Archives for category: Informative Ramblings

Little White Dog is proud to announce SCS Direct Inc’s acquisition of Fasta Pasta.  This is the third transaction Little White Dog inc has sourced for SCS Direct in the past twelve months.  The official press release is below:

SCS Direct Inc Acquires Fasta Pasta – The Award-Winning Original Microwave Pasta Cooker

Fasta Pasta Joins the SCS Direct Inc Line of Revolutionary Products

Fairfield CT (PRWEB) September 25, 2014

Fasta Pasta – the original microwave pasta cooker was recently acquired by SCS Direct Inc., a consumer products company based in Milford, CT. Fasta Pasta perfectly cooks Al Dente spaghetti, fettucini, linguini, macaroni and lasagna quickly in any microwave. In fact, Fasta Pasta was recently awarded best microwave pasta cooker by Cooks Illustrated, August 2014, beating out products costing two and a half times as much. In addition, Fasta Pasta has been featured on dozens of TV shows including Rachel Ray.

Fasta Pasta cooks pasta quicker and better, with less mess, than boiling noodles in a pot. It saves time, energy, and is easy to use. Simply fill to the marked water line, add pasta, and in half the time of boiling, your pasta is perfectly cooked. Fasta Pasta is also great for rice, ramen noodles and perfectly steamed vegetables. The Fasta Pasta Original Microwave Cooker can be found at specialty cooking stores and Amazon.com

SCS Direct proudly offers award-winning lines of household products, including Camerons Products, Good Cooking, Deco, and Simple Cups. “When Fasta Pasta was introduced years ago, it revolutionized pasta making for the busy family, ” notes Howard Greenspan. “We are thrilled to offer this award winning product as part of our growing product line.”

The Fasta Pasta transaction was sourced and negotiated by Little White Dog Inc based in Norwalk, CT (http://www.LittleWhiteDoginc.com). Fasta Pasta is SCS Direct’s third successful transaction in the previous twelve months, including Camerons Products and Itzbeen Innovated. Little White Dog continues to search for additional strategic partners with proprietary, quality products and strong retail distribution that can enhance SCS Direct’s platform.

SCS Direct Inc. is a product development company and creator of best selling brands that include: Flyebaby, Ride Along Dolly, Simple Cups, Deco, Good Cooking and numerous others. SCS products are featured in countless independent stores and many mass retailers including Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, William Sonoma, BJs Warehouse, ToysRus, and more.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/09/prweb12198734.htm

Going into 2013, I set the goal of reading twenty books and through the end of July I have completed twenty-five.  My top 7, as well as my entire 2013 reading list, is outlined below (basically in the order they were read).  I highly recommend the top seven. as each is a fun, thought provoking, and worthwhile read.

Top 7 Books so far for 2013

2013 Reading List

3D Printing

  • Makers, The New Industrial Revolution; by Chris Anderson  -Genuinely fun, fast read.  See Makers review.
  • Fabricated, The New World of 3D Printing; by Hod Lipson an Melba Kurman – Well done book with lots of worthwhile information.  There is less cheerleading than Makers, with more meat about future 3D printing areas including Bioprinting, Food processing and environmental.
  • Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, and the Coming Stock Market Boom; by Dr Alexander Elder – Short blurb which gives solid background info on 3D and also discusses the few 3D printing companies that are public.
  • 3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush – Future Factories and How to Capitalize on Distributed Manufacturing by Christopher D Winnan
  • It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw It Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Fight Over the Next Great Disruptive Technology, by Michael Weinberg – Short white paper (30 pages) mainly concerning Copyrights, Patents, and trademarks with respect to 3D printing.
  • What’s The Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing, by Michael Weinberg – Another short paper (30 pages)
  • From Bits to Pieces: The Business Innovation of 3D Printing, by Peter Keen – Discusses 3d printing for larger corporations.
  • The Tinkerers: The Amateurs, DIYers and Inventors Who Make America Great, by Alec Foege – Not about 3D printing, but celebrates the American innovative spirit.

Non 3D Printing

  • The Darvis System for Stock Market Profits, by Nicholas Darvis  http://www.scribd.com/doc/69831850/darvas
  • The Icarus Deception, by Seth Godin
  • The Physics of Wall Street, by James Owen Weatherall
  • Radical Openness: Four Unexpected Principles For Success, by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams
  • Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Johan Berger
  • The Power of Starting Something Stupid: How To Crush Fear, Make Dreams Happen, And Live Without Regret, by Richie Norton
  • The 4-Hour Work Week, Expanded and Updated, by Tim Ferriss
  • The Gamification Revolution:  How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics To Crush The Competition, by Gabe Ziccherman and Joselin Linder
  • Speed Reading: How to Double or Triple Your Reading Speed in Just Under 1 Hour, by Justin Hammond
  • The Science of Marketing:  When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies, by Dan Zarrella
  • For The Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business, by Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers, by Jan Chipchase
  • Gamification and Game Mechanics Made Simple, by Nordic Press
  • The End of Big: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath, by Nicco Mele
  • Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification, by Rajat Paharia
  • Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Kids Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire and How It All Came Crashing Down, by Ben Mezrich.  Fun read, but a slight let down from Ben Mezrich’s prior works Bringing Down The House, Busting Vegas, Ugly Americans or even Rigged.
  • Youtility, Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype, by Jay Baer

