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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Legacy effects

Earlier this week Seth Godin blogged about legacy issues. He stated that “The faster your industry moves, the more likely others are willing to live without the legacy stuff and create a solution that’s going to eclipse what you’ve got, legacies and all.”

That might be true, but legacy effects are just as prevalent on the consumer side as the production side, and they should be recognised and incorporated as far as possible.

For instance, early digital cameras didn’t contain a shutter sound. After all, it doesn’t need one – the noise was merely a byproduct of the analogue mechanism. Nevertheless, early users felt a disconnect – the noise had let them know when their photo had been taken. Hence digital cameras all now have the option for the shutter sound to be incorporated.

Legacy effects are also present in our naming conventions – records, films and so on. I suspect this may also soon apply to the device we carry around in our pockets and handbags.

Our contracts and pay as you go credits are currently with phone companies, and so the “mobile phone” name still makes sense, even when on smartphones the phone is “just another app” (and not a regularly used one at that). But with Google looking at unlocked handsets, and the introduction of cashless payments through NFC, the business models may soon be changing. I suspect that if Visa starts selling devices that allow you to make payments as well as contact people, they will initially call it a “mobile phone” rather than a “mobile wallet”.

Behaviours are also subject to legacy effects – our habitual purchases that we continue to make without consideration. Some companies (like AOL) benefit from it, while others can suffer. For instance, I have only recently purchased a Spotify subscription and am considering a Love Film trial. From a purely economic standpoint I should have done this a long time ago, but I’ve been wedded to the idea of needing to own something tangible. Digital distribution means this isn’t necessarily the best option anymore (I type this as I look at shelves full of DVDs that I will need to transport when moving flat).

Consumers on the business-to-business side aren’t immune from this either – witness the continued reliance on focus groups or a thirty-second spot. These are undoubtedly still effective in the right circumstances, but some budget holders can be extremely reticent to leave traditional tried and trusted methods even when faced with reliable evidence than an alternative could prove more effective.

So while some companies can benefit from removing their legacy attributes early, doing so too early may be counterproductive. The comfort of sticking with what one knows can be very powerful, no matter how irrational it can seem.

sk

The importance of evaluation

The control element is a vital stage in project management, occupying a core position in frameworks such as APIC (analysis, planning, implementation, control). Broadly, it covers two distinct elements – monitoring and evaluation. From my perspective, the latter of these has been grossly overlooked.

To some extent, monitoring is the easiest of the two as it focuses a project manager on visible outcomes that link to key performance indicators. At the basic level, assets (principally time and money) are monitored, and performance (output, sales etc) is assessed to ensure a project is on track, and that the iron triangle is in balance.

So far, so good.

A project evaluation should cover not only this but far more. Unfortunately, it seems that they rarely go beyond the additional measure of some outcomes or intangibles (satisfaction, brand reputation etc).

A proper evaluation should not only measure the what, but strive to understand the why.

Specifically, project managers need to go beyond the self-serving bias. A project manager shouldn’t take the credit for all the success, and attribute the blame externally in the case of failure.

A full project evaluation is crucial irrespective of the outcome, whether success, failure or indeterminable (and the latter shouldn’t exist).

If a project is a success, laurels shouldn’t be rested upon. The recent HBR article on Why Leaders don’t learn from success is fascinating in this regard. All aspects of a project should be critically assessed – was success down to luck, competitor failure/inaction, or were the critical success factors actually internal? Furthermore, a project will never be without issue – these should be identified and remedies to mitigate them reoccurring installed.

Likewise, failure shouldn’t be a blame game. A project is a rarely an unmitigated failure. As Seth Godin writes in Poke The Box, failure should be celebrated at some level – it’s better to attempt a risk than to do nothing. After all, you can only win the lottery by playing it.

Obviously, celebrating success is a morale booster and this should continue. But a bit of critical thinking is vital to long-term development. By learning as much from the past as we can, we can better reshape the future.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulk/5131407407

Recommended Reading – 8th September 2010

Below is the second part of my series of links, which I strongly suggest you consider reading

sk

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Recommended Reading – 7th September 2010

As mentioned in my previous post, my link updates have returned after a six week gap. Inevitably, there is a backlog of great stuff I’d like to share. Putting them all in a single post would be unwieldy and, to an extent, commoditise the links. As such, I have split them over three posts.

