The BlockChain is the Beauty Inside Bitcoin

I need to come back and write up a clear article on this, but i’ve been digging deep into Bitcoin. Not the cryptocurrency part, but the actual protocol behind it. The think i’m curious about: What else could we apply the blockchain concept to. That is, what kind of decentralization can happen when there is a secure, transparent, open, scriptable, public ledger holding the system together.

Lots more to think about,  but here’s a couple important articles for my own future reference:

 

One Good Writing Lesson from Mad Magazine’s Al Jaffee

I think this is pretty good advice for any writer. It’s easy to be emotional and strident, but the best work channels that energy through a distinct, mostly consistent view of the world. And then, funny is usually better.

“When we’re successful, it’s a funny take on a serious subject,” explained Jaffee. “When we fail is when we preach.”

via Cartoonist Al Jaffee Reveals the One Fold-In ‘MAD Magazine’ Wouldn’t Run | Newsmakers – Yahoo News.

True Big Data / The Atlantic Wins Journalism

If you want a good example of what “Big Data” really means, it’s this. “Big Data” isn’t just “shit ton of data”, it’s “amazing and proprietary insights that could only come from very creative analysis of a shit ton of data that only we can get our hands on”.  So, stop referring to your little facebook data project as “big data”.

And, for what it’s worth, the Atlantic just showed you what’s possible when you cross a curious journalist with a hacker’s mindset. So very cool.

 

Using large teams of people specially trained to watch movies, Netflix deconstructed Hollywood. They paid people to watch films and tag them with all kinds of metadata. This process is so sophisticated and precise that taggers receive a 36-page training document that teaches them how to rate movies on their sexually suggestive content, goriness, romance levels, and even narrative elements like plot conclusiveness.

They capture dozens of different movie attributes. They even rate the moral status of characters. When these tags are combined with millions of users viewing habits, they become Netflix\’s competitive advantage. The company\’s main goal as a business is to gain and retain subscribers. And the genres that it displays to people are a key part of that strategy. \”Members connect with these [genre] rows so well that we measure an increase in member retention by placing the most tailored rows higher on the page instead of lower,\” the company revealed in a 2012 blog post. The better Netflix shows that it knows you, the likelier you are to stick around.

via How Netflix Reverse Engineered Hollywood – Alexis C. Madrigal – The Atlantic.

Why Didn’t Honeywell Invent Nest? The Value of Purpose

Evidently, Nest is worth a couple billion dollars in the minds of investors. That company didn’t really exist a couple years ago, but investors see the potential and Nest is a good example of how a purpose-lead company can spark new growth by reimagining old businesses.

But there are higher risks, of course, with hardware-focused products like Nest, compared to software-only investments, due to the more costly ramp up for such products. But said one investor, “This is a company that could change how we live our everyday lives,” noting the tight integration with mobile phones was a key step in the evolution of such devices.

via Nest Raising Huge New Round From DST, Valuing Smart Home Startup at Upwards of $2 Billion | Re/code.

Why didn’t Honeywell invent Nest? There is no doubt the halls of Honeywell are filled with incredible technologists. They have installs in god knows how many homes in the US and around the globe. Is it because their business model is so heavily focused on resellers and contractors? Is it because they forgot what business they are really in (e.g. “we’re in the comfort business” vs. “we’re in the thermostat and electronics business”). Is it because the actual product would have cannibalized the rest of the line? Perhaps the actual Nest product wouldn’t have been a big enough opportunity for a 72Billion dollar company. Finally, perhaps the leaders at Honeywell have a really healthy and profitable thermostat business already in place and didn’t see a chance for a significant change in their growth curve from real innovation from their core products.

Here’s a clue,  from Nests “about us” page that reveals how purpose guides their approach: 

About_us___Nest

Simple. Beautiful. Thoughtful. They’re focused on “unloved” things. They know no one loves their thermostat.  But, their purpose is to make things you’ll reconsider and then fall in love with. It’s a design approach and a laser focus on the consumer mindset. They are an end user oriented company that has empathy as their core lens. Tech, coding, sales, marketing and everything else come afterwards. Rethinking old problems to help consumers is core to their culture.

Now, check out Honeywell’s “About us” page (actually, there are a number of Honeywell “About us” pages. This one is for their consumer products):

About_Us_-_yourhome.honeywell.com

While it’s great that they are customer focused, it’s pretty clear that their customers are NOT consumers. They’re focused on resellers, builders, etc. They are designing products they know their real customers will buy, not products consumers are going to fall in love with.

Business school students will be reading case studies about Nest for years to come. It’s going to be interesting watching Honeywell’s response. Not only do they have a product challenge, but they are going to have a business culture problem, as well. They can compete on technology, but will they be able to get over the internal cultural barriers that will make it difficult to truly put the consumer needs first? Will they be able to reconnect with their core purpose as a way to re-orient their product and marketing efforts?

