Archives for category: Informative Ramblings

The Amazon annual shareholder letter by Jeff Bezos is always full of fascinating information and perspective, especially the views on risk/reward experiments.  What Amazon has accomplished (and continues to accomplish) is mind-blowing.  The letter is inspiring and a must read! A few snippets are below:

Fulfillment by Amazon and Amazon Prime Membership:

With the success of these two programs now so well established, it’s difficult for most people to fully appreciate today just how radical those two offerings were at the time we launched them. We invested in both of these programs at significant financial risk and after much internal debate. We had to continue investing significantly over time as we experimented with different ideas and iterations. We could not foresee with certainty what those programs would eventually look like, let alone whether they would succeed, but they were pushed forward with intuition and heart, and nourished with optimism.

Non-linear success:

A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight. 

Sometimes (often actually) in business, you do know where you’re going, and when you do, you can be efficient. Put in place a plan and execute. In contrast, wandering in business is not efficient … but it’s also not random. It’s guided – by hunch, gut, intuition, curiosity, and powered by a deep conviction that the prize for customers is big enough that it’s worth being a little messy and tangential to find our way there. Wandering is an essential counter-balance to efficiency. You need to employ both. The outsized discoveries – the “non-linear” ones – are highly likely to require wandering.

Failure:

As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. 

Amazon Echo:

No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” I guarantee you they’d have looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.”  Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. 

In 2018, Third-party sales were $160 billion; First party sales were $117 billion.  Although Mr. Bezos states that “Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly” as compound growth rates are 52% vs 25%.  This is simply an attempt to underplay Amazon’s dominance since the growth rate differential is directly attributable to the small third-party denominator in 1999 of .1 billion.  Today, as 50% of all online sales occur through the Amazon platform, Amazon’s success is clear.

#Amazon #Risk/Reward #Non-linearSuccess

March was a busy month as I decided to take the entire Digital Marketing Program by The Wharton School in collaboration with edX.  The program consists of four courses, each with four or five units, each unit is three to five hours, and the program recommends one unit per week.  I rearranged various client-scheduled engagements to the afternoons, to free up my mornings to pursue the program.  I started early each morning and took one unit (course recommendation of one week) per day and achieved completion of the program over several weeks.  While some of the material was reiteration of previous knowledge, overall it was time well spent as often marketing aspects were presented from a different perspective.  New ways of thinking and new viewpoints are priceless.  I am a strong believer in the analytics of digital marketing, and the courses were a solid mix of ‘new digital’, its growth from variations of “old-world” direct response, and an overall online-offline mixture.

The course I enjoyed most was Customer Centricity, Managing the Value of Customer Relationships which discusses marketing philosophies that I have believed since my very first entrepreneurial venture: not all customers are created equal.  The majority of profits come from a company’s top ten or twenty percent of its customers, as well as the lesser customers which can be moved-up into this high value group.  The remaining customers are still important, as they help amortize substantial fixed costs, but enhanced service efforts should be focused on top tier customers.  Professor Fader, in Customer Centricity, also interwove marketing and finance in Customer Based Corporate Valuations.  I am a big proponent of the similarity in analytical aspects of data-driven marketing to finance, as has been demonstrated in the crisscrossing of the two throughout my career.

The courses also featured numerous acronyms including GRAVITY (geography, resistance, adjacency, vicinity, isolation, topography, you), SUCCES (simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, stories; they did not include the last S in success, but it would stand for stickiness), and STEPPS (social currency, triggers, emotion, public, practical value, stories).

Two of this month’s readings are books by Professors who taught the Wharton – edX courses:  The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value, by Peter Fader, and Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger.  The third book for March, Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction, by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson is a short, but worthwhile description of Scrum, an agile framework of efficient, iterative development.

Books:

  1. Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction, by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson
  2. The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value, by Peter Fader and Sarah Toms
  3. Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger

Courses

  1. Google Analytics Academy: Advanced Google Analytics
  2. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Digital Marketing, Social Media, & E-Commerce
  3. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Marketing Analytics: Tools & Techniques
  4. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Customer Centricity: Managing the Value of Customer Relationships
  5. The Wharton School in collaboration with edX: Selling Ideas: How to Influence Others and Get Your Message to Catch On

Unlike the Google Analytics Academy, Advanced Analytics course which was free, The Wharton School courses cost $580 per course, but they reminded me of my days at Wharton undergrad, as the quality of each course was top-notch.  March was the busiest and most challenging month of online course work, and the book total of eleven is slightly above pace to reach the 40 book goal for 2019.

