Conventional Wisdom Isn’t (Hans on Prognostication)
17 years ago on my first date with my, now, wife we talked about a future where most entertainment would arrive on-demand and the concept of a “television network” would evolve to the more apt “brand” and the actual “network” would become the platform. I pointed out that the most difficult challenges wouldn’t be technology but rather revolve around the big business models of advertising, audience measurement, financing of content and proliferation of bandwidth.
Here we are, almost two decades later, and almost all of the solutions we discussed are coming to fruition. It wasn’t easy getting to this point. In fact, I spent the better part of a decade sitting on my butt waiting for everyone to catch up to the vision. But today, I am lucky enough to play a small part in the (r)evolution.
Which brings me to the topic at hand.
It’s very hard to think outside the box. Creativity is not something easily measured or even tied to traditional intelligence measurements. Famously, Nobel Prize winning Physicist (and one of my personal faves) Richard Feynman was not a “genius” according to the tests. He was certainly above average with an IQ of 124 but the threshold is 130. Pop Artist Andy Warhol was allegedly tested at 86 (but he also displayed symptoms of Asperger’s which would significantly skew the results). Actor James Woods has claimed an IQ of 180 but that would be hard to determine based on his creative career.
I’m not putting myself on a pedestal with any of these luminaries (two out of three of them at least) but I like to think that I have some prognosticatory skillz. Certainly, I have an ability to see the path long before anyone even realizes that it’s time to leave.
That’s why I enjoy market development. To get everything right I need my product development, product marketing and business development skills to work in perfect alignment. When it all comes together, it’s auto-magical.
In many ways it’s like surfing. The goal is not to ride the wave swelling underneath you, because you’re too late to catch that one, you need to position yourself to ride the wave that hasn’t even formed yet but will inevitably arrive due to the fluid dynamics of the ocean. You just need all the little eddys to finish whirling and swirling before you can look like a freakin’ genius.
Time for a slight tangential aside.
I wonder what else I managed to get “right” all these years? Yes that was a setup…Forrester Research has finally figured out something that has been obvious to me for almost 28 years.
Mac users are HEROes and they should be enabled, not hindered.
"HERO" is a Forrester acronym for Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives — "the 17% of information workers who use new technologies and find innovative ways to be more productive and serve customers more effectively."
There are a few key tidbits from the study…
- This is a change from just three years ago when Forrester was recommending IT departments to only support Windows. Macs were only for niche markets.
- The study points out that HEROes often bring in their personal machines to work around Corporate IT departments. In my own experience, this is certainly the case. I’ve been the sole Mac user, with my own gear, for most of the last decade.
- HEROes also make more money (44%!), are more productive and are generally power users of technology. In short, these are the people that will be soon running things so if you get in their way you will be soon run over.
In all fairness, I don’t think that you are, or will be, better if you use a Mac. There are plenty of idiots that tithe to Gods of Cupertino. However, if you’re highly creative (productive, innovative etc.) then you don’t want to be stifled and would naturally gravitate to the system that is most empowering on a personal level, instead of an enterprise level. In my opinion, this is why Macs are de rigueur in the Advertising and Entertainment industries (is there any doubt that Don Draper would use a Mac?).
Simply, the power of the one is often greater than the whole. And it’s taken Forrester Research almost 30 years to figure out what all of us Mac users already knew (maybe, in another 30 years, they will figure out that the Advertising industry can learn a lot from the Direct Marketing industry).
Back to the topic…I’ve never been one to follow the herd. Conventional wisdom may lead to easy money (like the proverbial low hanging fruit which exchanges quality for ease of access) or it may simplify planning (because obstacles never, ever, ever lead to innovation, ever!) but I’m usually several years ahead of the pack…where pundits and blowhards fear to tread. Feynman said it best “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”
The famously difficult and acerbic Feynman also said “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize.”