Loyalty 3.0: How to Revolutionize Customer and Employee Engagement with Big Data and Gamification is a fantastic read, probably my favorite of 2013.  The book was published in late May and written by Rajat Paharia, founder of Bunchball.  It builds on the gamification theme with genuinely implementable ideas.  Loyalty 3.0 is the combination of Motivation (behavioral science), Big data, and Gamification.  It stresses intrinsic motivation over external motivation, although there are definitely appropriate uses for both.  Loyalty 3.0 discusses game mechanics (Fast Feedback, Transparency, Goals, Badges, Leveling Up, Onboarding, Competition, Collaboration, Community, and Points) using real world examples and provides a roadmap for implementing a Loyalty 3.0 game plan (Plan, Design, Build, Optimize), weaving in case studies throughout.  This book is a must read for all marketers, especially anyone interested in gamification.

A few highlights from Loyalty 3.0 are listed below:

  • Loyalty 3.0 has three major components that, when combined, are much greater than the sum of the parts: Motivation + Big Data + Gamification
  • Knowing what truly motivates people – and what doesn’t – enables us to create stronger engagement and true loyalty.
  • People often wonder why others dedicate their time and efforts such as contributing to open-source projects and writing and editing on Wikipedia for no financial gain…. Because there is a strong sense of purpose, of making a dent in the universe.
  • Gamification is not about creating games at all.  With gamification, your core experience is the centerpiece, and the gamification mechanics go around it.
  • It takes talking to fewer users than you think to find most of your problems.  “Once you talk to one user, you’re already getting valuable insights.  By the second user you’re hearing some of the same things you’ve heard before.  Beyond the second user, you increasingly hear the same things from each subsequent user so that by the time you reach the sixth user, you’re learning very little that’s new”.
  • Think with Arcs – people need beginnings and endings.
  • Put Levels and Goals on a Curve – Consider making the first few levels achievable in a fast, easy progression to get user engaged and create a sense of accomplishment and progress.  The goals and levels should then get increasingly more difficult.

 

Last Friday (May 9th), after writing a short blog post about gamification based on the book The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition by Gabe Zichermann, I came across a MOOC (Massively Open Online Course) on Gamification being taught by Kevin Werbach, a Professor at the Wharton School.  Unfortunately the class had actually begun five weeks earlier on April 1st, and was to be completed by May 12th.  Over the course of three days, I listened to the six weeks worth of lessons (generally about six ten-minute lessons per week).  The course was fantastic and I highly recommend taking it.  Gamification will likely be offered again on Coursera.org in September.  Professor Werbach, thank you.  I can genuinely say that I enjoyed Gamification as much as I did classes on campus twenty years ago.

Professor Werbach mentioned a book he had written with Dan Hunter, For The Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business.  The book was not needed for the course, but it is a fantastic read.  I picked up the book after I finished the last MOOC lesson, and read through it in about four days.  It is a must read for any current marketer.  You have probably already used game-elements in campaigns already and if you haven’t, you will almost certainly use a variety of game-elements in upcoming campaigns.

Below are some short snippets from For The Win: How Game Thinking Can Revolutionize Your Business:

  • Engagement is your competitive advantage.  Game-design techniques provide your means to achieve it.
  • Successful gamification involves two kinds of skills.  It requires an understanding of game design, and it requires an understanding of business techniques.
  • At its core, gamification is about finding the fun in the things we have to do.  Making business processes compelling by making them fun is the coolest thing we can think of.
  • The motivational dynamics of gamification must interact with the firm’s existing management and reward structures.
  • Gamification:  The use of game elements and game-design techniques in non-game contexts.
  • Gamification is the process of manipulating fun to serve real-world objectives.
  • Sid Meier, legendary designer of the Civilization series of games, defines a game as simply “a series of meaningful choices”.
  • Games are a process, not an outcome.

