Rishad Tobaccowala: 4A’s Transformation 2010 Speech

4 03 2010

Rishad Tobaccowala of Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi, is my new hero.  At the 4A’s Transformation 2010 event, he did something truly rare: he told the truth, in plain English.

It was unambiguous. Uncomfortable to hear. And absolutely right.

See the video here.  I haven’t been able to find a transcript online, so I’m providing an edited one, below. It’s inspiring stuff.

Rishad Tobaccowala: This industry is about talent.  And it’s not about any of the other things.

Go today, to Mountain View. Cupertino. Sunnyvale. Go wherever you want, and you will find that they are fixated on talent. Fixated.

The companies that have a disproportionate share of passionate talent will beat everybody.  And what we need to do like never before is bring and inspire talent into this industry. Because that is what will make this industry be the marketing Renaissance industry it should be.

What sort of talent should we be looking at?

If this is a Renaissance, we need to make absolutely sure that we bring in the builders.

This is a time to build. In the Renaissance, they built. And they painted. And they sculpted.

They did not manage only. They did not data read. They did not organize and re-organize.

They built, they painted, they sculpted. That’s what they did. We need to basically build and attract builders.

But to do that, we have to understand what the digital mindset is. And this is really where one of the big challenges is going to be for all of our industries, which have built up  — besides Silicon Valley —  systems that (…) incentivize seniority.

If you ask what top digital talent wants, they want accountability. They want a culture that lets them do what they want. And this is what they want the most: skin in the game.

The next generation wants wealth, and it has three types of wealth.

They want a wealth of experience, which means give me an opportunity NOW. They want a wealth of education — surround me with very good people and teach me. And sooner or later, they want economic wealth. And we must find ways to give it to them.

Because if we don’t they will build somewhere else. And that’s not going to be good for any of us.

When you came into this business, you came in with audacity. What you see in Silicon Valley is audacity. Remaking industries — that’s audacity.

You came in with dreams and now you stand with spreadsheets. Let’s get back to the audacity and the dreams.

And you know what? The spreadsheets will fill up beautifully.

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Are You Selling Cave Swiftlet Saliva Or Kraft Cheese?

18 02 2010

What publishers must learn from CPG:  my latest blogpost at Jack Myers MediaBizBloggers. A brief preview:

We can ask, “how can publishers stop content from being commoditized?” but it won’t help.

I think it’s time for a weirder but more productive question.

Are You Selling Cave Swiftlet Saliva Or Kraft Cheese?

Cave Swiftlet saliva is the main ingredient in bird’s nest soup. It’s so rare and so differentiated that a bowl of soup made from it goes for about $30. Nice business. But the other 99% of what people consume are essentially commodities. Salt. Coffee. Cheese. Publishers can learn a lot from consumer packaged goods companies. Especially food marketers.

How would a food company look at the problem of commoditized content?

Read more here.





What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two)

17 08 2009

Continued from an earlier post. Part One is here. Here’s my take on some of the other fears a CEO may have.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: So much of what’s discussed online is shallow and we have real work to do

BE FEARLESS: Opportunities aren’t always where we think they are.  Encourage the passionate people in your company to find time to learn about social media, without neglecting their current duties. Ask them to report back what they’ve learned.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We don’t have the time/resources to contribute and moderate

moneyBE CAUTIOUS: There are ALWAYS a lot of things a company can do, and NEVER enough money and attention to do them all well. Leaders have to choose which activities they believe will have the strongest payout, and focus on those.

Sometimes the fun, sexy stuff is the PERFECT place for a company to focus their efforts. Sometimes not.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: Our customers don’t use it/It doesn’t fit into current structures

BE FEARLESS: Listen and find out if your customers use social media, and how they do it. Once you know more, you can decide whether it’s smart to overhaul your current structures or not.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We are in B2B and who wants to hear about our boring product on a blog or twitter

BE FEARLESS: I think Social media may be stronger for B2B than for B2C, because it’s typically a more intimate sale and the needs are more clearly articulated. Listen first — you may be surprised by what you hear.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: Traditional media is still bigger, we will use Social Media when it is more mainstream

BE CAUTIOUS: A recent Forrester report says that 80% of the ad spend in 2014 will still be in traditional media.  tvWe’ve been trying to bury TV since the early 1990s, and it refuses to stay dead.  Why?

From a consumer POV, it’s because it’s still pretty good. Have you seen “30 Rock” lately?

From an advertiser’s POV, it’s because it offers scale and message control that social media can’t possibly provide.

It doesn’t mean social media isn’t important. But it’s important to keep its size and role in perspective.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: No guaranteed results/tools to measure and analyze Social Media aren’t mature enough yet

madoffBE FEARLESS: There are no guaranteed results in business anywhere. Beware of Madoffs who promise you there are.

