Archives for category: Marketing

Accomplishments in 2019:

Books Read in 2019

In a quest for continuous learning I set the ambitious goal of read 40 books. While I was diverted by numerous educational rabbit holes (the amount of information available on the internet is limitless), I fortunately finished 42 books during 2019.  Most books were business-oriented, many with a marketing and/or story-telling focus.

  1. Blitzscaling, The Lightning-Fast Path To Building Massively Valuable Companies, by Reid Hoffman and Chris YehMy thoughts on Blitzscaling.
  2. Creative Selection, Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs, by Ken KociendaMy 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.
  6. Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller
  7. The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking, by Saifedean Ammous
  8. Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins, by Mark Schaefer
  9. Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction, by Chris Sims & Hillary Louise Johnson
  10. The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven By Customer Lifetime Value, by Peter Fader and Sarah Toms
  11. Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, by Jonah Berger
  12. Mensch Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi, Wisdom For Untethered Times, by Joshua Hammerman
  13. Loonshots: How To Nurture The Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, And Transform Industries, by Safi Bahcall
  14. Turning The Flywheel: Why Some Companies Build Momentum… And Other Don’t, by Jim Collins
  15. Cribsheet: a data-driven guide to better, more relaxed parenting from birth to pre-school, by Emily Oster
  16. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, by Steven Johnson
  17. Triggers: 30 Sales Tools You Can Use to Control The Mind of Your Prospect to Motivate, Influence and Persuade, by Joseph Sugarman
  18. Bitcoin Billionaires: A True Story of Genius, Betrayal, and Redemption, by Ben Mezrich
  19. Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, by Brian Kurtz
  20. How To Hire People Who Give A Sh*T: The Golden Rules, by Erika Weinstein
  21. Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life, by Rory Sutherland
  22. The Tangled Mind: Unraveling the Origin of Human Nature, by Nick Kolenda
  23. Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
  24. Covert Cows and Chick-fil-A: How Faith, Cows and Chicken Built an Iconic Brandby Steve Robinson
  25. Think Like Amazon: 50 1/2 Ideas To Become A Digital Leader, by John Rossman
  26. Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, by Thomas Siebel.  My thoughts on Digital Transformation
  27. Superfans: The Easy Way To Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build A Successful Business, by Pat Flynn
  28. Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too, by Gary Vaynerchuk
  29. How To Talk To Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, by Leil Lowndes
  30. Seeing Around Corners: How To Spot Inflection Points Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath
  31. Game-Time Decision Making: High-Scoring Business Strategies from the Biggest Names in Sports, by David Meltzer
  32. Break Through The Noise: The Nine Rules To Capture Global Attention, by Tim Staples
  33. The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts, by Shane Parrish
  34. Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business, by Kindra Hall
  35. Everything is Figureoutable, by Marie Forleo
  36. Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change, by Marc Benioff
  37. Almost Alchemy: Make Any Business of Any Size Produce More With Fewer and Less, by Dan Kennedy
  38. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned From 15 Years As CEO of the Walt Disney Company, by Robert Iger
  39. Finding Genius: Venture Capitalists and the Future They Are Betting On, by Kunal Mehta
  40. The Amazon Management System: The Ultimate Digital Business Engine That Creates Extraordinary Value for Both Customers and Shareholders, by Ram Charan and Julia Yang
  41. Million Dollar Story: Secrets of Entrepreneurs Who Had To Lose a Pivot To Profit & Win With Purpose
  42. Instabrain: The New Rules for Marketing to Generation Z, by Sarah Weise

Digital Marketing Professional Certificate from Wharton Online

The Digital Marketing Professional Certificate program consisted of four courses:

Each course consisted of four or five units, each unit is three to five hours, and the program recommends one unit per week.  While much 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.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 4.41.08 PM

Alexa Apps

For the past forty years, nearly everyone has interacted with computers through The Graphical User Interface.  GUI still controls 95+% of the market versus only a minimal amount for the Voice User Interface.  However, it seems pretty obvious that VUI’s share will grow at the expense of GUI in the near, as well as further out, future.  Often the best way to learn is by doing, therefore I set out to create a couple of Alexa Skills (apps).  Both Alexa Apps, What Occurred First and We All Love Superheroes, are very basic but they have been helped me obtain a better understanding of the Voice market, and the nuances/difficulties in current specific speech understanding, as well as, the current absence of an efficient discovery search engine for Voice applications.

What Occurred First

We All Love Superheroes


How much of the 2019 CyberMonday increase is due to calendar shift? The initial 2019 numbers look fantastic, but the 16%-17% growth is significantly overstated, in my opinion, as the majority of the increase is due to the shift in calendar and shorter 2019 holiday shopping window. CyberMonday 2019 occurred on December 2nd, with only 22 days remaining until Christmas Eve, while in 2018 CyberMonday was November 26th, which left 28 days until Christmas Eve. Overall year-over-year total holiday sales growth may be up, but the increase will likely only be in the low to mid single digits.