A little glimpse into the Future of Brand Building

I was part of an interview that AdFed did w/GoKart Labs for their year end wrap up. I’m really excited about where this GoKart team can take brands. We’ve got the talent, the ideas, and the capability to make a real difference for brands. Should be a great 2014!

 

We are excited about modern brands that are moving beyond simple “messaging” (i.e. ads) to actually making apps, services, platforms and utilities that create deeper connections with their current fans in more useful, relevant and participatory ways. New users, new buyers, will become aware of brands and business through the things their friends do *with* these platforms and the content. These investments in useful content and services create organic growth for brands, whether its deeper loyalty, sharing or even offline word of mouth.

via AdFed – Made for those who make.

Why Food? — For Positive Change in the Food Industry by Yvon Chouinard – Patagonia Provisions

This is another great example of a purpose-lead organization finding new growth (new products, new categorys, new customers) by starting with their purpose, and using that to inspire invention. In this case, their entry into the food space.

So it only makes sense that we’d want to share some of our favorite food with our customers. But that’s just the beginning; we also believe there is great opportunity—and an urgent need—for positive change in the food industry. With Patagonia Provisions, our goals are the same as with everything we do: We aim to make the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and perhaps most important, inspire solutions to the environmental crisis.

via Why Food? — For Positive Change in the Food Industry by Yvon Chouinard – Patagonia Provisions.

Brand purpose is often the best place to start when seeking new revenue growth. By recommitting to your core purpose, you can start envisioning whole new ways to play in your own business landscape. Or, like Patagonia, you can move into whole new categories with completely new products. Operational and business model complexities aside, to consumers, moves like this make sense when there’s a clear purpose behind the brand to tie them together. Invention (identifying new ways to grow like new products and services) comes fastest when there is a clearly articulated brand purpose guiding the explorations.

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.

Ozy Starts / What Can Modern Marketers Learn?

I'm always excited when new publishing titles start, because it's a chance to see the vision and values and beliefs of the founding editors come to life in, almost, realtime.  And, over the last couple years, we've seen a couple really interesting examples.  XOJane, Quartz, or the Kernel, or even the ever-evolving Forbes.com are in different phases of their evolution, but their editorial "point of view" has been clear from the beginning. 

Modern Marketers, as they continue to evolve from a "mass marketing" mindset to a "audience building" mindset,  can learn a lot from successful publishing brands who have built great audiences over time. And, in this case, new publishing brands who are trying to connect with an audience for the first time. The first couple statements from a new publishing venture – their first articles, their first "letter from the Editor", their manifesto - form the foundation of their brand. And, it's a great chance to see how well the editor/publishing team know just who they are as a brand and where they want to go. 

Ozy Media is launching this week, and it will be interesting to see how their "voice"  evolves. Here's the vision, from Carlos Watson

At OZY, our goal is to bring you news and information in a completely different way. Instead of just giving you the same 25 stories everyone else has, we’re going to give you what you really want – the new and the next. Every day, OZY will deliver stories on new people, places, trends, ideas and opinions. And when we say “new,” we’re not just talking about what’s trending now. We’re not focused on three hours or three days ahead; we want to tell you about things months before you hear it elsewhere. 

We want to show you more of this bright, interesting, colorful world we share. And if we do that, then in the end you’ll not only see more, you’ll be more.

And, here's what i think is their version of the manifesto: 

We are the go-to daily news and culture site for the Change Generation, bringing you up to speed on what happened in the last 24 hours and vaulting you ahead by previewing new people, places, ideas and trends in bite-sized original articles that are intelligent, compelling and stylish. OZY is the place where you get a little smarter, a little sooner. Our mission is to help you see more, be more and do more

That's pretty nice. But, it would be great for them to start all this with a more clearly articulated foundation: 

  • Beliefs – What they believe in, and how those beliefs will guide their editorial coverage
  • Values – The basic human values that will guide their decision, and motivate their actions
  • A clear Purpose – A single, clear statement that lays out why the platform exists.

And, in this particular case, i think Ozy is onto something kind of important: the idea of the Change Generation. It would have been awesome for them to take a shot at articulating who the change generation is, why we should think as a "generation" vs. a cohort (and why that matters), and what the change generation really needs.

At this point, i wonder if they were focused on getting the platform up and running, and getting the first articles out the door instead of fully, clearly, convincingly defining their vision, their point of view, their reason for being. With so many alternatives, a new platform needs to convince the audience they are different, they are worth paying attention to, and worth watching or reading.

Modern Marketers are often in similiar situations, trying to convince people to pay attention and care about them. They're rushing to get their social media touchpoints established, their communities started. But, they often skip past the foundation that attracts an audience: Shared values, common beliefs, and a purpose that humans want to be part of. 

At this point, Ozy is interesting because it's new, but i wonder if, over the long haul, they'll be valuable because they've got a voice that matters in the conversation. Brands should be considering the same challenges.  

Updated: Agile Methods to Solve Sticky Business Problems? We’ll Try it!