Also, tools to measure and analyze will NEVER be good enough.  I believe we’ll ultimately learn that it is as difficult to prove ROI for social media as it has been for traditional PR.

But just because something can’t be quantified to the micro-penny doesn’t mean it can’t add value. All business is a bet on the future, and not all bets pay off.

We can’t steer the world by sitting in front of Microsoft Excel. Our what-if scenarios must meet the real world at some point, if they are ever to deliver results. If your gut says social media can help you reach a goal and you understand the risk-reward equation clearly, go for it.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: We will lose control of our brand and image

BE CAUTIOUS: Gurus love to preach about how “the consumer is in control”, and in many important ways that’s true.  But a company’s brand is a precious asset, and not something that any company can afford to simply turn over to a mob that will seek to damage it just for LULZ.

CEOs and CMOs still have a very real responsibility to grow and protect their brand’s image. There’s a difference between understanding that the customer is boss and abdicating your responsibility for protecting the brand.

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The Bottom Line: Balance

All real growth comes from trying something new and different. But, that’s not the same thing as taking a flying leap into the darkness.tide-loads-of-hope

Companies and brands need to find a way to balance the need for learning with the need for appropriate caution.

I think companies like P&G are doing a good job of immersing their execs in digital culture and testing the waters.

You may not be as big as P&G, but there’s still a lot you can learn from watching how they have approached social media.

How are you finding your balance in social media?





What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part One)

17 08 2009

UPDATE 9/3/2009: Good related post: “7 Things To Think About Before Jumping In”

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Jeff Bullas recently wrote a smart post: “28 Reasons Why The CEO is Afraid Of Social Media”.

I might have titled it “A Few Questionable Reasons Why The CEO is Afraid of Social Media, and A Bunch Of Really Reasonable Ones.”

kool-aid

Being afraid to turn on the lights in case there are monsters under the bed is pretty silly. But thinking twice before you guzzle Jonestown’s favorite powdered beverage — “gee, when did they start making a cyanide flavor?” — is actually a pretty good idea.

Some CEOs are afraid of social media. Where can you afford to dive in, and where should you be cautious? Every business/brand has their own criteria, but here’s my take.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: It is detrimental to employee productivity

BE FEARLESS: Employees who waste company time will do it whether you shut down the internet or not. Trust that the improved knowledge and networks of the employees who use social media for the right reasons will more than make up for the slackers.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEAR: It could damage the company’s reputation

American_Cancer_Society_LogoBE CAUTIOUS: Experimenting with social media is not without risk.

Have you read about the American Cancer Society Facebook debacle? How much hard-won brand equity did this naive mistake cost?

Was it worth it?

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: Security risks, Unwillingness to be transparent

BE CAUTIOUS: It’s easy for social media gurus to preach transparency — there are no real secrets to protect.  But in most businesses, confidential information is a source of competitive advantage. Many secrets — product formulas, new product launches, plans to enter new markets — are important to keep secret.

Careless Tweeting can cost millions of dollars. If social media ‘experts” have sometimes had costly lapses of judgment, time and again, how can a CEO be confident that newbies will do better?

When the risks are clear (see above) and the rewards are not, a responsible CMO or CEO must ask his or her people to go slow. Look before you leap is a hopeless cliche.  But it doesn’t mean it’s bad advice. If your people are passionate about social media, invest in some listening tools. And, set clear goals about what you need to learn.

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SOCIAL MEDIA FEARS: We already have information overload/Terrified of feedback and truth

BE CAUTIOUS: Listening to what consumers say about you isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, good feedback can help you improve.ears

Still, we need to take this with a hefty grain of salt.

I’m intrigued by Tim Marco’s notion of Voluntary Selection Bias. Are we really listening to everybody (e.g. a truly representative sample?), or the ravings of a small but vocal group? More important, are we listening to likely buyers?

If we’re going to treat social media as research, we need to be as rigorous about understanding the sample size and composition as we are when looking at any other consumer research.

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Go On To Part Two.

Photo Credits: “No” Sign from Biscuitmip on Flickr, Ears from Banlon1964 on Flickr





How To Create A Facebook App That Won’t Fall On Its Face

11 08 2009

I like Ben and Jerry’s new Facebook app, a lot. It’s smart and fun.

And, it offers some good lessons about how to get a Facebook app right.

1) Don’t Think Too Much

A smart Facebook app does something different, fun and social.  But, it also has to be really easy for the user to understand and use.

Ben and Jerry’s FlipMyText app lets you create upside down messages, effortlessly.  Different, fun, social, easy.