 

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#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

Aggregated Credibility is a valuable, dynamic asset most businesses underutilize.  The products and services your business sells everyday have positive impacts on your customers lives and each sale (or service you provide) inspires trust in your company and brand.  This trustworthiness adds up over time to impressive, confidence-inspiring information that should be shared with your current and future customers.

Small, as well as large businesses, can create powerful, compelling headlines and press releases proudly proclaiming their Aggregated Credibility.  If Joe’s Plumbing, a local plumbing company, services 10 customers a day, five days a week, over the course of a year it earns the Aggregated Credibility of Happily Servicing Over 2,000 Local Neighbors in the Past Year or Joe’s Plumbing, Your Local Plumber, Proudly Servicing 2,000 Fairfield County Neighbors in the Past Year.

Many people choose their supermarket based on coupons.  If a supermarket sees 400 customers a day, and the average customer saves $10, then in six months the supermarket has saved customers $700,000.  We saved customers over $700,000 in the last six months, how much can we save for you?  Or We saved customers over $123,000 last month, how much will you save today?  Both are potentially enticing headlines.

Bombas.com utilizes Aggregated Credibility to inspire confidence in the company and the company’s mission of donating socks to those in need for every pair purchased.  The constantly growing ticker displayed on their website of the 16.6 Million Pairs Donated shouts instant credibility for Bombas and encourages customers to engage in their socially responsible mission.

Aggregated Credibility needs to be relatable to resonate with customers.  In 1955 McDonald’s, under its famous Golden Arches displayed Over 1 Million Served.  In 1960, the sign was increased to 400 Million, and to 1 Billion in 1963.  McDonald’s periodically increased it at various milestones (5 Billion in 1969, 20 Billion in 1976 and 50 Billion in 1984), until 1994, when McDonald’s served its 100 Billionth customer and changed the iconic Golden Arches signage to Billions and Billions Served.  Even though they have served over 300 billion customers to date, McDonald’s continues displaying Billions and Billions Served.

Your company has worked hard to develop trust and authenticity one customer at a time, and deserves to effectively utilize the impressive, persuasive headlines it has earned. What is your Aggregated Credibility?

#AggregatedCredibility  #UnderutilizedAssets

 

Aggregated Credibility Cloud

February continued 2019’s strong continuous learning agenda.  The three books read were excellent for varied reasons.  Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller and Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins by Mark Schaefer, both pushed the human aspect of marketing which was a distant approach from the programmatic, digital side discussed in most of the online courses.  In reality, marketing is not an either/or scenario, as optimally both sides are symbiotic.  The information obtainable from digital, which makes any data-junkie salivate, can inform and enhance personal story-telling strategies.

The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous, did not discuss Bitcoin significantly for the first 2/3rd of the book, instead focusing history gold as well as other monetary commodities and discussed hard versus soft money.  A fascinating read (although a biased anti-Keynesian view) on hard versus soft money.

Books:

  1. Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller discusses the ebb and flow of a story and positions the company as the guide to the hero (the customer)
  2. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous
  3. Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, by Mark Schaefer

Courses/Lectures

  1. LinkedIn Learning Course: Building Your Marketing Stack (2hrs 19 min)
  2. LinkedIn Learning Course: Business Intelligence for Consultants (29 min)
  3. LinkedIn Learning Course: Strategic Partnerships (49 min)
  4. LinkedIn Learning Course: Agile Marketing Foundations (1hr 13 min)
  5. Udemy Digital Marketing 301 (2hrs)
  6. Udemy Scrum Prep + Scrum Master + Scrum Training (3hrs)
  7. Google Analytics Academy

The LinkedIn Courses as well as the Google Analytics Academy were free.  Udemy was $15-$20 per course.  The total cost for February was again under $100; that’s a lot of information to digest for less than a single dinner for two, but, then again, it is a lot easier for your stomach to feel full, than your head.

