Where I’m Going Next: Unlocking Innovation for Modern Brands

Though the digital revolution really began in the early 90’s, we’re just beginning to get our arms around what’s possible for brands and marketers. Meanwhile, the future of brands, of brand building, of marketing is being invented, right now, every day.

For instance, as I write this post, the digital marketing headlines center around the founders of Snapchat turning down an acquisition offer from Facebook, holding out for a better offer.

It should be noted, they have no revenue.

Snapchat didn’t exist three years ago (and, if you are reading this in 2017, Snapchat may not exist anymore). Yet, some observers agree they may be worth more than  the rumored $3 billion dollar Facebook  offer.

Has the business world gone crazy, or is it truly possible to invent, design and grow disruptive, innovative businesses that fast?

For those of you not living in the digital space, the pace of change may seem disorienting. But trust me, it will never be slower than it is right now.

Unlocking Innovation: The Next Phase of the Digital Transformation

I’ve been involved in the digital business in one way or another since 1995 when I was teaching classes on “What is the Internet” or “Understanding the World Wide Web”. I’ve done a lot of the jobs required to bring web and mobile experiences to life, from coding and designing to advertising and promoting. I’ve lived through a couple boom and bust cycles.

I’ve seen Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and whatever Web 3.0 was supposed to be. But, based on my experiences, I believe we’re in the early stages of the most important cycle for most businesses: Accelerated innovation through new products and services.

In today’s landscape, smart business leaders see the massive opportunity for innovative products and services that weren’t possible even 5 years ago.  Bold, modern marketers are recognizing that there’s never been a better time to build brands through useful, helpful services and content.

So, they are looking for ways to reinvent, to unlock new ways to grow.

In almost every category, I’m seeing examples that should appeal to the soul of modern marketers who recognize growth can come by re-examining all aspects of their business in light of the digital transformation hitting them: their business model, their go-to-market strategy, their consumer communication model, the products, services and content they offer and their brand, overall. Just a few examples of bold innovation I’m seeing.

  • GoPro has built an incredible business and brand in a space that should have been owned by Sony, without much paid advertising (marketing model innovation)

  • RedBull has become one of the largest providers of action sports programming (media model innovation)

  • SpecialK has built and delivered a diet plan around their cereal brand (brand building innovation)

  • DollarShaveClub.com is working on disrupting the men’s grooming accessories business through price, brand and distribution (business model innovation)

Brands Need a Different Kind of Partner to Spark Innovation

To unlock real transformational growth and innovation, smart marketers need partners that aren’t satisfied merely to work on this year’s campaign materials. As a matter of fact, I’m seeing some of the most exciting ideas happening when companies work with smaller, more experimental firms at the front of the change.

Fortunately for marketing leaders, there is a growing number of great firms out there. The marketing service companies that support the brands (i.e. the ad agencies, PR shops, design shops, management consultancies) are going through their own, difficult transformations, too.

As a result, new kinds of firms are emerging, focused on dreaming up new businesses, inventing whole new products or services, or planning out alternative marketing models; Firms that are purpose-built, designed from the ground up to be agile, fast, data driven and iterative.

The agency disruption is leading to the kind of collaborators who help marketers answer that age old strategic question, “what business are you really in?” and then bring those new ideas to life, in market, to drive growth.

These new model, smaller firms are alternatives to legacy agencies which are trying to compete on strengths (scale, global network, heavy investments in “creative”) that aren’t as valuable anymore. And, in many cases, the operating models and cost structures of legacy firms make it almost impossible to move quickly and to work with the best collaborators available across the globe.

An Amazing Time to Build Brands and Businesses

Disruptive innovation is hitting just about every industry. New collaborators arising to help marketers win in a changing landscape. Has there ever been a better time to be in business?

So, marketers, we have a choice: are we going to wait and watch and react when it hits your category? Or are we going to drive the change. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a driver.

My Next Phase: GoKart Labs

I’ve recently left one of America’s great brand building companies (General Mills) to join a company not many know yet. GoKart Labs (gokartlabs.com) is a small, stealthy company that builds real businesses and drives remarkable innovation. We build our own businesses (Sophia, Kinly, a couple in the pipeline). We build them with our partners (BringMeThenews.com). And, we will use our business building chops to grow yours.

Your ad agency can’t do what GoKart does.

