Content as Perspective

For those of you that have been reading my posts regularly, you know that I have little tolerance for silly ads that lack content and that only those messages that get to the heart of the brand are worth sending. Something I’ve seen recently on HGTV (which is an iteration and longer form of a promotional style they and sister station Food Network have used for a few years) truly puts the content into perspective.

Through a series of 1 minute long short stories—generally three parts of one story told within an episode—the sponsor is able to show how it is able to fulfill a need. The ones I saw as I am writing this are from K-Mart, showing how its outdoor furniture can transform a blah backyard. I’m not a fan of K-Mart, but the spots are right on. Well done.

By taking the long-form approach, they address the problem and demonstrate how they can solve it. Brilliant! The nest step: Allow consumers to upload their pictures on your website and replace their old furniture and design with your offerings and give them a shopping list so they can get it either in person or online.

It works because it focuses on the content and the customers’ needs.

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Paying Dues

There’s something to be said for paying your dues. It’s only right that we should have to go through all the same…um…stuff…that others have suffered before us. Much of the time.

When you’re building an organization, hoping to hire the best, you may not find the best senior-level people with all the industry-specific experience you might desire. And that is OK.

Some skills and experience work across the board, particularly in upper-level positions. Don’t be afraid to bring folks in from other industries that have the general experience you’re seeking. For them to be successful, they will want to gain at least some relevant direct experience with the product themselves. From a managerial perspective, though, what will be more important is gaining the experience through the people that actually do the job.

They will do a better job of managing how frontline staff see their job by understanding that perspective and will not come with their own direct prejudices and jaded views of the daily grind.

This is not to say that people moving up through the organization will not succeed in upper management roles. Many of them will. But by taking a broader view of the role’s needs, you expand your pool of potential employees to drive your business forward.

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Creativity Is Evolutionary

My oldest daughter is an avid reader. In the latest book, she came across a new term for her—mortal ingenuity. We had her talk through what it most likely means. It reminded me of something one of my college English professors beat into our heads that rings true still. Creativity is not about making something that never existed before. Creativity takes an existing set of ideas and rearranges them in a new way or evolves them into something different.

Today’s social media, for example, are iterations of the social networks we had in high school with our party lines, cliques and notes in class.

But there’s good news! True creativity is inspired through what is all around us. It’s what we see that could be better. Or an idea that doesn’t work in its current incarnation. Or putting together other ideas that no one thought of before.

The effectiveness of that creativity depends on the form, function and content. Does it work? Is it attractive and easy to use? Does it fill a need or desire? Satisfy those issues, and you’ll find yourself on a successful path.

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Great Results Can Be Greater

Yesterday, I wrote about metrics and the importance of measuring relevant data—that which guides you to real growth. Carrying on with that theme, I saw a piece from Brandweek last week about Levi’s and viral videos. The article celebrated a new viral video from the denim giant focused on their 501 line of jeans that received 3.5 million hits in its first ten days. The jeans company wants to chase that early success now, hoping to ride the wave to a younger consumer base.

Having that kind of response is fantastic! Really, it is. And chasing that level of attention is spot on. Now comes the hard part: finding a way to measure how that first viral video translates into additional sales of 501s.

That also means that they have to chase the success in a way that allows them to measure the results in a meaningful way. In other words, whatever they do must convert new customers in a way that they can know what they did was right and why it worked.

Most folks will tell you that kind of measurement is near impossible. And they are right for the most part. And it’s because the ads and promotions themselves usually aren’t created in a way to generate measureable results.

Some compensate for that through web addresses specific to an ad, time frame or particular channel. Others use timing with a phone number (“call within the next 15 minutes…”). For direct sales, that can be effective. When the sale goes through an intermediary, like a retailer, using tools like those only measure web hits or phone calls.

An idea for Levi’s (which they may be all over already) would be to encourage customers to upload videos of what they are doing in their new 501s. Some benefits to Levi’s:

  • With the online component, they can capture some key information about the customer (at least what the person is willing to share) prior to the video upload
  • Running the promotion through YouTube or Facebook will allow for additional exposure
  • Regionalizing the entry pages themselves through ads and tags on the inventory offers an additional check on their demographic data

And that’s just the start. They won’t capture full and absolute data, but they will get a much better idea how effective their promotion strategy was on the heels of the initial viral video.

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Use Relevant Metrics

Measurement is the bane of our existence. The only way for us to know if what we are doing is effective is to measure the outcomes. But measuring stuff isn’t easy. In fact, we might be measuring the wrong stuff.

First, there are things that we know. It may be sales to a particular customer, regional profit growth or the return on a particular investment. What is important about the information you know is determining what is relevant. By relevant I mean that it is something you are able to act on or actually determine effectiveness.

Second, and much more difficult to handle, are those things that you don’t yet know. For what you don’t know, what is knowable. In other words, just because you aren’t evaluating something in a specific way doesn’t mean that you can’t. Before you start acting on it, though, make sure it is meaningful.

On the other hand, if you can’t access the data, and you can determine its relevance, you need to know what it will take to get to it.

In short, you have to measure. What you measure must lead to improvement of some sort, namely your organization’s growth. More on this tomorrow.

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Proper Shelf Sets Exist for a Reason

Over the past week, I have had the occasion to peruse the aisles of both a large grocery and a national home improvement store. In attempting to locate what I needed, I was lost navigating the bizarre organization of the merchandise.

Let me offer some examples. One of the items on my list was Canadian bacon. Certainly, you could understand it being in two different sections—in one area with the regular bacon and another area with the pizza toppings. In this store, that was sort of the where it was. Except the bacon and Canadian bacon themselves were in two different sections of the meat department, with little rhyme or reason.

Another item on my list was an air freshener specifically for pet odors. Walking down the aisle, all of the spray fresheners were on the same shelves, at reach level or higher. Save one, which was separate from the others and at knee level. And that just happened to be the specific one I was seeking. True, it was in the same aisle, but it was separated from the rest of its competition, and not in a good way.

At the home improvement store, it wasn’t much better. First, I was looking for light switch covers for a recently renovated bathroom. My first thought was that they might be with the lights, but I knew better. Next, I expected to see them with the light switches themselves, since they go hand-in-hand. Nope. They were with plumbing supplies.

Second, I sought some decorative wood to match some original molding in the house. The wood was in two different aisles that were side-by-side, which is OK. They were separated, however, by duct work. And the decorative pieces were not together.

I’m sure the shelf sets and aisle arrangements have some purpose specific to the store. Unfortunately for them, the customer doesn’t really care about that. What the customer cares about is finding what they need where they expect to find it. That means the layout needs to be as intuitive to the person walking the store for the first time as it is for the professional who’s in there daily.

If people can find what they need or want, they’ll buy it.

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Knowing Your History versus Holding on to the Past

I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of my best friends from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in over ten years and spoken in about five. He still had family in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Katrina hit, and he told me about his grandfather having to give up his house, which was my old neighborhood. His grandfather had owned the house for 48 years.

At that point I was reminded that the longest I had ever lived in one place was the 16 years I spent in my parents house in that neighborhood. Outside of that, I hadn’t remained in the same place for more than about 5 years. That includes schools and jobs.

My friend commented that while he cherishes his memories, he has come to understand that home is where you are, not some physical location. His history has made him who he is today, and losing a physical manifestation of that history doesn’t really change that.

There is a brand management lesson in here, too. Understanding where you’ve been and knowing how you got to where you are today are key to mapping your future. Holding on to successes long past greatly inhibits your ability to innovate, evolve and grow.

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