Ben and Jerry's new app turns social media on its head

2) Be True To The Brand

The app is silly and weird for the sake of being weird. cherrygarcia

This app is pitch-perfect for a brand with a rich history of celebrating weirdness with flavors like Cherry Garcia, Imagine Whirled Peace, and Karamel Sutra.

Ben and Jerry’s has always had a distinctive voice. It’s great to see them have an app that speaks their language.

3) Promote Something Actionable

Flip My Text isn’t a Facebook app for the sake of having a Facebook app. It promotes Ben and Jerry’s Flipped Out Sundaes, which are designed to be tipped upside down before you can eat them.

Weird but true: the app is easier to use than the Sundaes.  There’s at least one website with a tutorial about how to eat one.

benjerryfbook

4) Leverage Something That Already Works

Flip My Text isn’t new. I think it was really smart for Ben and Jerry’s to find something that already works and leverage it in a new and different way. It’s a good deal for everybody, including Flip My Text.

5) Be Worth Talking About

Getting an upside-down message immediately provokes two questions:
  • How did you do that?
  • Can I do it too?

If you’re thinking about creating a Facebook app, think about taking a scoop from Ben and Jerry’s:

  1. Don’t Think Too Much
  2. Be True To The Brand
  3. Promote Something Actionable
  4. Leverage Something That Already Works
  5. Be Worth Talking About




The Real Time, Mashed-Up Future Of TV?

26 06 2009

What do you do with a medium that’s fragmentized and atomized, whose antique analog economics have been flung out the window into a digital hurricane, and is rapidly becoming a great big mess?

If you ask Shelly Palmer, the answer is to stop fighting fragmentation and start harnessing it.

I love this idea. How much more fun would TV be — even old shows we’ve seen a million times — if all the production elements were given to the world to mashup in real time?

honeymashup

Radical Common Sense

This might sound insane at first.  But the more you think about it, the more it sounds like radical common sense. Pay close attention to what Shelly Palmer is saying:

“We have entered the super-digital age and now all television is digital. So why are we still broadcasting combined, fully finished, masters in real time? We don’t have to. It would be much, much better to (…) break the data down to its component parts and broadcast them separately. So, text, graphics, music, script, metadata, voice-over, picture elements would all be packaged as individual data streams and made available in real time.”

Wow. As I’ve written before, everything is an ingredient. This takes things to an entirely new level. And it works whether your passion is to produce content, or sell it.

As a creative person, I’m excited by Shelly’s idea because it opens possibilities.  I believe all creative thinking is basically mashing up existing ideas in a way that reveals something previously unseen.  To borrow a line from U2’s song “The Fly”, “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief.”  Mashups just make that process explicit, and part of the fun is spotting the purloined bits. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go download the Kleptones “Night At The Hip-Hopera”.  It explains everything.)

As a businessman, I’m intrigued because it means you can do insane experiments with re-thinking TV without having to kill it in the process.  Old and new can co-exist, until new finds the place where it stops seeming crazy and starts making money.

Is It Time To Stop Fighting The Future?

Digital makes mashing things up easy — in fact everything in this blog post is mashed up from somewhere else, from the Honeymooners pictures and script, to the quote from Shelly Palmer.

What great things can happen if we stop trying to fight the future and  just let digital do what digital wants to do?  Who knows where it can lead us?





Alice.com: CPG E-Commerce Revolution?

25 06 2009

UPDATED NEW LINKS August 31, 2009

The mesmerizing promise of milk, Mallomars and maple syrup via modem is as old as the Internet itself.

alice_logoIt’s powerful, exciting stuff:  When I was a partner in the digital agency I founded, Brandscape,  we worked for a really smart Boston-based company called ShopLink.

It felt like we had a shot at changing the world. Or at least the pantry. (Hey, you gotta start somewhere).

But, ShopLink hit the same wall that most of the others hit: doing this right turns out to be a very expensive proposition.

Alice.com is different in a lot of ways. Specifically:

  1. It offers big-box (read “Wal-Mart”) prices and free shipping.
  2. It has a different business model than traditional e-tail. They take no markup. Instead, Alice.com collects a fee from CPG manufacturers for shipping products out, and passes customer data back to the manufacturer.
  3. Manufacturers set their own prices.
  4. They have signed on 5 of the top 10 CPG companies.

A Weiden + Kennedy blogger makes an interesting and smart point here about how “alice.com uses coupons to create value and urgency using three variables — number of personal uses each coupon afforded, the offer expiration data, and the remaining number of available uses for the offer”.

The iCPG Unofficial Alice.com Link Round-Up

Here’s a link round-up and some screen shots, for when your Boss strolls into your office and says “you’re totally on top of this Alice.com thing, right?”

Alice.Com Screen Shots

alice-shop

alice-add_610x484