We’re built to invent new products and services, help you find and grow your customer base or help you generate whole new business models. We’re designed for market acceleration, not conference room creative conversations. Then, we’ll help you design, develop and deliver the digital experiences that build your brands. And, finally, our growth hackers can help you find customers through the truly agile marketing we use to grow our businesses.

Now, as I buckle up for this next phase — both mine and the web’s — I couldn’t be more excited. I’m excited to bring what I’ve learned working with some of the best marketers and brands in the world.

I’m excited to learn from the many entrepreneurs and business leaders in and around GoKart Labs. And finally, I’m excited to be part of a crew of collaborators inventing new businesses, products and innovations. I’ve got my foot on the gas and I’m ready to drive.

peterme.com :: Locating value in interaction design consultancies

Thinking about this post a lot lately, for a number of reasons.

Recently, i’ve been trying to communicate to some folks at work the role "interactive services" (broadly defined) have in further defining the packaged widgets we make and sell, how the right services surrounding a commoditized thing, can transform the thing into something wonderful. I haven’t quite made the case convincingly, yet. The folks i talk to all day have made their careers (and a lot of money for Enormicon)  by "talking about the thing" vs designing the thing itself. they’re marketing/ad guys,  not interactive guys. I’ve come up in world where i’ve focused, or at least tried to, on "the thing itself". I’m still learning to bridge the communications gap.

Link: peterme.com :: Locating value in interaction design consultancies.

I Really Will Take This Blogging Thing Seriously, But First

I try to keep this blog pretty bland and non-personal. There are plenty of reasons why, but mainly i live a very boring life and the world doesn’t need that boredom inflicted on it. With all that is going poorly across the globe, i don’t feel my pissing and moaning would make things better or worse. So, i pretty much stick to dumb stuff like "irish hotties", "golf porn", and "Multiple ipods on XP". At least, that’s what my referrer logs say.

But, evidently, this site is read by others, and i’ve gotten a few emails from former coworkers and old friends asking where i’ve been. Short answer: in a dark hole, and at a new job. Longer answer: Below.

September & October:
- Traveling back and forth to De Pere WI every weekend, watching Cancer kill my mother from the inside out, and my father helpless for the first time in my (and his)
- Some insights into the problematic way i’ve been avoiding stress, emotions, and a couple other things. THey come home to roost, and I have to start dealing with them.
- Fantastic new job starts.
- I finished my second Chequamagon Fat Tire Festival, cutting 14 minutes off my time. Start looking to next year.

November & December:
- Still on the road to De Pere every weekend
- Feeling pretty low,  but at the same time, more optimistic than ever about my future.
- Sad to see my beloved brother crushed, too, dealing with difficult times himself
- Mom dies. Dad crushed. Family shattered.
- Meet Bob, a wise man, who can help me make sense of a couple questions i’ve struggled with for a while. Glad to have met him!
- Holidays are weird with mom gone. She’s as present as ever, but not there at all. Stressful and tenative. Moreso than ever. But, Dickensian ending where we all hold hands and gain deeper, richer appreciation for the importance of having family to lean on and share pain with. Good times. Seriously.
- New job is awesome.

January
- Trip to Uruguay with Dad and my brother and family friends. Great trip, but missed the family
- A. goes to Las Vegas
- Trip to Google, blown mind. Great possibility. This internet thing is going to be huge!
- Feeling pretty good about the future

February
- Start riding my bike again (!) and feel better already. Looking forward to Fat Tire fest in September
- Stop riding my bike due to work and sickness
- Fantastic weekends at the cabin in WI, skating on the pond, making fires on the pond, great quality time with family.
- Feeling very positive about the future

March
- More time at cabin (!)
- Great trip to AZ, with a bunch of bike riding thrown in.
- Start shopping for a carbon fiber bike to buy this summer
- Work is still going well
- The future is bright, I’m looking at shades

April
- Take Cooper to Kids Choice Awards 2007. Best trip of a lifetime ever.

A couple other things:
- Amy Winehouse is fantastic, and her new album is dynamite. Buy it today.
- Listening to a lot of old Buffalo Tom
- Love the John Hodgeman book/audio CD. Extremely false and equally funny.
- Still trying to get in shape. That 15 lb weight loss is unicorn-esque, but I will capture it one day!
- Looking at boats. Seriously. Runabouts, you know, for the kids! At the lake!

