four criteria for good gut decisions – familiarity, feedback, emotional memory and personal interest. McKinsey goes on to explain that most decisions are, in fact, swayed by emotion. It influences the options we analyze, our framing of situations and the rationalization of final decisions.

In this way, gut decisions infiltrate even the most metric-driven, process-rationalized decision making. Now, I’m not bashing metrics… I love numbers. I revel in the slicing, dicing and reading between the lines of meaningful market data and anecdotal information. But,often a solid, well-founded gut decision is the start of something big.

Marketers should live and breathe their products, their markets and their customers. Vision and passion, combined with deep market knowledge and the courage of your gut, is the stuff that feeds those big, juicy, innovative ideas.

Are You an Anti-Social Marketer?

Are You an Anti-Social Marketer?

17778216_s keyboard dislike buttonThere’s no dispute. Social media is big, bold and here to stay. 500 million Twitter-ers. 1 Billion Facebook Users. 340 million on Google+. They won’t be stopped. From Twitter and Facebook to Pinterest and Foursquare, the ‘people’ now have a voice. But, who’s listening.

Social media isn’t about just talking. Magazines, newspapers, broadcast media and even the internet have offered the ability to talk. The true value of social media is the interaction and that implies both listening and responding. Admittedly, there are those who use social media to engage and really interact. But, they’re in the minority.

Sure, there are power Twitterers out there. We know they ‘talk’ to the masses, but do they listen? And, if they don’t listen, aren’t they just broadcasting? Justin Bieber has 3.5 million followers on Twitter. He follows 123,557. Come on. You’ve got to admit that it’s pretty unlikely that Justin’s reading tweets from those 123,557 people. And, do you really think that all of his 3.5 million followers are really reading everything he writes. If he’s reading any tweets on his public account, it’s assuredly a fraction of those 562 folks he follows. The fact is that many, if not most, power users of the infamous 140 character message, are broadcasting. They’re not listening.

E-Marketer claims that most people use social media to keep in touch with friends and family – “going 2 lunch @ empire diner”, “on our way to Auntie Mame’s house”. Interesting? Maybe to some. Market meaningful? Probably not.

We know how much is being said via social media, but very few are listening. And, most of what’s being said is often trival and transient … or just falling on deaf ears. Seems pretty anti-social to me. Social media and social marketing will change communications over time. There is huge potential but, like most tools, needs to be used property.

Think back (if you can) to the early days of the internet…static information transformed from a written paper page to a digitized written page. It took years to begin scratching the surface of what the internet offered. Right now, much of social media is pretty anti-social. If we’re going to take it to the next level, we need to engage and interact. Talk to people who want to listen. Say things people want to listen to. Let’s face it. If you’re only talking about things you want to say, you may as well just walk into an empty room, close the door and start talking. If you want people to listen, you’ll need to listen to them first. Stop being anti-social!

How Apple Transformed the Market by Listening to Oprah

How Apple Transformed the Market by Listening to Oprah


They didn’t invent the MP-3 … but they defined the category.

They didn’t invent the laptop … but established (and sustained) a gold standard.

They didn’t invent the cell phone … but they redefined the market.

They didn’t invent the tablet computer … but they resurrected the category.

How did they do it?

They did just what Oprah always tells us to do. Dream a bigger dream for ourselves. And that’s just what Apple has always done. They dream a bigger dream for consumers than they would (or could) ever dream for themselves. It’s a lesson that all companies should learn.

Dig deep. Understand your market, competitors, consumers and resellers. Entrench yourself in what is… and aspire yourself with what could be. Think big and dream big for your company and your customers. Make it happen. Think small … get small. Think big … get big.

Why Woody Allen isn’t a Marketing Consultant

Why Woody Allen isn't a Marketing Consultant

woody allen

Marketing is changing more quickly today than ever before. To be good at what we do, we need to be ahead of the curve. But, you can’t discount those old, time-proven lessons.