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I am an avid believer in continuous improvement and continuous learning.  Personal education is the ultimate asymmetric bet with virtually the only downside being the potential opportunity cost of time, while upside is limitless knowledge that can benefit your current business/clients and/or your future self.  My goal of reading 40 books for 2019, which would have been easier before I fell down the online lecture rabbit hole (again), but the internet offers a never-ending ability to search for new knowledge and fall-down more rabbit holes. Most of the lectures were refreshments of current knowledge, but if I can gain one new idea (or a re-remembrance of prior knowledge) per hour, it is an hour well-spent.

January was a solid start for 2019 with the following:

Books:

  1. Blitzscaling, The Lightning-Fast Path To Building Massively Valuable Companies, by Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh. My thoughts on Blitzscaling.
  2. Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken Kocienda. My thoughts on Creative Selection.
  3. Ninja Future: Secrets to Success in the World of Innovation, by Gary Shapiro
  4. This is Marketing: You Cannot Be Seen Until You See, by Seth Godin
  5. Industry e-book for a sustainability project I am working on.

Courses/Lectures:

  1. LinkedIn LearningPath: Become a Digital Advertising Specialist. This consisted of 11 courses; Most are overly basic, but I did enjoy a couple, including Programmatic Advertising
  2. LinkedIn Learning Course: Introduction to Attribution and Mix Modeling (1hr 41 min)
  3. LinkedIn Learning Course: Digital Marketing (1hr 27 min)
  4. LinkedIn Learning Course: Creative Thinking (47 min)
  5. Udemy Digital Marketing 201. This course is relatively basic, but still worthwhile, as there were a few snippets of information.

The LinkedIn courses are free.  Udemy was $10.  The total cost of the above was less than $100, and all are definitely more worthwhile than spending time in front of the television.  Looking forward to what February brings!

#ContinuousLearning  #ContinuousImprovement

I have always been a tremendous believer of continuous improvement.  There is so much to learn, and the internet makes it exceptionally easy to fall-down new rabbit holes.  Between LinkedIn Learning, Cousera, the Kindle, podcasts, and the internet in general, the amount of acquirable knowledge is limitless.  For 2019, I have set the goal to read 40 books.  Creative Selection, by Ken Kocienda was my first pick for 2019, and I highly recommend it.

Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken Kocienda is well written and a thoroughly enjoyable read regarding Apple’s constant reiterative demo process, where Apple creates concrete and specific demos so peers can make judgements/comments/criticisms/improvements based off actual ‘physical’ samples.  Substantial work is put into each demo, similar to the way ideas are pitched at Amazon in detailed memo form, rather than simple power point presentations.  Unlike Amazon memos that are polished, complete plans, Apple demos are down and dirty focusing on the specific area/item being demoed, with the background staged (potentially a Hollywood-type façade) to engross to the viewer into experiencing the demo portion as if the viewer is using the complete product.  The comprehensive due diligence/research involved in creating the demo (or memo for Amazon), helps to continually refine the idea.  As a side note, this reminds me of writing detailed marketing and disposal plans years ago at MBI.  As a young associate, I was amazed by the hours necessary to perfect these plans and to summarize them into short one or two page memos.  The substantial efforts required to ‘meticulously craft’ these short memos forced me to truly understand the plan, as well as, the what if scenarios associated with it.  Proposals would have been far easier (and far less efficient) to put forward as rambling multi-page plans than the concise, productive versions which educated me and allowed my managers to efficiently critique (and improve) them.

Concrete, specific demos allow peers to discuss the item being created in explicit detail, and offer distinct criticisms and suggestions.  Ken Kocienda presents an interesting illustration of the importance of having a specific ‘physical’ item to discuss and critique.  He uses puppies as an example.  Think of a cute puppy in your mind and imagine as many details about your puppy as you can.  I’ll think of one as well, I bet my puppy is cuter than yours.  Under this scenario, we both have imagined cute puppies, but there is no way to distinguish which one is cuter.  We can argue as we each describe our puppy, but we cannot resolve which is cuter without concrete and specific examples.  However, if we have physical pictures of each puppy, we can easily discuss their actual merits.  This example is relatively silly, but it demonstrates the importance of concrete examples. Without them the theoretical argument is virtually impossible, with them the discussion is efficient and relatively simple.