From BusinessInsider:

Online spending on Cyber Monday soared nearly 17% year-over-year to $9.2 billion, with shoppers spending about $11 million ever minute during peak hours, according to preliminary data from Adobe Analytics.

$3 billion of Cyber Monday’s online sales were completed through a smartphone, which represents a 46% increase over last year’s smartphone-based purchases.

The spending totals make Cyber Monday 2019 the biggest online spending day in US history. Black Friday‘s online sales, by comparison, totaled $7.4 billion, according to Adobe. Online sales also totaled $7.4 billion on the Saturday and Sunday after Black Friday. Since December 1, the 2019 holiday season overall has generated $72.1 billion online, representing growth of more than 16%.


#CyberMonday #2019HolidaySales

The lease on my wife’s car was expiring in three days.  She drove a 2015 Nissan Murano SV which we liked, but was also 16,300 miles over the lease mileage allotment.  We had three choices: 1) Buy out the 2015 for about $19k, but according to Kelly Blue Book, the car was only worth about $13k.  2) Return the car in three days, pay $2650 for the excess miles, then lease or buy another car.  3) Roll the excess mileage into a new Nissan lease.  Since we both like the Murano, we opted for the latter.  First, I went to the dealership that leased us the current car to determine our base cost.  Their offer was $401 per month, $1,000 down, for a 12K/year 3-year lease of a 2019 Murano S. The 2019 S has virtually all the options that are in the 2015 SV, except power seats.  The saleswoman offered $399 per month, then asked what it would take for us to lease the 2019 S.  I stated $350 per month, knowing that we might not be able to get all the way there, but also knowing there was a lot of room in her initial offer.  She said that she could not get to $350, and offered the 2019 S for $389.  I thanked her and left.  Worst case, I would comeback two-days later for the $389.

The next morning (8/30), I called several dealers and sent the following note to dealers thru their websites:

Hi there.  I would like to lease a 2019 Nissan Murano S for $360 per month, 15K miles/year, with $1000 down, with the previous mileage rolled into this lease.  I would like to sign the lease either 8/31 or 9/1.  I currently have a Nissan Murano SV with the lease expiring on 9/1.  Current car info below:

Current Car:  2015 Nissan Murano SV.
42 month expires 9/1/19. (Never late on a payment; credit score 750)
Total Allowable miles: 42,000
Current miles: 58,282
Overage (.15+CT tax): $2600

Last month, unrelatedly, while renting a car, I noticed there was a 30% difference in the base rate of identical cars from the same rental car companies located about 45 minutes north of here.  Therefore, I hypothesized that we might see significant lease savings if expanded our dealer search, which I limited to about 60 miles.

Each Nissan dealer I called asked me to schedule an appointment to come in, to which I replied, I knew exact what I wanted and preferred to do everything over the phone. Most stated that they could not discuss it over the phone but then either preceded to continue the discussion over the phone, or have a salesperson call me back.  I was amazed at the range of prices.  Nissan City in Port Chester, who advertises heavily on TV stated that rolling over the mileage of the previous lease, and leasing a 2019 S with only $1,000 down would cost $500/month (Looks like high margins are necessary to pay for that TV advertising).  A relatively close CT dealer stated that they could only get to $400 per month on a 2019 S. I then started to get responses to my website inquiries.  If the dealer asked me to set up an in-person appointment, I simply restated the above note, ending with ‘I will come in if you can please confirm that the above terms are acceptable’.

Next I received a response to a web inquiry from a dealership about 60 miles away, Crowley Nissan, that hit my offer of a 2019 S for $350/month with 12K miles or $360/month with 15K.  I called the salesperson, Steve, to confirm everything was included, and set up an appointment to see the car the following day.  I told him I would need a quick test drive, to see how easily the manual seats maneuvered, and if satisfied would sign the new lease on the spot. A little while later, I received a call back from a different dealer about 45 miles away, Paul at County Line Nissan, also matching the requested offer; however I told him that I had already given my word accepting an offer.  He followed up with a polite text stating that he could save me a few more bucks a month and asking if I would change my mind?  I thanked him, texted that I was going to keep my word, but also mentioned that he would be the first person I call if I ran into any issues the following day.  At this point I felt comfortable that I would be able to rollover the excess miles from the current lease and pick up a 2019 Murano S with 15k miles for $360/month and $1,000 down.

