Category Archives: Not Vague

Target Audience

Malcolm Gladwell said the crux of the teachings of White Plains’ own Howard Moskowitz is that by embracing the diversity of human beings you will find true happiness.

That was not reflected at all at what I saw in a recent trek to Target in the basement floor of the city center. Upon entering the mass merchandiser the first thing you see are seemingly sane people munching in bright red and yellow seating of a pseudo Mc-style  eatery directly before the row of registers. Most of the people have bags or carts still next to them from their shopping venture, gobbling down rubbery deep fried something.

I know, I wasn’t being forced to take part in the feeding session at the gates of the store but, to me, it presumed the exact opposite of the sentiments that are represented by Mr. Moskowitz’s word; the masses are the masses.

I feel the inner me talking in a grouchy voice, growing extra long eyebrows and auditioning as the understudy for the last segment on 60 minutes, every time I walk into a large chain retailer. Am I being too cynical? I do not hold Target solely responsible, there is a reason the word conglomerate somehow seems like something that could block and artery; it’s a flood of discounted access. Borders lucked out, coffee and reading can ride tandem with one another. But when large scale shops create these inappropriate mix of portions of life I become green about the gills.

Another example, upstairs from Target, is the Multiplex that has in its very heart a bar. I never got when friends in high school would bring a six pack of cans into the theatre and I don’t get now why there is a market for getting a few gin and tonics right next to the 10 dollar gallon of popcorn.

It’s not hard to see why Europeans use as a shopping mall and scapegoat for the worlds consumerism.

My basic question here is, why with scale is function and uniqueness seemingly always lost, when true happiness, at least for the customers, is attained more often by the little guy?

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Applying a GE great to the late night tube.

 

So I was kicking back on the couch last night and flipped to one these -big time chefs comes to a restaurant to create drama and boot them in the behind- and the gears began to move.

I realized that when you’re producing a product doing 4 percent less does not get you 4 percent less but often get’s you 90 plus percent less.

It made me think about Jack Welch and what he did for GE in his tenure by “getting the workout.” The man literally got rid of all the programs and deadweight of the business created a precedent that said essentially, product and progression speak and that which is not needed should not be.

Almost good enough gets you nowhere no transactions, no support, and most important no customers. Seth Godin says, “the sad lie of mediocrity is the mistaken belief that partial effort yields partial results.” It so true, and rung that way for me when some Detroit restaurant served fake crab meat and the goons running the place couldn’t understand why the results were totally out of proportion to the incremental effort.

Welch had the foresight to recognize that this paradigm can be hidden in the large corporations layers of bureaucracy. So a mediocre phone rep or a mediocre chef may not appear to be doing as much damage as they actually are. Welch also saw the flip side of this, that when you are at the top, the best in the world, the industry leader, a tiny increase in effort and quality can translate into huge gains.

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Half a Dozen of One

I have always hated clichés, but they can be useful as a tool.

Marketers are always looking for the “best of both worlds.” Who wouldn’t want it? When marketers talk about a website they want the traffic and control. The problem with shooting for this overlapping euphoric situation is that generally they’ll sacrifice in the details of differentiation and end up with something that doesn’t achieve in the sell. The best of both worlds usually doesn’t exist. I’d say shoot for that best in the one world. Compromise is something intermediate between different things, a little of this and a little less of that. Remember the old one about the bulldog and the  shih-tzu?

It’s like a boutique buying the canvas boots with the fringe because Vogue said boots and fringe were both going to be big this year. It sounds good on paper, but there’s a reason the two were separate, leaving you with an ugly boot overstock situation.

When in doubt, make the most of one.

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This post was brought to you by the word, adaptation.

So after seeing the new brand of Microsoft commercials for the past couple of months I’ve come to some realization about where and how Microsoft is hitting off the mark.

The first set of these new commercials feature Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates involved in what seems like a take on reality television, quip/random line filled, asides. It also seems here like they’re taking the approach that Pepsi’s Sierra Mist went with likable comedians being slightly comical in a weird but memorable sort of way. The difference is the product.

People know more and more that their computers, and how their computers operate, can either put them ahead, in, or behind the game. Mac created a straight forward/simple platform with recognizable characters and a guaranteed laugh that at worst was cute at best was brilliant. But the point was clear every time, Macs are easy to use and make the world easier for you.

Alternately, Microsoft made Bill Gates a character that is not recognizable to us as Bill Gates (I still have in my mind the self-haircut-giving man of smarts; not funny.) To further confuse us the humor is nonsensical and not relatable. It gives you the feeling that these two wizards of their craft are on another plane, wandering above the earth like in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I like it but it doesn’t sell. Jerry is the only part that’s recognizable and that may be the grace that floats the commercial.

Though the brands buoyancy may be futile, with the news breaking that the commercials that try to fire back at Mac’s model (I’m a PC and I’ve been made into a stereotype) were in fact made partially with the help of Macs.

It all works to confound the dichotomy of the two brands. Mac is easy to use and Microsoft has problems. Mac is a square and a rectangle but Microsoft is just a square.

It’s in the final set of Microsoft’s new commercials, the Mojave Experiment, that I found my realization. They keep using a model that’s not new, they’re not adapting. Now I’m going to go ahead and assume that the problem isn’t that they’re stupid over there in Gates territory; but then what is it? Is it that they’ve finally mutated completely from being the enlightened and progressive company of the future to being simply close-minded? It has to be, a closed-minded view would explain all the symptoms as to why a company with such vast resources keeps hitting the hurdle. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, but it does means that your processes are selling you, your colleagues and your community short.