The following is an article (and podcast) about Professor Werbach:

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/education/life-online-professor

Added 5/17: Well done interview with Professor Werbach:

http://www.epicwinblog.net/2013/05/epic-gamification-hangout-with-prof.html

Gamification is a fascinating subject; it’s the process of engaging audiences by leveraging the best of loyalty programs, game design and behavioral economics.  While we may not notice it, virtually are all of us are involved with gamification everyday, whether it be through airline miles programs, credit card rewards, supermarket loyalty cards or liking something on Facebook.  About a month ago, Gabe Zichermann and Joselin Linder released a thought provoking, worthwhile read, The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition.  It focuses on gamification in two arenas.  It discusses a company’s internal gamification of their employees in order to find, retain and entice talent.  Secondly, of equal importance, it looks at the art of increasing customer engagement through positive feedback loops, to generate excitement, enthusiasm and loyalty.

Gartner Group predicts that by 2015, nearly 70% of the world’s largest enterprises will be using it, driving 50% of all innovation.  M2 Research expects that US companies alone will be spending $3 billion per year on gamification techniques and services before the end of the decade.  Gamification has always been a vital marketing tool, even if we called it by other names in the past.  It will play an even bigger role in the future.

A few highlights from The Gamification Revolution: How Leaders Leverage Game Mechanics to Crush the Competition are listed below:

  • Gamification presents the best tools humanity has ever invented to create and sustain engagement in people.
  • The best way to beat the competition is make your employee and customer experience as fun and engaging as possible.
  • Mastery is different that winning – although it’s easy to confuse the two.  Winning is really about achieving a goal, while mastery is about acquiring knowledge and demonstrating control and doing so in a steady consistent progression.  Mastery is continuous improvement, whereas winning is a destination.
  • Games are not synonymous with winning – and arriving at a “winner” is seldom the goal of gamification.
  • Points are feedback systems used to track behavior, keep score and provide feedback.
  • Gamification and the entire engagement layer are essential elements of the whole, and as the top layer, they serve as an invitation to the cake.  But remember, people will not eat a second bite of the cake if its bad, nor will they be excited to keep eating if the icing doesn’t do its job to complement the cake.

An area which companies do not focus enough attention on, yet is just as important as the offer, is the upsells.  Most companies focus on customer acquisition, because it determines the viability of a campaign, but it’s the back-end of a successful campaign that truly determines your bottom line.  Optimizing the back-end can be the single most important aspect to increase a company’s profitability.  The back-end is broken into two parts.  The first consists of the upsells (to the TV product) offered during the IVR/web order.  The customer is calling because he/she is excited about the TV offer; therefore, sell her more of what she wants.  Deluxe versions typically work best, then offer additionals at a discount with free shipping. The upsells should be extremely well connected to the initial TV offer.  Continuities can be very successful in the upsell stream of collectible products.  A well-designed continuity can receive 25% response and can account for 50% of your overall RPO (revenue per order), depending on the offer and it’s location in the upsell stream.  Continuities typically do not lend themselves to low priced, mass-market products.

The target RPO from a $10 TV offer should be about $60, much higher than that will likely cause significant problems with credit card charge back and returns.  Each upsell takes away from the response of future upsell offers as the customer’s attention span wanes; too many upsells causes the IVR length to lengthen unacceptably.  I have listened to IVRs that can run 18 minutes.  This causes significant frustrations for the customer and can easily lead to customer input errors that again lead to increased charge backs and returns.  It is important to A/B test upsell position order as well as price points to optimize your upsell stream.

Contagious: Why Things Catch On, is written by Johan Berger, a professor at The Wharton School (so I’m probably biased).   Contagious was published a week ago, and is genuinely a fun, worthwhile read. Johan Berger discusses why certain videos (products and ideas) go viral, while others languish unknown.  The book is very well written, uses memorable examples, and is backed up by solid research.  The author describes six STEPPS to give an idea/product the best shot at going viral: Social Currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical Values, and Stories.  This book is a fantastic overview of social contagion and is a must read for any marketer.

A few tidbits from Contagious:

  • Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchase decisions.
  • Word of mouth is more effective than traditional marketing for two reasons.  First, it’s more persuasive…Second, word of mouth is more targeted … is naturally directed towards an interested audience.  We don’t share a news story or recommendation with everyone we know.  Rather we tend to select particular people who we think would find the given piece of information most relevant.
  • We need to design products and ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers by linking our products and ideas to prevalent cues in that environment. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.
  • Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular.
  • People don’t care how they are doing, they care about how they are doing relative to others.
  • To get people talking, companies and organizations need to mint social currency.  Give people a way to make themselves look good while promoting their products and ideas along the way. There are three ways to do that: (1) find inner marketability; (2) leverage game mechanics; (3) make people feel like insiders.

Update:

Interview with Johan Berger:  www.goodlifeproject.com/jonah-berger-how-to-make-your-quest-contagious/

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