The next day I drove an hour to Crowley Nissan to meet Steve to test drive the 2019 S.  The car drove fine, but the manual seats bothered me. Our current car is driven by my wife 99% of the time, but since we have a newborn and the new Murano will be the baby car, it will be driven by both of us.  I asked Steve what he could do for an SV rather than an S, but he said the SV would be $400/month with 12K miles or $410/month with $15K.  I quickly sent a short text to Paul, asking “what’s the beast deal I can get with an SV”.  About ten minutes later, he offered to match the same price as the S for the SV whose MSRP was $38k (vs $34k on the S).  Steve was surprised by the offer, said that he could not do that deal, and to accept it if they are matching the price without any additional extra charges.  I shot Paul a text questioning if it includes “all taxes and other stuff” which Paul quickly confirmed.  I replied, it sounds good, and I will be there in thirty minutes.  About 15 minutes into the trip, Steve called saying that he found a workaround to be able to match the $360/month, 15K miles for a black 2019 Murano SV, but as I had now given my word, I drove the remaining 10 minutes to County Line.  At this point I felt confident that we would be able to lease an SV with 15K miles for $360 per month, already a significant improvement from the base expectation including saving $1000 with 3K additional annual miles on a better car.

When I met Paul, sure enough he had a 2019 SV in Pearl White, and there were no additional costs. The car was beautiful with a metallic White exterior and cream interior, however as I looked at the bright, pristine interior, I could only imagine all the dirt and colorful artwork our newborn would showcase throughout the interior.




I told Paul, I loved the car, but the interior (of a new car with only 10 miles) which already naturally started to show some dirt did not make sense with a baby.  Paul understood and went to see what he could do.  I reconfirmed that I wanted to drive home the new car today, and knew we had the black 2019 SV as a back-up at the previous dealer.  I was pleasantly surprised when he located a perfect 2019 SV Magnetic Black exterior, black interior which included the Premium Package (an additional $3.5k MSRP) of a power panoramic sunroof, 360-degree view monitoring around the vehicle in one image, Bose stereo and heated front seats.  All very cool features, but I stated that wanted to keep near the prior price.   County Line offered the SV with the premium package for $367 per month (including rolling in the excess miles from the prior lease), 15K miles, $1,000 down which I gladly accepted (there was no need to fight for the last couple of dollars).

In under 48 hours, through research, various dealer inquires and negotiations, we went from an initial base deal of $399 per month with 12K miles for a 2019 Murano S (MSRP $34,600) to saving over $1,000, increasing the annual mileage by 3K, upgrading the model and including the premium package in a 2019 Murano SV (MSRP $41,700).

A few recommendations:

  1. Research the market to determine which vehicle and options you prefer.
  2. Understand your current lease to know the true cost of each option.
  3. Once you have determined which car you want to lease/buy, obtain a base price that establishes your worst-case scenario.
  4. Create a short write-up that includes all your current lease info as well as the specific terms you are seeking. The write-up should be very direct and demonstrate that you want to close a deal quickly.
  5. Send the note directly to dealers through their website contact links.
  6. Call dealers directly. Do not be afraid to expand your search as the one-time slightly further drive can be worthwhile to receive a significantly better deal (Future car services can still be done at your local dealer).
  7. Do not go into dealerships until after they have agreed to terms that are acceptable to you, but confirm that you want to close a deal quick and will go to the dealership if they agree to your terms.
  8. Have your lease end on the 1st of a month, as the ability to close a deal at the end of a month helps dealer’s current monthly numbers.


#AutoLease #CarLease #Negotiating #Saved1000onmycarlease #Carleasing #Autoleasing #NissanMurano

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. 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

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

A company’s most important asset is its customers.  They are extremely expensive to acquire, but keeping them happy is incrementally inexpensive.  Happy customers buy more product and stay in programs longer.  They are more responsive, and potentially purchase large multiples of product, or higher margin deluxe versions.  They are your best advocates.  What is the lifetime value of a happy advocate?

My first job after university was as a program manager at The Danbury Mint (MBI) overseeing various collectibles (dolls, plates, ornaments, die-cast cars, etc).  Most programs were sold as a one-shot, then converted in-shipment (and through follow-up mailings) to the rest of the series (typically a collection of either 4, 8 or 12 items).  The customer acquisition cost often exceeded 50% of the retail price, and on larger series could be 200%.  If a customer only bought the lead item, the amount of profitable marketing available was minimal.  Through conversions to the rest of the collection, the average customer purchased 2.2 to 2.7 products in a four-item program.  This additional margin allowed us to mail deeper inside, as well as, more outside lists.  Since lead customers were so expensive to acquire, it was vital that we treated them like gold.  It was essential that products shipped quickly, with packaging that would enhance the customer experience.  This was a fantastic educational experience on the lifetime value of a customer.