Some time ago I worked with a Marketing Communications VP who loved quoting Woody Allen – “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” He lived and breathed that credo. And, as the person who (loosely) controlled the budgets on our biggest ticket expenses, we spent a lot of time and money showing up at trade shows, conferences, in magazines and on television. There wasn’t much thought about why we were spending that money and time.  And there was virtually no thought about what we were trying to achieve.

The time came to launch the company’s first website and we had our obligatory launch meeting. There was clearly a rush to be the first in our industry to launch a website. It was OK if didn’t have clear objectives. It was OK if we didn’t have half of the information we needed. It was OK if we didn’t figure out how to integrate all of our businesses. We had to compromise because, “80% of success is showing up” and we wanted to be the first to “show up”.

The site launched. It was good… but far from great. We were the first but it really didn’t matter to anyone. Our customers didn’t care. They wanted to use our site for decision-making information. Some customers left our site wondering why such a big company would be so haphazard with their site. Well, I could tell them why… because we thought the most important thing was showing up.  And, about 3 weeks after we launched our site, one of our competitors launched theirs.  It was a far, far better site than ours.  Although we were the market leader (by a long shot) they took over the position of thought leader.  They were the beacon of light, the font of knowledge, they danced a thousand glittering factoids on the head of a pin… and looked good doing it.  In our rush to “show up” we plumb forgot to be good at what we do.

Last week I was visiting a new consulting client to talk about a few marketing projects. Within the first few minutes I hear, “Facebook and Twitter are so big, I think we should be in social media.” I ask what they expect to accomplish. Then comes the answer that has echoed in many businesses, “Everyone’s doing it.” We just need to be there.” Please say it ain’t true. The ‘showing up’ mantra has just ‘deja vous-ed’.

Too many businesses are just focused on ‘showing up on social media. There are tens of thousands of static corporate profiles on Facebook, tweetalicious tidbits of company-centric news being sent to people who don’t read them, blank blogs and insipid instagrams. Conversations and customer generated messaging is what the internet was really designed for … and we haven’t even begun to see the full power of the new multi-level messagingSM. But, just showing up is not enough.

Poorly conceived ideas. Insane creative with no clear objectives. Self-indulgent marketing. These things were always wasteful…now; they could be permanent scars on your company, your brand, and maybe on you. It used to take millions of dollars to get a new idea (stupid or smart) into the market. Now, it takes minutes. Your energetic burst of creativity could be permanently etched into the elephant-like memory of the internet…and the impressionable minds of your consumers.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the basics of “good” marketing apply. The first steps still include a thoughtful, insightful, clear marketing plan. Communications still need to sync with objectives and brand positioning. The most successful marketers will figure out how to apply the old marketing rules to the new world. Many already have. What is certain is that just showing up is not enough.

Four Words to be Banned From Business

Ban These 4 Words From BusinessDoes senior management love themselves a bit too much? Are they lazy, scared … or a bit of both?
If not, then why is the first response to (really) new ideas, “we don’t do that”. It drives me absolutely crazy! Why don’t you do that? Why can’t you do that? Well, that’s just not who we are. Seems that what they’ve done and who they currently are is good enough for them. And that is why your tomorrow will not be any better than your “today”.

Rest assured. The rest of the world is not stopping for you. 21st century dynamics demand that you constantly question who you are, what you do … and, most importantly, how you can do it better. As the big picture thinkers and long term planners of your organization, it must be the passion and responsibility of management to re-think, revitalize and revise what they do, how they do it and who they are. You might not think this is important to your business. After all, “you don’t do that”. But, your competitors are looking for better ways to run their business. They’re not throwing down the brick wall of “we don’t do that”. They’re innovating. They’re making progress. And, one day, they’ll be nipping at your tail.

Today’s economy is the most challenging that most of us has had to deal with in our careers. But, never before have we had the choice of marketing and media vehicles we have today. Never before have we had the ability for mass interaction with our customers. Never before have we had such a great opportunity for true innovation in the way we talk to customers and they to us. Never before have we had such a plethora of options in products and services.

But, if you’re ‘fat and happy’ with your business today… or just too scared to take a leap into something new… just keep chanting, “we don’t do that”.

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