The first set of links I would recommend you check out

  • I really liked this article from Robert Bain in Research Magazine, showing his experiences of being a “fake” respondent in a series of online surveys. Sadly, the quality control at the panel management end is pretty weak – there needs to be greater measures to ensure the respondent experience is, at minimum, not dismal
  • Richard Huntingdon has a really interesting post on the marketing around nostalgia brands
  • Tim Ferriss gives a pragmatic, balanced view on Seth Godin’s decision to no longer publish books in the traditional sense, and how unique his situation is
  • I’m not planning on dropping the subject any time soon, so I suggest you check out this introduction to sabermetrics, and some of the interesting things it can produce

sk

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Customer retention shouldn’t be inferior to business development

New business development is obviously an important part of business.

But client retention is integral.

It is far more important than new business development in terms of sustainable growth, yet doesn’t always have the prominence necessary to achieve this.

In some respects, it is a false comparison since client retention is a form of business development. Sales and revenues can increase from existing customers – increasing volumes, increasing margins or benefiting from advocacy and referrals.

And this is what the core focus of a business should be – servicing and delighting its core customers.

A successful business doesn’t need the most customers in its category, but it helps to have the happiest and most loyal segment (or “tribe”, to insinuate some of Seth Godin‘s beliefs).

This shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of bringing in more customers.

It leads to overpromising and underdelivering, causing problems for both current and new customers. I’ve witnessed a couple of examples of each

1. Making unsustainable promises: New customers may receive incentives to convert – a discount price or an extra level of service. Sometimes this is made clear, but often it isn’t. At work we were initially happy with a new supplier, but gradually the price rose and the quality of service deteriorated. It is understandable that quality of delivery varies by employee, but companies should ensure the bare minimum is of acceptable quality. This wasn’t.

2. Misselling a service: I find this issue more prevalent when the person/department for business development is different to that for ongoing account management. The sales peoples’ bonuses are short-term and based on bringing customers i; this incentivises them to oversell and make unsustainable promises. The project team then have an impossible task to live up to. And so it proved.

The above two examples highlight the problem of churn. There will always be some level of churn but a high level of departing (unsatisfied) customers completely counteracts the work that has gone into developing new business. Eventually the opportunities dry up, and the company retreats to its core.

If that core remains

3. Alienating the core audience: Moving into new markets or new segments risks alienating the core audience, if the messages used to entice the potentials aren’t consistent with what attracts the core audience. A couple of years ago ITV1 spent a lot of money on contemporary drama to try and bring in a more upmarket audience. Unfortunately, the programmes weren’t received well by the core audience and viewing figures were dismal.

4. Offering sub-standard products or services: Reaching out to new audiences may divert resources away from maintaining the quality of a core product or its associated service. I’ve seen this with MLB.tv. I’m a casual fan living in a timezone where most games don’t start until after midnight. I’ve found the archive service perfectly fine. But the core product – live games in HD and with DTR functionality have developed several faults. Not only are the core fans being deprived of their need to support their team, but the online customer support has been completely inept. Two examples of this are (you may need to click on them to enlarge and make them readable):

Crappy mlb.tv customer supportCrappy mlb.tv support

When this happens, the company ends up as a doughnut – it has some mass at the edges, but no centre.

Business development might make some short-term gains, but losing sight of customer retention will only hurt in the long run. An organisation needs to ensure it delivers on the factors that causes its core to be loyal advocates – whether uniqueness, timeliness, durability or aspiration. It’s brand promise, essentially.

Customer lifetime value might be factored into business development strategies. But without adequate support across the organisation, it remains unfulfilled as core customers depart and new customers reject the offer.

Companies need to avoid turning into doughnuts. Well, the ring kind anyway. They would want to be the other type of doughnut – with all the good stuff in the centre.

The mantra that Rob Campbell gives in this short interview sums it up better than my terrible analogy*

“We treat all clients like they’re new clients – it’s the lifeblood of our survival.”

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hackett/159428076/

* I’d even rejected another analogy; one inspired by X-men. Wolverine and his adamantium skeleton is good. Penance and his empty body is bad

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Recommended Reading – 10th April 2010

A few things to read over your Saturday morning coffee (or a coffee at another time. Or a different drink. You get the idea)

Chris Heathcote has transcribed a lovely little piece about Londoners queuing, originally written in 1951

Graeme Wood has a thought-provoking piece on artificial scarcity, with regard to both music and the Digital Economy Bill

Scott Anthony uses the example of the MLB At-Bat application to highlight why releasing “good enough” stuff early is the best strategy

The iPad launch has led to a lot of blog commentary. Two of the better ones are Seth Godin’s take on why its launch was successful (I’d say that while the launch was successful, the product at an overall level may still not be) and Dave Winer questioning whether it can be more than just a toy.

