I’ve spent an equal amount of time in large corporates and startups. With the success that large companies have achieved comes an entirely new set of cultures which they could do without. So here is my top 10 list of behaviours large companies could do without:
- Public reading events. Organise a room full of people and stop their work to read stuff to them instead of actually providing an inspiring change instigating presentation.
- Pre-meeting meetings: Getting everyone ‘on the same page’ – I felt sick writing that… yuck. Time wasting. Have some courage people.
- Promoting the best political performers: Ensuring the political champions kick on instead of those making a difference in the market.
- Skimp on the product: Remove cost from product instead of having a product in which customers would tolerate price rises for.
- Creating information spirals: Gathering more research to reduce risk and avoid making a ‘go’ decision while the market opportunity gets taken by nimble competitors.
- Developing slogans instead of getting stuff done: A company I worked for had a new one each year. One was Fewer Bigger Better. It was a great way to justify not doing anything.
- Developing internal language: Having a culture of industry jargon, codes and acronyms to create the ‘self aggrandising’ illusion of intelligence. Talking to themselves
- Mistake avoidance culture: Creating a fear of decision making, by rewarding staff for not making mistakes.
- Penny pinching: Closing the stationary cupboard during a tough year, yet the senior people can still afford those first class trips to international trade conferences.
- Global alignment: Ensuring the packaging for Australia is the same as the packaging in Lithuania when the product comes out of different factories and is served in different cultures. Confusing when global focus is a disadvantage.
What’s your favourite piece of corporate folly?
It was recently the 50th birthday of that favourite chocolate spread we sometimes convince ourselves is ok to eat between two piece of bread. Nutella.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that Nutella is what it is because they couldn’t afford to make it the way they wanted to. Originally Nutella was a pure chocolate spread, but during the post WW2 era, a time of heavy rationing in Italy, they bulked up the ingredients with hazelnuts. They did this because hazelnuts were plentiful in the local area and much cheaper than cocoa per kilogram. The presence of mind to turn to the woodchips, in this case hazelnuts, and remarket the brand was very clever indeed. The branding was adapted to talk up the nut credentials and make people believe it was actually a hazelnut spread.
In fact it only has 13% hazelnuts and a whopping 52% sugar by volume – ironically about the same amount as the white label on the jar. While I’ll leave the moral discussion on the marketing of Nutella for another blog post, the question it poses for all of us is this:
How do we turn necessary cost cuts or lack of availability of inputs into brand advantage?
There’s a lot of things I’m not good at, getting free media coverage for my startups is not one of them. Every project I’ve ever worked on I’ve managed to get major mainstream media coverage for it.
I recently wrote a post for the crew at Pollenizer on the Sammartino methods in getting how to get media coverage. I call it:
Like most things in business there is a recipe, and once you know it you can cook up that dish just about any time you have the right ingredients. A couple of my favourite recipes are right here.
If you want to work with someone, or for someone, people falsely believe that they have to ask for permission. That they need approval to start working with those who inspire them. The opposite is true and if we really want to work for someone, then all we need to do is start working for them. Start being a resource and creating value to what they do. It’s probably the best way to end up doing business with someone. To prove your capability, to demonstrate effort and to do it without asking for anything in return in the first instance. To be the resource.
I recently happened upon a great example of it. Aspiring advertising graduates went right ahead and did that for Tesla Motors. Here’s an advertisement they created below.
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The interesting thing is that it got a all the way to Elon Musk.
Just think about it, they’d never be able to get a meeting with him, to pitch an idea for an advertisement (mind you Tesla does not do any traditional advertising and does’t really need it – which is what happens when you make great products). But the lesson here is a vintage case of modern day bootstrapping. If we have resources at our disposal for connection and creativity, there’s nothing stopping us from using them. It’s those who create first without asking for anything who win respect and future opportunity.
This post by Seth Godin got me thinking about how to generate trust when we are a new brand or startup on the block. Here is what I think:
Building trust is simple. Create stories by doing things which exceed expectations. One customer at a time. When we do it, they share their good fortune to have done business with us. Trust never comes from the brand owner, but the interactions with the brand recipients. They then deliver that trust to others who buy the brand off them metaphorically. Thought they’d get X and they got X+1. They tell people about their win. We win by being generous.