The production of the demos at Apple forces the creator to get a true understanding of the underlying issues with his creation.  The comments/criticisms received from peers utilizing the physical demo (rather than discussing theoretical images) are integrated into the following demo version.  Each demo, building on all prior work.  The best ideas survive, while the weaker ideas go extinct.  From these constant, reiterative improvements, magical, one-of a kind generational products have been created.

#CreativeSelection #AppleMagic #AppleDemos #KenKocienda

It is hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the launch of the Obama Coin program.  October 2008 was an interesting time with the upcoming Presidential Election.  The Barack Obama campaign seemed more like a movement than a campaign, with individual events filling arenas and drawing as many as seventy-five thousand people.  There was a buzz around the candidate, and the campaign, that was unlike prior recent Presidential elections.

By late October, Obama appeared to be the strong front-runner (We did not bother to do a McCain commercial as we didn’t think he would win and even if he did, his supporters did not seem to have the same level of passion as Obama supporters). The products were created, offer developed and scripts written over a weekend.  The commercial was produced from start to finish in five days and cost a modest $5k.  The spot could probably flow perfectly in a Saturday Night Live skit, but I really liked the attention-grabbing opening “Own a Piece of American History”, and felt the spot had a decent chance for success.

Media test schedules were booked on the condition to run if Obama won, tapes arrived at stations the day before election day.  A little luck never hurts. The Presidential election results were announced the day after Election Day and the first Obama Coin commercial ran on MSNBC at 9:57 Thursday morning.  The results were obvious instantly as the CPO of that initial spot came in at under a dollar. By that afternoon we were already booking the roll-out. We were fortunate to have a week head start before competitors aired other Obama collectible commercials.  We tested dozens of stations, analyzed results several times a day and expanded to the strongest stations as soon as we had reliable reads.  The program received 100,000 orders in the first ten days and over 250,000 within about 45 days.

I was originally told that the Obama commercial would never work for numerous reasons.  We had tested Obama coins in print twice earlier in the year, once versus Hillary Clinton and once versus John McCain.  Both times the test failed miserably, but black & white print is not necessarily a good predictor of TV success.  The economics of the product also did not fit the typical DR formula.  Typical DRTV markup was 5:1, but we were at 3:1 since both coins were gold layered, colorized and had intrinsic currency value.  To combat the tough economics, we developed five strong, complementary upsells which helped the campaign bring in an average rpo of $66 from the original $10 plus s&h offer.

Overall it was a phenomenal lesson on maximizing an event.  We were a marketing led organization, but back-end operations were also vital to the program’s success, and provided numerous lessons as well.  Successful campaigns can quickly turn into true disasters if back-end operations do not ramp efficiently.  The Obama Coins were a simple product, but it still offered fantastic logistical experiences.  The 250,000 orders came in quickly, but there were significant production issues to solve (originally only 10,000 coins could be produced per week, and we would need nearly two million coins).  The presidential dollars and half dollars were acquired directly from the US Mint (we bought the entire remaining supply of 2008 halves, and at one point needed to wait until 2009 to purchase additional half dollars).  After receiving batches of coins from the Mint, they were sent to the gold plater, from the gold plater the coins went to a contract manufacturer to add the colorization.  The coins were then shipped to a newly created make-shift workshop to encapsulate the individual coins (Thinner capsules were specifically designed to make the encapsulation process more efficient), batch them together along with a certificate of authenticity, and seal everything in cellophane packages.  Finally finished product was shipped the fulfilment center.

It took until March 2009 to fulfill the final orders, but we kept in constant communication with customers (mainly through postcards).  Fortunately, our creativity and adaptability allowed us to successfully fulfill the large influx of orders, while keeping cancellations to a minimum.

The Obama Coin Program was a fantastic educational experience.  The success of the campaign was due to a passionate audience, fortunate timing, strong complementary upsells, maximizing marketing opportunities, a flexible and adaptive supply chain, as well as, collaborating with strong vendors whose turnaround times were exceptional.

#MarketingLessons #DirectResponse #Collectibles #Direct-to-Consumer #Fulfillment #Operations

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