All is good. Its getting better all the time.

Thanks for reading. Seriously.

My Son Eats Healthier Than I Do

Coop, the five year old, goes to a good kindergarten and he loves to learn about stuff. As a matter of fact, he’s kind of a badger about his favorite topics and loves to coach me and Andrea when he’s learning about something new. So, Tuesday I get voicemail from Coop (501.1K/mp3) about his lunch and, clearly, he’s grasping the idea behind the food groups.

Three Kids is Harder Than Two

It’s been a little nutty over here at the headquarters. We’re watching my sister’s daughter while my sister recovers from a C-section. Helena is almost 3, bright and eager and, like all 3 year olds, is finding out about independence. Eli, 2 and a half, has finally found a sidekick. They are, together, a handful of fun , especially because they are running Cooper (5) ragged.

I’m A Soccer Dad

Of all the many things I swore I’d never be (republican, suburban, corporate drone) and yet – surprise! – became, I’m most at peace with my suburban dad-ness. Every Saturday morning, I get to get the boys geared up for community soccer at the local school, their small cleats cleaned the night before, shirts dirty from last week and water bottles filled and ready to go. I load them up into the mini-van, put some good music in the cd player to get them amped and ready, and off we head.

It doesn’t matter that they’ve inherited my poor athletic genes. Cooper loves to run around, just not on the soccer field when the game is being played. He’ll chase his teammates around and tackle them when they’re not ready. But, as soon as the whistle blows, he collapses on the sidelines and complains of fatigue, as though watching Jimmy Neutron on Tivo is crushingly hard. Eli, at 2, does a better job of dribbling the ball than Coop does at 5. They both love the treats after the game more than the game itself.

The coaches are great, and they’ll get him into the game eventually. He’ll trot around the edges of the action, getting kind of close, but not too close, to the scrum of 5 year-olds who sort of push the ball around the field. When we started this summer, he would actually run away from the ball when it came to him, falling back to take a position in front of his goal, protecting it I suppose, but also avoiding actual ball to foot contact. Slowly, he’s gotten more engaged in the game. Sure, he still wrestles his teammates when they’re supposed to be playing and yes, that was my son who got admonished two weeks ago for kissing the forward on the cheek.

All the boys have gotten progressively better over the summer and last Saturday it all came together for Coop. He actually went for the ball, paid attention to his coach, started seeing how to pass the ball across the field to his teammates, understood how to get in position to get a pass. More importantly, he got his first goal! The ball was cleared out of a scrum at about midfield, and went towards Coop who was, amazingly, pretty much alone. He let the ball get in front of him, saw the open goal at the end of the field, turned and headed down, dribbling with both feet. A kid from the other team started closing in on Coop, but he didn’t stop, turned toward his right a bit and, from about 10 yards out, stuck the ball into the right side of the goal. At first he didn’t quite react, but then, he pulled up, turned towards his coach who was screaming at him, smiled and put his arms in the air. I don’t care if he did scream “touchdown”, he got the damn goal.

All season long, I had been preparing myself in case the season closed without Coop getting a goal. I had kind of built it up too much, worrying about what it might mean if he couldn’t do it on the field. We all know that sports aren’t that important, but we also secretly know that kids that can at least play the games reasonably well have an easier time making friends and all that stuff, as unfair as that might be. So even though I really wanted it to happen, I didn’t expect much, I was at peace with the likelihood he’d be goal-less at the end of the year. But then, when I saw him get the ball, saw the open goal and the open field, I got so excited! When he kicked it in, I was screaming too, not at all self-consciously. I was surprised at how happy I was for him, surprised at how it brought back so many memories for me of being on the football field when my team scored a touchdown, all in an instant. But I felt, more than anything, the sweet purity of complete relief that he wouldn’t be the only kid on the team who hadn’t scored a goal. The weight had been lifted, my son wouldn’t be a paste-eating, chess-winning, loser. My son scores goals. And, for better or worse, he’s got one of those dad’s now that screams at him from the sidelines.

Now, On To My Next Project…

Well, I’m done with my taxes for 2003 and it’s good to have that task done. Now, I can move on to more important things:
– Riding more
– setting up my new bike
– writing that book I’ve been planning
– Actually studying for the Series 7 test
– Lose 10 pounds
– figure out what to do with my life