And for those that want to exercise their brains, Stowe Boyd outlines his concept of new spatialism with regard to social structures and Tim O’Reilly has a detailed look at the state of internet operating systems and how the move to cloud computing is affecting them.

sk

Links – 22nd February 2009

Some of the things I’ve read over the past week and would recommend:

  • A thought-provoking article in the Atlantic on the future of TV. It argues that TV’s USP is immediacy. While there are still cultural reference points via TV, scripted shows will increasingly see TV as just another distribution pattern. TV will therefore move to concentrate on news, current affairs, live reality shows and sport. This makes sense to me given my research – TV excels at events which are essentially DTR-proof, and the most popular shows online are dramas and comedies that can be viewed at leisure and shared/discussed asynchronously. However, I would argue that successful scripted shows still need TV as that anchor point for mainstream cultural crossover.
  • Ana Andjelic has a great post on our general failure to accurately predict the future. Not only does she argue that a lot of campaigns will fail, but also that our limited perspective means we will often follow the same patterns (potentially of failure)

sk

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Links – 23rd December 2008

Part 2 of the link update for December, and my final post of 2008 (barring unforeseen events).

Media channels

Scott Karp at publishing 2.0 channels Seth Godin with his call to arms for the print industry. The market and the internet don’t care if you make money, and the industry needs to adapt if it is to survive.

Futurescape have shared three of their excellent reports on web series, while the Observer looks at the successes of several of them. Check out my twelve shows to check out here

Grant McCracken wonders why TV revenues are holding while viewing declines. I haven’t seen the data he is quoting, but in the UK overall viewing is actually pretty robust (it is just fragmenting). I would also argue that TV is better suited to adapt to the new media landscape than radio or press, though I’m sure people from those respective industries would vehemently disagree.

The New York Times’ 8th annual Year in Ideas (some better than others)

A 25 point manifesto for the music industry

Music Ally has a load of predictions for digital music in 2009

Marketing and business

Apathy Sketchbook has accumulated a magnificently comprehensive list of all the terrible PR formulae masked as science. Harks back to my Bad Research post.

With ROI discussions threatening to jump the shark (if they haven’t already), everyone should read Lewis Green’s reminder of what ROI actually is, and how it differs from value.

Seth Godin asks when you create a new product or brand, are you making a new market or taking from an old one?

I’ve already linked to Gareth Kay’s excellent slideshare presentation, but this summary contains some great comments on the problems of planning.

Tom Peters has 27 practical ideas to transform your organisation

The Ad Freak awards for 2008.

Le’Nise Brothers has some great advice on digital media planning

The Advertising Lab has published 19 tips for in-game advertising

Brand Strategy has 9 tips for businesses in 2009

A MetaFilter thread on products where it is better to spend more on quality – can this advice still be adhered to in the current climate?

In a nice piece of bricks and mortar experiential marketing, P&G opened a store for its coupons on Black Friday.

Miscellaneous

The Big Picture is one of THE great web innovations by traditional media, and their year in pictures is a must

Foreign Policy again publish the ten stories you would have probably missed over the past year – which is shocking, given the importance of them

Malcolm Gladwell uses quarterbacks and teachers to ask why we hire people when we don’t know if they will succeed

12 fascinating and mysterious criminal cases does exactly what it says on the tin – includes Abe Lincoln and Lizzie Borden among others

The life of Carl Ponzi – after whom Ponzi Schemes (a form of pyramid selling) take their name

Hitotoki brings together literary tales of visits to specific parts of London.

Particular commendation goes to The market and the internet don’t care if you make money, Year in Ideas, terrible PR formulae masked as science, what ROI actually is, The Big Picture and ten stories you would have probably missed over the past year

That is me well and truly spent for the year. It’s been a blast. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, and I’ll be back in 2009.

sk

Matter box’s physical failings

Matter is a joint venture between the Royal Mail and Artomatic. In an increasingly digital world, it is designed to promote the physical through sending people packages of “brands you can hold”.

It is a great example of both permission marketing (click through to a page where you can get the first 4 chapters of Seth Godin’s classic book) and marketing as a service.

Everyone can benefit. Consumers get free gifts. Brands create awareness in a positive, non-intrusive manner. And the Royal Mail reminds people of the simple joy of receiving a mystery package.

One trick I felt the participant brands missed this time was creating something unique of ongoing value – a social object, if you will. This package was primarily free samples, whereas the pilot Matter box contained branded items such as crayons, a keyring and a sweatband. Free samples are obviously a proven method of promotion, but it doesn’t feel like a gift in the way that a specially commissioned item does.