We're going to try something on a project we're kicking off here at work: "Agile" programming methodologies in the service of sticky business problems. We're not coders, but we're going to apply what we understand of the approach. We'll use "stories" to get our focus on the problems we need to crack for the marketers we work with, the stories we want to be able to tell when we've solved them. We'll have a list of these stories and work through them one at a time. We'll do that in quick (2 weeks), focused efforts (aka "sprints"). And, we'll if we don't get it right, we'll iterate through them again until we've got it right. We'll be focusing on "shipping", that is getting the project done and implemented. We'll focus less on the beauty of a comprehensive, centrally controlled process (ie. "waterfall), and more on getting working "software" (ie the tools and methods) into the hands of the teams we work with. Lastly, we're going to try to dramatically improve communication via "huddles" and may even try full team huddles to communicate with a much larger audience. The IT group will probably laugh at how we're doing it, but we're going to take a shot and get it right over time if the first efforts aren't spot on. 

Any suggestions on how to apply agile programming methods to a non-programming problem? 

Updated: 8:30 PM

Lots of good suggestions from folks around the web. For sure, check out Rohn J Millers post on the subject from last year. Lot's of good ideas in there. And, here's a pretty good overview from PJ Shrivasta. Finally, i look forward to re-reading Greg Meyers Agile Marketing Manifesto in a couple months to see how we're doing. 

 

The Digital Brand Advertising Maturity Model: Phase 1 -“TV on the Internet”

A lot of big brands are still trying to figure out digital marketing. They are taking a hodge-podge approach to their efforts, with a little bit here (SEM), and little bit there (their website) and maybe a little excitement dashed in (their facebook presence/twitter stream). But, before big, mass market brands can truly wrap their heads around the concept of being "modern brands", they should get comfortable with what they are doing with basic web display advertising. That is, "TV on the Internet".

TV on the Internet

Big, slow, classic mass-market brands have built their whole marketing model around TV. Their planning calendar is driven by their TV buying and TV production cycles, delivering "campaigns" that are like carpet bombs of 30 second tv spots. Their research tools, processes, and partners are designed to deliver the one true "insight" that will make a great TV spot. The creative messaging is driven and shaped by all the tools they use to conceptualize, vet, test and create their TV spots. The marketers and researchers there have built – literally- whole careers on being great at managing and guiding these processes, blending, when it's done well, the science of marketing and the art of advertising together to create breakthrough work that infiltrates our culture. Via TV.

It's a big, well oiled machine that we all take for granted, and we assume, because the machine has always worked so well, that it will also output great digital marketing. But it can't create great digital marketing. Because it was designed.for.creating.TV. That doesn't means the digital marketing that comes out of this systems is bad. It's just not what digital marketing could be.

Before brands shoot for "great", it's worth understanding what "good" looks like. Here are the characteristics of digital campaigns that are "TV on the Internet":

  • A single, broad target - Typically, defined by demographics, like "Moms with kids in the house, 30-55".
  • Key Objective: Awareness – These campaigns are really very much like TV, in that they are  designed to deliver an impression. And that's pretty much it. All the cool interactive stuff that you can do online? Clicks, conversions, online ad driven actions don't really matter in these campaigns.
  • Creative: Persuasion – The goal of the creative is to persuade and change attitudes, not drive action.
  • Campaigns: The campaigns tend to flow at the same rhythm as TV; run for a couple months, and then go dark.
  • Media: "Set it and Forget it" - These campaigns don't get optimized when they run. They are planned and run and aren't really optimized that much over the course of the campaign. 
  • Media: Focus on Reach – Like TV, the main objective of the media buy is almost always to maximize the number of people reached by the message. The placement – where the creative runs – is important, but generally, reach is favored over relevance.
  • Measurement: Offline impact – These campaigns don't measure impact by what happens online.  Like all ad efforts, the most value is placed on what happens offline. Cash register rings. Sales in the big box, or the market, or the retail outlet. 
  • Learning Cycles – The learning cycles of "TV on the Internet" campaigns, as far as i've seen, tend to be like an annual cycle. The iteration and learning cycles tend to be six to eight (or up to 12 months). 

 But, while digital marketers might scoff at these campaigns, they work for marketers for a couple important reasons:

  • They are relatively easy to manage – Agencies and marketers can work and execute these campaigns pretty easily, assuming the marketers don't try to over-work the banners.
  • They work – A lot marketers are finding that banners work well. At the very least, they drive brand metrics. But, they also drive sales offline, too. 
  • They are predictable – Brands can these campaigns pretty easily, and they are getting more and more predictable in their ability to drive results. 

These aren't the sexiest digital campaigns. You'll never see these on the front cover of AdAge. But, these campaigns can form the foundation of great brand-building efforts. They can drive regular results, can be pretty predictable, and can provide marketers with "ground cover" to do more, innovative, and more interesting things.

But, "Modern Brands" should be providing more than advertising, more than their own message. That's the next phase in the maturity of digital brand marketers. 

Next up: PHase 2- Data Driven Brand Marketers