Startup blog says: Generosity is the fulcrum of trust.
In the super terrific web series Comedians in cars getting coffee, Jerry Seinfeld (the host) was asked what he thinks has more value in comedy:
A funny story which is suitable for talk show
A small bit more suited to a stand up session
Jerry had an unequivocal answer. He said; ‘A bit is gold’. He went on to say it was superior in every way to a longer piece that requires more explanation, and that’s why you leave long stories for the talk show. The gold bits need to be left for the stage – where it really matters. It’s in this episode we can hear Jerry tell the tale.
It’s the same when it comes to marketing copy or web copy or pitching for a startup. There’s a temptation to not want to leave anything important out. To give all the details so the person can work out the important bit about the project. In some ways it is a form of justification of what we’re doing. A basic fear of the simple. Almost as if we are short changing the audience if we give them less. The ironic thing is that we almost always want less. When it comes to branding and marketing, just like comedy – sound bites are gold. They are customer winning, they are pitch winning and they are life winning. The longer story is inferior.
The added beauty of the soundbite is that the receiver creates the longer version. So soundbites work harder with more people. They tell themselves whatever story they want to from there. They add the layers they want according to their perception. The sound bite is the seed, and the recipient is the soil.
Organise the worlds information
Change the world 140 characters at a time
A computer on every desk in every home
Yes we can
If people can remember our soundbites, that’s all they need to know.
I’ve been using a certain weather app on my phone for some time. It is called Pocket Weather AU – Lite. It is the free version. A few times when I have clicked in to check the weather, it has given me this pop up screen below:
This time in good faith, I thought I’d click through and see what the offer was. To my disappointment, it was a simple ‘buy our paid version‘ of the app. No benefit, no exclusivity, nothing had been unlocked, no reason, no thanks for using. Just their way of asking me to upgrade. Now if you ask me there cannot be a more insulting way to incentivise a customer to upgrade. Tell them they are a cheapskate, pretend to offer something better, and then give them nothing for using the service for a few years.
Here’s what I did. I deleted their app – got another equally good free weather app, and wrote this blog entry about what I think might not be the best way to engage an audience your doing business with. Some things these guys might want to consider:
- If you don’t want your app to be free, then make it a paid version.
- Insulting people is not a very effective way to get them to upgrade financially to a software or web service.
- Making promises of exclusivity and non existent benefits is generally not a good idea.
- Understand the economics of excess supply. There are a zillion other free weather apps and my cost of moving to another service is close to zero.
- But mostly respect people, and maybe make them some kind of offer or reward for loyalty if employing a fermium business model.
I prefer to be positive in life, and have not even enjoyed writing this entry. Maybe that’s the over riding lesson. Don’t lie, treat people with respect and positivity and they just might give you more money.
Today I was fortunate enough to be in the company of a few global thought leaders on life hacking and inventing money. Some of the ideas that were shared I hadn’t heard before, and others I knew and forgot (Which means I didn’t really know it). In any case, what better way than to start off the week by sharing a few of them here:
- When someone asks you how you can repay them after teaching them something of value – this is a good answer: Teach as many people as you can what I taught you.
- Wisdom is knowledge performed.
- ‘Do Power’ is the key not Will Power.
- In a developed economy, the amount of people who succeed is directly proportional to the amount who give up.
- Most people are not smarter than you / me / us, they simply do more than you / me / us.
- With a strong enough ‘why’ humans can do the most amazing things. The ‘why’ usually fails before anything else.
- TV can also be known as an E.I.R – or an Electronic Income Reducer. Watching lots of un-educational TV is a wealth hazard.
- All children are successful. But as they grow older they are taught to stop trying, stop failing, stop experimenting and stop having fun. This is why learning declines with age – it is not related to the body or the brains capacity to grow with age.
- What most marketers learn to do is ‘bottle the concept’. What they sell is often not the product but the ephemeral nature of what it represents.
- The more you go Pfff, the more life goes Pfff.
- We shouldn’t lead the way, we need to lead the why.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is now the 4th most read book in history. Worth a read if you haven’t yet.