That is a minor gripe. My major gripe is unfortunately with the Royal Mail’s service.

As a society, we appear to be increasingly intolerant of inconvenience. We expect things to work. Because if it doesn’t in this age of choice, we can go elsewhere. Witness the furore of Twitter‘s downtime, and the Fail Whale. Yet according to Royal Pingdom, Twitter still had 98.72% uptime.

The Royal Mail may claim 99.93% reliability, but that is going to vary by package type. I seem to have no trouble receiving bills or junk mail. Packages on the other hand are a different matter.

My local sorting office has a reputation for incompetence, and in my experience that is perfectly justified. Packages have been left outside my flat, recorded delivery mail has been posted through the door, and “Sorry we missed you” messages have both shown up when I’ve had nothing to collect, and not arrived when I have.

So, of course my Matter box didn’t arrive last week. And I wasn’t alone.

I  commend Tim Milne at Artomatic for swiftly despatching replacement boxes. My second box did arrive safe and sound.

Matter is supposed to promote the benefits of physical products. But it is also highlighting the drawbacks. I may not be able to hold digital products, but I can at least be reassured by the reliability, accountability and transparency of transactions.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/

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Links – 30th November 2008

This list is both later and longer than recent posts, but the quality of thought and writing is extremely high

Changing industries

Seth Godin on things the New York Times could have done to stay ahead in the digital environment. While hindsight is a wonderful thing, and while every successful online venture is greeted by many more failures, the post does indicate the benefits of being a forward thinking organisation that is willing to adapt. Ultimately, it is not about running a newspaper but building ideas.

I also liked Mitch Joel‘s post on “Trading analog dollars for digital pennies”, which lists six reasons why traditional companies are struggling. It is a painful adjustment as industries with high barriers to entry are opened up to anyone with a domain name and some spare time, but it is an adjustment that is vital to survival.

On a sidenote, as marketing budgets get cut, it will be interesting to note whether there will be a shift in distribution between traditional and digital. In times of uncertainty, people tend to fall back on tried and trusted methods, so the online world may temporarily retreat.

I enjoyed this interview with Bethany Klein on the subject of music and advertising. She is writing a book on the subject and, in her view, advertising is replacing the record label as middleman between artist and fan.

And to sum up this section, the Satir model of system change argues that a transforming idea at the moment of chaos can push organisations onward to the next level

Social media innovations

“This Book Will Be Famous” – passed around from famous person to famous person, before being auctioned off for charity. A great idea taking social media properties into the real world.

Zeus Jones has a gift selection site, that can be filtered on elements such as price and gender.

The New York Times has a fascinating article on how crowdsourcing is being harnessed to improve the Netflix rating/recommendation system. There is a prize for the first group to improve the system by 10% yet competitors are collaborating with one another to get closer to the goal. The biggest challenge to overcome is the Napoleon Dynamite problem – a cult film that is particularly divisive.

It has been delayed due to technical issues, but it is worth bookmarking the European equivalent to Google Book SearchEuropeana

Online video

Fox’s take on moving content online (Newteevee). To my mind, the move from single to multiple distribution models is one of the biggest challenges of online video.

Roo Reynolds has written a fairly comprehensive list detailing ways in which one can enjoy online video socially (from backchannels to blogs)

Advertising

A fascinating conversation with a couple of advertising guys, who riff on ideas to take traditional properties into the digital sphere. Facebook overalls and Katie Couric will never be the same again. (New York Times)

Three youth marketing strategies on mobile phones that actually work – creation, communication and customer service are key

Other blog-related posts of interest

Guy Kawasaki on the art of bootstrapping

Bruce Schneier has a thought-provoking post on ephemeral conversation. Today’s children are growing up in an environment where every action and interaction is recorded – very little is now being lost in the ether (which is both good and bad)

From the archives, a New Yorker profile on Shopsin’s General Store – a restaurant with hundreds of choices and a unique attitude to growth and customer service

Miscellaneous posts of interest

A profile on Jason Rohrer – a video-game artist (Esquire)

The database of a music fan that has been to 5,000 gigs over the past 35 years

Fimoculous is starting the aggregation of all lists of 2008 – well worth bookmarking

20 pieces of trivia from Listverse

For the more time-pressed, I would recommend: Seth Godin on the New York Times, Netflix and crowdsourcing, Digital advertising riffs, and Ephemeral conversation

sk

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