Being a visionary, truly seeing the future, is not easily done nor is it often comfortable. In a corporate setting, in addition to the whole seeing the future thing, it takes patience and communication skills to get your voice heard. More often than not you get shunned, ignored or even fired. Kind of like the surfing analogy a few paragraphs back…if you don’t paddle quickly enough, get your board pointed correctly and then get up on your feet you will most likely get ground up against the coral reef and slowly bleed to death or get eaten by a shark.
Trying to work against the conventional wisdom of corporate America, and the focus on quarterly returns, can be exhausting but the only way to get ahead is to work with what you have or build the company around you (Steve Jobs). Much like using a Mac pretty much every day of my life since 1984, I have managed to move forward, continually innovate and even succeed in spite of conventional wisdom, incredulity and the lukewarm defenders.
Whether it’s on-demand video (and dynamic ad insertion), solar proliferation or more recently electric bicycles I am the guy that was in the mix before there was a mix. That what it’s been like being the “Mac” guy.
Always an iconoclast.
And almost always right.
Now if I could just figure out where I left my 44%…
Why “digitals” don’t want to work at your company
An interesting, albeit dramatic, blog entry over at Fast Company speaks to the difficulty many companies encounter when trying to recruit strong talent. It’s couched in the form of engaging “digital” resources but I suspect that you could replace that adjective with “the kind of people you want to hire if your company is remotely interested in succeeding.”
Falling just short of a spoiler alert, here are the main obstacles to overcome
- Bureaucracy is rampant
- Mediocrity is acceptable
- Trial and error is condemned.
- Non-merit based recognition
- Cold, impersonal and stodgy facilities
If your company resembles these remarks then you might want to review and revise your organizational development plans.
This vehicle wrapper advertising a local Mexican restaurant seems to be saying “Eat at Fonda La Meche or an Aztec warrior will sacrifice this comely virgin to the Gods of Chimichanga!”
I know we just started this blogatory adventure together but I really need to make a brief point…Before you start sending me irate missives, yes, I know that Chimichangas are an intensely caloric foodstuff invented by an American chain restaurant meticulously themed and heavily branded as “authentic Mexican.” I just like to say the word, Chimichanga, because it puts a smile on my face.
Further, I know there are no Chimichangan gods in either Aztec, Mayan, Greek, Roman, Islam, Pagan, Wiccan, Hindu, Buddhist or Judeo Christian mythos.
However, I’m not so sure about the Confuciusts. I did a quick Google search of the words “Confucius” and “Chimichanga” and found this doozy:
…a beautiful mountain, reaching to the heavens, no matter how highly piled with delicious meat, beans, rice and cheese, so delicately wrapped in a tortilla by skilled hands as gentle as a lazy stream in the late afternoon sun, cannot fill the empty valley of your soul and will wrap you in a blanket of goo that will slowly drown your very essence much like the sour cream and melted cheese smothering the delicious Chimichanga
- Confucius, Chinese Thinker and Social Philosopher, 482 BC
Now, let’s get back back to my point. Fear is a powerful motivator. I’m just not sure it’s the best way to sell a $8.99 lunch special.
Local advertising is a difficult game. Budgets are tiny. ROI is paramount and Client emotions run very deep. But if you can make the case, your idea passes the sniff test, you can most likely make it happen. As a result, trial and error gets fast tracked and everyone quickly learns what it takes to get customers through the door…and if you get it wrong I’m pretty sure that an Aztec Warrior will let you know your fate.
Letter to the Gods Overseeing All Things Advertising
Please know that I understand our institutional need to capture revenue. To that end, we can offer the Client the opportunity to send out brochures, using our proprietary technology, without incorporating the fully developed product elements, specifically, the additional analysis. However, in my inestimable, opinion, merely offering an RFI is not conducive to our long term success. It will merely result in dissatisfaction and client churn.
But what do I know? Before you ask, that’s a rhetorical question.
Based on years of experience with RFI in this industry, and although somewhat humorous in nature, here’s what will probably happen:
- The entire team will rush to get everything in place. Everything else currently in process will be back-burnered because this particular Client takes priority.
- After a very stressful 5 days we will have everything up and ready to go. Except there will be a typo buried in the copy which we won’t catch for a couple of days until after the start but the Client will notice immediately.
- Despite the fact that everything on our end is ready to go, the Client will be late delivering the fulfillment materials.
- Longstanding Corporate business rules clearly state that we can’t start an RFI without having the fulfillment materials in hand.
- The Account Executive will freak out and say that the Client is going to cancel if we don’t start on time. Ops will cave and overrule the rules.
- Overall Campaign timing will get screwed up and the media flights will begin, driving potential customers to request the brochure.
- We’ll get 175 requests in a few days but not have the materials to send. I’ll ask the AE to get an ETA on the materials and he/she won’t call the Client, afraid to ruffle their feathers.
- A week later a box containing get 50 brochures will arrive at a remote office. Not knowing who to give it to it will sit at the reception desk waiting for someone to figure it out
- 3 days later, after an exhaustive hunt, we’ll find the box and start to send out the brochures.
- Another 125 requests will come in during the second week.
- The AE will call the Client, giddy with excitement, that we have already run out of brochures and we need 150 more ASAP.
- Closer examination will reveal the brochures don’t really have a strong attribution element or call to action. The war was just lost.
- After a week the AE will start asking for a count to give to the client.
- We’ll give the count to the AE and he’ll/she’ll be disappointed that it was only 300 requests. When giving the number to the Client he/she will forget to mention that we need another 200 brochures but will promise me she’ll bring it up when he/she talks to them next week.
- After a few weeks of no measurable response the Client will get antsy and start to wonder if the brochures are going out
- We’ll give them their first report which is essentially nothing more than the count broken down by a couple of parameters. They will be disappointed. The AE will start to get nervous.
- The next day, after talking to their bosses, the Client’s Marketing team will question if the brochures even went out and they’ll claim that the Boss’s daughter requested a brochure and never got it.
- The AE will freak out and say that we have to give them the names and addresses of everyone to prove our accountability, or we will lose the client.
- Deeper analysis will show the people the boss’s Daughter did get it but the housekeeper threw it out because they thought it was junk mail.
- The Client decides to not renew because it was too much headache and it would have been easier to execute using X technology.
- The AE never sells RFI again and tells all the other AE to avoid it because it sucks.
- The second batch of 150 brochures that the AE requested 2 months ago will arrive at a remote office and will sit on the reception desk for a few days before getting dumped in the trash because no one claimed it.
I would bet that at least 50% of this scenario will come to fruition. If only we could work out all these kinks in advance we should be able to run smoothly. If only.
This scenario is literally the entire point of why we made the decision to go down the road of generating marketing intelligence for our Client. Take the emphasis off of RFI performance, which is never under our control, and use the response data to create actionable data for the Client…data that actually makes sense and is something that they can’t get from any other traditional media.
All that said, dear Gods Overseeing All Things Advertising, can you please help me disseminate this message to the universe?
No Account Executives, Marketing Professionals or Advertising Gods were harmed in the drafting of this blog post.
tumblrbot said: WHERE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO VISIT ON YOUR PLANET?
A simple, yet profoundly complex, question tumblrbot.
I am most interested in taking my family to a quiet farmhouse in Tuscany, outside the city but within bicycling distance of Florence, and staying there indefinitely.
I do not need extravagance or excitement, just good food, lovely weather, beautiful scenery and great people.
Oh, and a camera.
And a fast pipe to the web.
And enough money to never have to worry again.
Other than that all I would really need are some ranch hands (to tend to the horse stables, manage the cow herd and fowl stocks, farm the land and reap the harvest and maintain my bicycles), a full time chef, physical trainer, housekeepers and a personal assistant for my personal needs and a business assistant for my business interests.
It would also be useful to have a fully fueled jet at my disposal to take me to my flat in London.
I almost forgot that I would also need a chauffeured Maserati in Italy and a chauffeured Bentley in the UK to take me between my homes and the jet.
I think that’s a good start. If anything else comes to mind I’ll be sure to let you know.