The easiest way to grow is to sell to people who share a worldview that endorse your position i.e. the older generations and older offices have PC’s and the new and younger generations and offices have Macs. People like what they know and if you want them to change you better find a good reason why they should; otherwise you do not exist. The most effective way to grow bigger is to inform those that disagree with your position; this is exactly what Mac has done. Mac provides more data in an appetizing form, it is the edible delicious computer that Seinfeld has Gates twitching his tidy whiteys for (just an assumption on the drawers choice.)

 

 

 

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Grand openings, the greener grass.

 I’ve posted about this in the past, but I as a young entrepreneur myself I can’t help but continue to think, when I do open my first business I will not be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on  a big display launch. Leave the fireworks to Beijing.

Everyone imagines the presentation of innovation rather than innovating. At a gala business men whispering to each other, “this is going to change the industry.”A big spread in Wired Magazine and to be feature on relevant blogs, are all high hopes, but longevity is a key in business and the easiest place to forget that is at the beginning.

Here are some brands that had no launch at all: Nike, Harry Potter, Google, Starbucks, Apple, Wikipedia, Snapple, Geico, Linux, Firefox and even, Microsoft. The public relations troops marched into town much later, long after any opening.

Don’t get me wrong great publicity is and always will be a treasured gift and give spawn to hounding press releases until the end of days. But it is not necessary, and searching for it is often a significant distraction.

Many business owners have in their mind that the upper echelon  of the big launch is that seen in movies, red carpet, Jack Nicholson in tux and shades etc. And that’s valid because these launches are required for movies. But for just about every company, product or service, the relentless quest for validation by the media does not pay off. If you do get it don’t let that push you to rest on your laurels, and if you don’t, that’s just fine.

 

 

 

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What kinda mileage d’you get on your motivation

This week I have been making a concerted effort to take people at a value that’s beyond face.

As a reporter I’m always looking for the motivation in a story. How did this person get here and why?

You need to understand motivation in order to make sense and get a full picture. When I see a person or a business taking an action, my first move is to figure out the motivation. The, what’s in it for them?

We want to know why someone is acting the way they are. Often creating a niche, even if it is identified as a niche, will be appreciated because of its creative nature. That is where we move beyond the monetary value into intrinsic. Everyone wants to know what makes you tick. This is why a brand history/identity, is so important. People want a story, whether you are the muses of website design or the toiling metal fabricators who we, or I, decide to imagine going home to caves and pound ore in the center of mountains. It’s about the story.

Though often we’ll find that the reflex explanation of motivation is, what else, money.

He gets on the train at 6am and off at 8pm because He gets paid soooooo much.

Going out of business sale because This place is bleeding, let’s go save.

This sitcom character drinks Coke because They advertise with the network.

We are the children of a consumerism and many of us have developed a slight x-ray vision to these connections.

We find answers before we even ask questions. Sometimes these answers turnout to be wrong.

People don’t volunteer long hours at the museum or at suicide hotlines for the money, there isn’t any. No one’s paying you to read this blog, and the same for the writing of it.

People don’t work nights and weekends at some jobs because they have to, they most likely have colleagues that get paid just as much who work less.

People should be seen as different from the businesses they represent.

Money fuels the ride, but a person in business is most likely there for a reason other than simply to achieve the money, directly or indirectly, negative or positive. Rarely is the situation so static. They may be there for the kids they love, the habit they can’t kick, or as a step to a dream in the future.

Whatever the true motivator try remembering that there always is at least one.

 

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I Ordered a Turtle-neck and got Capris and a Explanation, Thanks.

There are a variety of things that I buy via the internet, clothes and soccer equipment are the majority.

Recently I ordered a variety fresh new gear from a company that shipped the wrong item and the item that they did ship was broken. I sent it back and was told it will take three or four weeks to process my return. Cue summer fading to fall and the time-lapse photography bringing beautiful foliage into my life.

I wrote an email back, asking my favorite question of questions, why? They responded, and explained that they were  NOT (capitals are a huge put off, strike one), a big company but small and may take us a little longer than others.

Which of course caused me to pose again, why?

Do smaller companies operate in an alternate slow motion universe in which a John Madden voiceover describes everything that happens, because then yea I’d expect it to take a little longer.

 Though in this case the more important issue than my knee jerk why, is something that this size conscious company and all companies of a similar size should realize when operating online. I, a nameless consumer that doesn’t want to travel to a mall and therefore could give a shrimp platter about how small they are, just want good easy service. I wanted to be able to open the package, give a wash, and fold the purchase into the ranks of my wardrobe. Instead I’m forced into correspondence with a business member that I can only think to describe as a whiner.

Am I being to harsh on the in-general little guy? I already gave my business, I purchased and wanted to support the grassroots. I simply felt the reward of making the right choice was the only part left in the equation, alas.

If your small company can’t deliver ‘better’ in things people care about like service, why should I support you? I’m not saying you must be expected to do everything better, but at least do not expect me to listen to the way the ripped edges of the world haven’t left any room for you.

The internet has allowed small businesses to prosper and expand and essentially rule; they can have a better website, better customer support, write a better newsletter than the big guys. The passionate alternative buyer, i.e. those who’ve embraced the internet and its buying prowess, are happy to embrace the small company, unless…

 

 

 

 

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