Friday, July 27, 2007

Reason for Existence?

Over the last months I have witnessed a strong urge in our marketing industry amongst top players to discuss the true reasons and real purpose for the existence of their enterprises. It is less about the published tag line that different marketing firms and agencies love to have then the true reason why the leaders for these firms wake up every morning and work hard in making their teams successful.

Reviewing some of the more interesting players in any industry, one can see a wide range of reasons:
  • Google: Publish the world’s information in an easy and relevant manner
  • Crispin Porter: Be the crazy underdog that pushes boundaries
  • Microsoft: Bring a computer in every household (This is more or less achieved which might explain some of Microsoft’s identity problems)
  • Wal-Mart: Bring affordable products to the masses
  • Starbucks: Enable people to enjoy good coffee in a European style relaxing coffee house atmosphere

It is amazing that still most marketers don’t seem to be able to define and rally their firms around such a clearly expressed and motivated cause. It is sometimes a lack of realizing the deficit for such a critically needed reason for existence, but most often the ineptitude of executive marketers to agree and live by an unifying cause. This cause needs to be more than just a brainy tag line, it needs to move and grab people, it needs to be true, and it needs to be lived every day. Then the cause becomes the critical filter for any strategic decisions and any important hiring decisions.

Looking conceptually at different reasons for existence, I think they can be categorized in several core categories (not necessarily mutually exclusive):

  • Original leader or founder sees a problem and drives to solve it with a new offering (e.g. Wal-Mart, Starbucks)
  • Be the underdog who fights against the establishment and breaks category rules (e.g. Crispin Porter)
  • Vision of being a global dominant player with an unique value proposition or solution (e.g. Microsoft, Google)

The marketing industry definitely lacks passionate leaders who have strong personal reasons of building something unique beyond their desire of being famous and satisfying their egos. I think the Scientification of the Marketing Industry is changing this deficit. Scientists are much more cause driven than traditional marketers.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Applying Harry Potter

The frenzy over the 7th and last book of the Harry Potter series “The deathly hallows” hasn’t stopped yet, it seems to gain strength every day. Allow me a couple of observations in regards to this phenomenon:
  • Looking at the sales numbers per published edition, you can observe an increase of sold copies with every single volume. This is one of the rare publishing successes where you have a constant and almost exponential increase in success, especially if you count the previous volumes sold after every single release. It is definitely one of the best product examples of how one can increase sales and distribution on every key sales driver: Customer penetration (the later the editions, the more customer age groups have been reached), geographic reach, (the later the editions, the more countries have acquired translations rights), and distribution channels (the later the editions, the more channels sold the book; yesterday I saw that not only Costco is selling the 7th book but Best Buy, too).
  • A lot of critics have written about the “coming of age” or “growing up” classical novels that Harry Potter is part of. I think most critics neglect the power of Harry Potter’s book as endless accumulating riddles, where some of them get solved but others appear new. The most similar recent commercialized story is “Lost” in which every solved mystery creates two new ones. There is a huge addictive appeal to this kind of story telling.
  • Magic in Harry Potter’s book is nothing else than creatively and scientifically creating and solving riddles (except for the applied magic in the increasing fighting scenes between Harry and Lord Voldemort). There is no contradiction between the creative (more Harry Potter’s approach ) or the scientific (more Hermione’s approach) side of creating and solving riddles. Both are needed, both work together. What a wonderful analogy to our marketing discipline!

What does this all mean for our data discipline? A couple of (definitely far fetched) analogies and suggestions:

  • We still need to better understand of how and why certain newly launched products grow successfully. We neglect too much to really understand the growth drivers of product launches that would help us to design a multi-year product development plan with more success changes.
  • Our data work is too often the Sisyphus like work of solving one riddle and creating a new one. This should not be our approach or MO, we should solve questions to provide answers not to create new questions. Unfortunately that’s why I still see in the majority of analytical work.
  • To solve riddles, to decipher mathematical or analytical problems, one needs to apply creative and analytical powers. It’s Harry and Hermione combined in one person. It does not happen in the book, but it can happen in real life.

There might be no 8th sequel of Harry Potter but there is daily sequel in our line of work, an 8th chance of telling our story.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mobile Intelligence

The hype over the Apple iPhone is not yet over but there might be something happening that is beyond the public craziness about this device. Marketers get inspired of how they could use the iPhone’s high quality, rather large screen and touch pad functionality to develop applications that take advantage of it. Unfortunately Apple is famous for its closed loop systems but it will not deter innovative spirits to have highly interesting applications build over the next 6 months. One side comment: the iPhone doesn’t currently support Flash, which significantly reduces its applicability for more complex graphics. But it’s not about the Apple iPhone but about the next stage of using mobile devices as the core communication vehicle.

What does it mean for our data intelligence profession? I predict the proliferation of providing marketing intelligence on mobile devices. Wouldn’t be cool if you as a key marketing executive can get a brief daily update of your key marketing metrics in a visually interesting manner on your cellphone; all with the ability to do some simple queries to find an answer for an urgent question?

To make it happen, I believe we will have to focus on three success criteria:
  • Whatever one would see on the cell phone has to be a subset of the marketing intelligence that is already in place within the organization. It can’t be a different set of metrics, or a different set of data elements but the short and meaningful synthesis of the more complex intelligence that one can access on the computer
  • The solution needs to provide some basic manipulation functionality without slowing down its performance. We have to enable the user to “play” around a little bit to increase the engagement and relevance factor. That’s how this application becomes successful
  • We will need to align the core metrics accessible on the cell phone with key actions or decisions that the marketing executive could take. It’s not just about being informed and being smart but about enabling the marketer to react fast and smart wherever he is.

Exciting times! I will keep you posted about progress that I see in our marketing universe.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Cannes Advertising Festival

A little bit over a week ago I spent a few days at the 54th International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. Almost ten thousand marketers celebrated their industry, shared some of the more interesting creative marketing work, and showed significant endurance in partying through the warm nights at the French Riviera.

There were only a few interesting panel discussions or presentations that attempted to deal with the more serious landscape changing forces that we are currently witnessing. I was fairly surprised to see almost an utter lack of dealing with some of the core challenges of today’s marketing industry, such as:
  • What will be the successful business model of leading marketing firms in the next 5 years? The current business model of either a commission or man hour fee based structure will not survive.
  • How can marketing firms compete with the Google of the worlds without developing truly proprietary systems and solutions with clear scale? Most marketers still don’t seem to understand that Google is not an Online marketing firm but a data driven marketer that will more and more facilitate and automate the connection of consumer’s intentions and purchase transaction, independent of media.
  • How can the marketing industry transform itself from a star driven culture to “Collective Intelligence” driven organizations? There are always some agency heroes who are prominently positioned at panels and parties but I doubt that they will bring the necessary innovations to our industry.

I did not see any discussions focused on these critical topics. Nevertheless there were some interesting opportunities for observations that can only occur in Cannes:

  • Some of the creative work, especially the ones presented in the famous Saatchi & Saatchi Director’s cut was truly outstanding, as well as some of the communication that were awarded with Lions and Grand Prix.
  • Microsoft had a huge presence at Cannes. Its attempt to transition from a software company to a marketing organization has to be taken seriously.
  • The Cannes’ festival enables the meeting of marketers from all around the globe without any national prejudices. It’s one of the rare events where one can get the feeling that there is something called a global marketing community. The festival could just do a better job in continuing to virtually build this global marketing community beyond the physical one week celebration in Cannes.

I might go back to Cannes next year, maybe just to promote the idea of a “Data Lion” for the most creative work of utilizing data for outstanding marketing. This could be interesting.