Direct Response is a fantastic medium that can ramp-up quickly and effectively in a test-expand approach.  Unfortunately, too many marketers focus only on the short term, with a one and done mentality; they often ignore the longer-term value of customers at the expense of immediate profits.  Think more from your customer’s perspective.  Have diligent inventory management so that shipments are never delayed and make sure to regularly ship product to yourself.  How does the product arrive?  Are the proper additional offers enclosed in package?  Is the unboxing experience impressive to your customer?  Is he incentivized to reorder?  Is she incentivized to tell a friend?

Treating the customer well may be slightly more expensive today, but invaluable for tomorrow.

Amazon has been a fantastic deflationary source for consumers, however it is also constantly squeezing seller margins.  Fees, as a percentage of Gross Selling Price, have increased every year since 2009. In 2009, Amazon fees totaled less than 20% of the gross selling price for most third-party sellers.  Now, nearly 10 years later, Amazon fees have risen to nearly 35%.  Since most third-party sellers are unable to increase prices to offset the majority of these fees, margins are constantly under pressure.

Sellers can combat some of the increasing Amazon fees by more effectively managing their inventory to reduce monthly and long-term storage.  Sellers can also redesign certain products to reduce weight and optimize shipping expenses.  However, sellers ultimately have no choice, but to accept the Amazon fee increases.  The margin squeeze has caused valuation multiples of Amazon only businesses to drop significantly over the last several years, especially sellers of staple white-label items.

Several years ago, sellers could offer white-label products, optimize their listings and enjoy year-over-year growth due to the increasing Amazon audience.  However, Amazon is directly capturing an ever-increasing share of white-label products (from batteries and charging cables, to bedding, luggage, and recently small appliances and apparel).  Amazon only had a minor share (or even zero share) of these markets a few years ago, but will control the vast majority of each within the next couple of years.

The speed of this transition is rarely talked about, but will make an amazing case-study in the future, as Amazon is capturing, virtually, entire category after category.  Differentiated, proprietary products were beneficial for third-party sellers in the past, but now they are an absolute must to thrive on the Amazon platform.

Update:  The New York Times published an detailed article today (July 23, 2018) on Amazon capturing increasing market share of white-label products.  How Amazon Is Winning the Online Retail Game. Again.  A few snippets below:

The results were stunning. In just a few years, AmazonBasics had grabbed nearly a third of the online market for batteries, outselling both Energizer and Duracell on its site.

The company now has roughly 100 private-label brands for sale on its huge online marketplace, of which more than five dozen have been introduced in the past year alone. But few of those are sold under the Amazon brand. Instead, they have been given a variety of anodyne, disposable names like Spotted Zebra (kids’ clothes), Good Brief (men’s underwear), Wag (dog food) and Rivet (home furnishings). Want to buy a stylish but affordable cap-sleeve dress? A flared version from Lark & Ro ($39), maybe in millennial pink, might be just what you’re looking for.

Amazon is utilizing its knowledge of its powerful marketplace machine — from optimizing word-search algorithms to analyzing competitors’ sales data to using its customer-review networks — to steer shoppers toward its in-house brands and away from its competitors, analysts say.

Update: October 16, 2018: The below excerpt is from a Bloomberg published article:  Amazon Doles Out Freebies to Juice Sales of Its Own Brands

Amazon has more than 120 brands, about 100 of which were introduced over the past two years, according to TJI Research. One is Amazon Basics motor oil. Less than three months since its July debut, the product has a 4.5-star rating based on about 100 customer reviews. That’s almost as many reviews as a similar Valvoline product sold on the site for six years. More than 80 percent of the reviews for Amazon’s new oil came through the Vine program;  the Valvoline oil had zero Vine reviews.

#Amazon  #DirecttoConsumer  #Private-label  # AmazonThirdParty  #AmazonSqueeze

View at

Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior, is is another well-written, fun read by Johan Berger.  We underestimate the social influence of others on ourselves, yet we acknowledge its influence on others.  Through various research studies and quirky experiments, the book discusses how everything around us influences how we act, even if we don’t realize the impact.  Invisible Influence discusses how people imitate each other, as its safer to choose what has already been chosen by someone else, and this popularity can be self-fulling.  That restaurant must be good since its always crowded.  (This lasts until its oversaturated and eventually falls into the Yogism: Nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded).  Invisible Influence is an excellent companion to his bestseller Contagious: Why Things Catch On published in 2013.

Invisible Influence also touches on how successful products are often ‘similar but different’ than prior successful items.  This matches a personal mantra of offering customers more of what they are already buying.  If a customer is making a purchase they obviously like the item, therefore the next questions should be:  Do they want multiples of the item, Do they want the item in a different color (or format), Would they like a deluxe (or miniature) version of the item, Do they want complimentary/symbiotic items?  When we introduced Obama Coins years back, the original item was $10, but through offering additional strong similar and complementary items, we were able to raise the revenue per order to $66.

Below is a short animated introductory video to Invisible Influence:

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 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:

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

%d bloggers like this: