Recently in Marketing Category
The legendary reggae band releases the 2012 version of the Barack Obama Song >>
The 2008 video version is here >>
I know what some of you are thinking - "Well, did America have a soul to begin with?" I happen to think it did. For me the soul of America is "We, the people..."
Furthermore, I'm quite sure that people, as defined by our founders, did not mean corporations. (See what Charles Handy has to say >>)
But to get back to the topic of inclusivity, I'd like to make a shameless plug for our new book, co-authored with University of Michigan's Professor Michael Gordon, called Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?
BUY now >>
- How can companies take better care of their employees--and thrive?
- Why don't they see the opportunities in creating social value?
- Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
- What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
- How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
- How can public education prepare all students for the future?
- How can better health care be made available without doctors?
- How can communities do something about global warming?
- How can you make a difference?
- Why should you care?
Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people--starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.
The very idea of the "United" States is based on the principles of inclusivity--all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.
What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other - finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.
The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.
This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope for democracy and inclusivity. We won't have one without the other.
The book includes the following sections:
- What Is INCLUSIVITY?
- Inclusive World
- Inclusive Entrepreneur
- Inclusive Economy
- Inclusive Cities
- Inclusive Education
- Inclusive Health
- Inclusive Leadership
- Inclusive Future
P.S. - We don't want this, do we?
I go to my local bookstore, drink a coffee and
browse the shelves. When I get home, I rush to the computer and buy the books I
fancied - online! If it's a business
book, I download a copy on my digital reader, and if it's a literary
work, I buy the physical book at a discounted price.
As a way to assuage my guilt, I've thought of some ways to help my local bookstore survive - because, like so many of us, I love the physical bookstore experience - nothing beats the Zen practice of disinterested info-grazing - and I'd like to continue to enjoy it.
However, I notice at my local Barnes & Noble that
they're busy selling Nook ereaders in every cranny. [Do they really think they
can compete with the iPad or even Kindle?] Is this really going to save the
physical store? Nope.
Most likely, it's an idea dreamt up by the financial types at headquarters who've been "missioned" to tap into the digital value-stream. After all, why should B&N just stand there and watch their profits drift lazily down a South American river? It's important to note that despite B&N saying the Nook is a "success," they still rely on brick and mortar stores (retail and college bookstores) for over 75% of their revenue and the competition is going to become even more intense with dozens of new tablet and reader devices being introduced this year.
And how does B&N take a trip down the Nile? Apparently, the secret sauce is that they allow Nook owners to take their devices into any B&N physical store and read any e-book for free. Nooktalk tells us that in reality, it's not exactly a seamless reading experience. And now that Amazon allows Kindle owners to "lend" books to each other, the Nook may find itself in the, ahem, corner.
So what can your local bookstore do to take advantage of its strengths?
Here are three suggestions to shake up the physical bookstore business model:
Daily Book Rental
Why can't the bookstore become a pay-as-you-read library? As a kid growing up in India, I remember borrowing books (alright, some these were Asterix and Tintin comics) from the bookstore for a daily fee. This business model shows some reverse innovation promise. Can you imagine "tiered pricing" linked to free coffee rewards? Sign up for the all-you-can-read buffet. And of course, we get to pay fines if we return our books late.
Distribute Local Books
What if a physical copy of your book gets published in-store and sold in your town's bookstore? Can you visualize a "Newbie Authors" section where one copy of your book gets to sit on the shelf for a week? If it doesn't sell in a week, you can either pay for shelf space or you can buy your books back. The minute you or your mother buys your Great American Novel, a new one is printed and placed on the shelf. The top 5 bestsellers in each town get national distribution and placement for a week. Book fest!
- Healthy Living
- Food + Wine
- Art History
How does a bookstore do this? If you're Barnes and Noble, you could hire retired teachers to do this; pick people who are enthusiastic and spread their love of the subject. If you're a small bookstore, you can still find enthusiastic community leaders to do the same - in fact you can specialize, and create a niche around the main clientele in your store.
Does all of this sound a bit off the wall? Good, then it's worth a try. The Nook, I'm sorry to say, isn't going to save Barnes & Noble.
P.S. Over at HBR, Sarah Green gives us another suggestion: Amazon should partner with Independent Bookstores!
Michael Gordon's book, Design Your Life, Change the World: Your Path as a Social Entrepreneur [A GUIDE for CHANGEMAKERS] is for changemakers - the people and organizations that want to make a difference in the world.
The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:
1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?
2) What's the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?
The reason I'm helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world's biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn't making things any easier...
Are you a changemaker? Go find out >>
P.S. - you can download the PDF version here >>
I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart - who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years. They ought to compare notes!
What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview. He was clearly in distress - the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time - as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him.
The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!
Sometimes not knowing what you’re doing can help you do it.
Here I make a fool of myself at the Guardian’s Activate2011 conference in London:
The final Harvard Business Review post in the series, and hopefully the start of some real change at the bottom of the pyramid.
Our goal is to go social for social business. Can social co-creation help the poor?
Thanks also to Scott Berinato at HBR and of course - VG, my partner in crime.
For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields - software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement - and here's what I came up with at the end of the study. I'm interested in one metric - conversion to sales.
Conversion to Sales
Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.
See you later, FB and Twitter...
This chart by the folks at the Eurasia Group, got me thinking. Something just doesn’t make sense:
Then it hit me. This is a rather conventional way to screen for global opportunities. If we looked at other screens like “innovation potential,” “middle class expansion rate,” “Gini coefficient shrinkage,” or “corruption index,”you’d see a very different picture.
I was recently going through this report by Altimeter’s Jeremiah Owyang when a “Deja-Vu all-over-again” wave came over me: this is exactly what happened with corporate community managers - back in the heady days of “community” (see JH3’s Net Gain).
Except that there was a third career path: striking off on your own.
Seth Godin posts a very insightful blog entry on the HBR site. He's talking about the challenges of marketing at the bottom of the pyramid:
When someone in poverty buys a device that improves productivity, the
device pays for itself (if it didn't, they wouldn't buy it.) So a drip
irrigation system, for example, may pay off by creating two or three
harvests a year instead of one.
Read all about it >>
The Solar Electric Light Fund's Bob Freling has posted an entry in Harvard Business Review about his Solar Integrated Development (SID) Maturity Model and how it fits into our concept of the $300 House.
Here's Bob waxing eloquent:
Together with potable water, nutritious food, accessible health care, educational opportunity, and economic empowerment, the $300 House completes this virtuous ecosystem in which individual households and their communities can march hand in hand towards a bright and sustainable future.
Read the whole post The $300 House: The Energy Challenge >>
The Gap screws up with their logo redesign. A giant failure of imagination in the boardroom.
But Umair Haque asks the right questions:
- Do designers have a seat in the boardroom -- or just in the basement? How often does your CEO ever talk to a designer?
- Are designers empowered to overrule beancounters -- or vice versa?
- Is the input of designers considered to be peripheral to "real" business decisions -- or does it play a vital role in shaping them? Is design treated as a function or a competence?
- Are designers seen just as mechanics of mere stuff -- or as vital contributors to the art of igniting new industries, markets, and catgeories, sparking more enduring demand, building trust, providing empathy, and seeding tomorrow's big ideas?
- How much weight does senior management give to right-brained ideas, like delight, amazement, intuition, and joy? Just a little, a lot -- or, as for most companies, almost none?
We all need to wake up. The Chamber of Commerce approach to design isn't going to work anymore.
Cracking the challenge of slums is the world's biggest problem of the next quarter-century, because the ecology of slums and the ecology of cities are linked. We cannot have a healthy global economy without healthy cities, and we cannot have healthy cities without tackling slums.
Join us >>
We're building a "creationspace" (JSB's word) for the $300 House-for-the-Poor at 300house.com >>
Please sign up, and tell your friends!
The political intentions of our GOP friends would leave the US with a hollowed-out economy.
Here is an example of how Obama’s unpopular bail-out for the auto-industry led to the creation of a new and critical cleantech industry - electric batteries - in this country. What say you, FOX News?
Go J.R.! Note he mentions my client - the Solar Electric Light Fund. Stay tuned for more news about them...
I like the SolarWorld ads Hagman does quite a bit. Here he's talking to Sue Ellen (who seems to be blaming him for BP's mess in the Gulf):
Shine, baby, shine! Well said, Larry Hagman!
The thing about Hagman is he put his money where his mouth is - years ago - by converting his estate to solar, before solar was cool.
Jail time for these environmental terrorists.Call your congressperson…
For the first time, in 2010, online advertising will pass traditional advertising on TV and print:
While this is remarkable, I can tell you where the highest ROI is.
It's with the Republican party. You can buy every single Republican vote for a paltry $34 million, as the health care circus has shown us.
Wow. Who needs Google when all you need is the budget for one Superbowl ad. Think about that: all it takes to buy the entire GOP is one Superbowl ad. There goes the future of our country.
PS - On a side note, I wonder what it takes to buy our Supreme Court... 5 bucks to Clarence Thomas' wife?
Just a few days ago I praised Forrester’s decision to create individual blogs for all their analysts. So they finally get it, I thought. Boy, was I wrong!
Yesterday I noticed how their migration to the new blogging platform was executed:
Yes, that’s the dreaded “The requested page could not be found” message.
Apparently, for Forrester, moving to a new platform means all old URLs die.
This is just so wrong. Linkrot is a common mistake that companies and institutions make all too often. For this to happen at an institution like Forrester shows me they don’t understand web basics. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of big companies have made this mistake, but for Forrester it’s inexcusable!
Maybe Forrester should have a chat with Jakob Nielsen. Check this:
Any URL that has ever been exposed to the Internet should live forever: never let any URL die since doing so means that other sites that link to you will experience linkrot. If these sites are conscientious, they will eventually update the link, but not all sites do so. Thus, many potential new users will be met by an error message the first time they visit your site instead of getting the valuable content they were expecting. Remember, people follow links because they want something on your site: the best possible introduction and more valuable than any advertising for attracting new customers.and
At other times, it becomes necessary to re-architect a site and impose a new structure. Even then, the rule continues to be: you are not allowed to break any old links. The solution is to set up a set of redirects: a scheme whereby the server tells the browser that the requested page is to be found at a new URL. All decent browsers will automatically take the user to the new URL, and really good browsers will even update their bookmark database to use the new URL in the future if the user had bookmarked the old URL.
I remember when the same stupid mistake was made by Harvard Business Review back when they switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org. Overnight, they destroyed their online ecosystem, as Forrester has just done.
What’s the big deal, you ask? In today’s connected world, this is brand destruction plain and simple. Not the way to build an attention platform.
In 2000, back when I was working at a large software company, I was responsible for building their online communities. And part of the challenge was trying to explain to executives that “marketing is a conversation” and that conversations occur between people - opinionated, passionate people - not PR departments.
I’d make everyone read the cluetrain manifesto.
People are brands. And like brands, they can be fake or real. The real dilemma is this - is there a line, a demarcation between the voice of the company and the voice of the individual?
My point has always been this: when companies allow their employees to blog, they are strengthening their brand by making connections, building relationships, improving the quality of the conversation with the market, etc. etc.
And yes, there are times when people go off the deep end and act unprofessional. So you’ve got to have an employee blogging policy; and these days that means you’ve got to have a social media policy which covers Twitter, Facebook, and god-forbid, MySpace, along with the rest of the social stuff.
But all of this boils down to common sense; see
Sun’s, Oracle’s blogging policy, for example. The older version spelled it out like this:
1. Do not disclose or speculate on non-public financial or operational information. The legal consequences could be swift and severe for you and Sun.
2. Do not disclose non-public technical information (for example, code) without approval. Sun could instantly lose its right to export its products and technology to most of the world or to protect its intellectual property.
3. Do not disclose personal information about other individuals.
4. Do not disclose confidential information, Sun’s or anyone else’s.
5. Do not discuss work-related legal proceedings or controversies, including communications with Sun attorneys.
6. Always refer to Sun’s trademarked names properly. For example, never use a trademark as a noun, since this could result in a loss of our trademark rights.
7. Do not post others’ material, for example photographs, articles, or music, without ensuring they’ve granted appropriate permission to do this.
8. Follow Sun’s Standards of Business Conduct and uphold Sun’s reputation for integrity. In particular, ensure that your comments about companies and products are truthful, accurate, and fair and can be substantiated, and avoid disparaging comments about individuals.
When it comes to thought-leadership or a CEO blog, the voice of the individual is even more important.
Forrester gets this, finally. In a recent blog post, Cliff Condon, Forrester’s VP in charge of their social media efforts, explains the company’s official position on the topic of analyst blogging:
1. Forrester wants more analysts using social tools because it makes for better research. The research we write for clients has always depended on a rich two-way conversation with experts and practitioners in the marketplace. The rise of social tools like blogs and Twitter allows analysts to extend that conversation with more people in the marketplace. The more smart people our analysts interact with, the better our research will be. That’s the basis of the Groundswell. Therefore, Forrester is investing in building social tools and associated best-practice training for our analysts so that more of them get involved.
2. We are building a new blog platform to provide each analyst with a personal blog. Our platform today supports team blogs based on the professional roles we serve - such as the Forrester Consumer Product Strategy blog. The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area. We are doing this so that our analysts can have direct conversations with key players in the marketplace and so clients have the flexibility to engage at an individual analyst level or a team level.
3. We want to make it easy for our clients. Our clients rely on us to help make them successful. They have told us that they are starved for time - they subscribe to our services in part because they conveniently get the insight they need from us and others who join in the Forrester conversation. Therefore, we can best serve client needs by placing all of our blog content in one place (at blogs.forrester.com), and put it in context alongside the rest of our data and analysis.
I hope that adds some clarity to what we are working on - I’ll share more as we move closer to roll-out later in the quarter. However, I felt it necessary to add to the conversation now since there has been discussion about analysts’ brands and the Forrester brand. The fact is we want to do everything possible to give analysts a high degree of visibility. Giving every analyst a personal blog is a step toward that goal. Our analysts’ reputation and our own are tied together. Our new blog platform is being designed to boost them both.
Definitely a step in the right direction for Forrester.
Every now and then, a CEO or company founder asks me one (or both) of these two questions:
1) must I have a separate blog from the company site?
2) do I have to use my name on the blog?
My answer depends on the individual. It's quite simple, really.
If I think they're a thought-leader in their industry - that's to say their opinions and ideas lead the field - then I often encourage them to blog under their own name on a blog that stands outside their company domain (more on that in a second).
The key assumption is that they are thought leaders. If I don't get this assumption right, we are all wasting time. There's no point setting up a double-loop model if you aren't going to have something important to add to the conversation. Here's what to do instead: have a company blog, put your press releases on it, and talk about your products. Have your agency Twitter and Facebook away to their heart's content. Just don't call it thought leadership, because it isn't.
So, now that we've established that, let's look at what is thought-leadership.
How do you know you are a thought leader? Here are some clues:
1) people you've never heard of start emailing you long (relevant) notes about something you said on your blog
2) your clients start reading your blog - so do analysts, journalists, and others you respect
3) you notice your blog gets ten times more traffic than your company website
4) you start getting calls from prospects asking for your services (and products)
If these four things don't happen, (1) you're not blogging right, or worse, (2) you aren't a thought leader.
Now let's talk about individuals and why using your name is actually a very good idea.
Authenticity. People relate to other people. We see this in entertainment: Oprah, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Elvis, Bob Marley; in sports: Shaun White, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Ali (and unfortunately Tiger Woods); and in business: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jeffrey Immelt. So if you're the founder or CEO, and you have a message worth getting out, you want people to know who you are. The connection is personal not corporate.
Passion. If you believe fiercely in what you say, do, and think, then it is this passion that people want to connect to - directly. Without that PR person. Passion can't be staged.
Trust. Your voice as an individual is far more trustworthy than a faceless corp. And you are believable when you believe.
Findability. People search for names. So if you write a book, they'll search for you, the author. "Byron Katie"* gets 10X more searches than "The Work," for example.
Longevity. As a person, you live till you die. You may switch companies, or labels, or publishers. You, the brand, stays constant. Your attention platform is how you go direct to the customer, no resellers necessary. Your followers stay with you forever.
Ideas. Companies don't have good ideas, people do. Good ideas originate in the heads of your people. These are your thought-leaders. Don't make them anonymous thinking this will help your company; it won't.
The Brand. Too much has been said about you, the brand. A company can renovate its brand by hiring an ad agency. You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to be real.
Lately, even large companies are seeing the benefits of using thought leaders as ambassadors for their brands.
The CEO blog works well for startups and SMBs as well: Gaurav Bhalla* for Knowledge Kinetics, Francis Cholle* for The Human Company, Dean McMann* for McMann & Ransford, Phil Townsend* at Townsend and Associates, Bob Freling at SELF, and Steven Feinberg* at Steven Feinberg Inc.
When a blog is shared - i.e. when more than one executive participate - then it is alright to pick another name, usually connected to the topic we want to blog about. See: Steve Lesem* at Mezeo.
* disclosure: Tammy Erickson, JSB, JH3, VG, Tom Davenport, Larry Prusak, Gaurav Bhalla, Francis Cholle, Dean McMann, Phil Townsend, Bob Freling, Byron Katie, and Steve Lesem are some of my clients.
Vijay Govindarajan on the HBR blog: The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green. High time our business leaders started leading, as VG encourages them to do.
According to VG:
At the company level, many energy businesses are unwilling to cannibalize their existing services and their current investments. At the national level, the same dynamics are in play. Aided and abetted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the traditional energy lobby (oil, coal) is using its political and economic muscle to stifle innovation in alternative energy and clean technologies.
Don’t get me started on the losers at the US Chamber of Commerce!
...the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse, widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the organization has collected many stories from people using them to successfully resist engaging in bribery.
I like it. Now let's send some "zero dollars" to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.
This is what we are fed daily... small wonder we don't watch the news!
This is something that keeps happening with IBM's FTP server.
I was just trying to download this report: Seizing the advantage. When and how to innovate your business model"...
I have to say, this happens all the time on the site.
What's going on IBM? This is not exactly the best way to win friends and influence prospects.
P.S. - will let you know if I ever get to the document!
UPDATE: Not sure if this is the same document, but I found it on the UK site.
UPDATE #2: Look what I found at Booz >>
UPDATE #3: And this from EY >>
How do you encourage curiosity across a global organization?
"Many consultants out there would rather just give answers and are even afraid to ask questions. We deliberately hire people who aren't like that, even early in their careers, and senior consultants coach them on how to be inquisitive. Sometimes that means asking a client's managers very difficult questions, really pushing them hard to reveal or do things they're not comfortable with--getting a CEO to explain lagging sales, for example, or to acknowledge why a competitor's pulling ahead. Other times that means encouraging constructive dissent--deliberately engaging with people who disagree with you and being willing to probe them on their point of view. That can be tricky, but persistent questioning usually produces the best solutions."
- Orit Gadiesh in an interview HBR, Sept. 2009
Remember when she debuted? Too bad her purple reign is over...
According to MIT and the Internet, this is who I am (click to enlarge):
Find out who you are here >>
Alan Grayson makes the case for reconciliation at StopSenateStalling.com:
Throughout the administration of President George W. Bush, the Senate passed much of its key legislation by majority vote:
* The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 passed 54-44
* The Energy Policy Act of 2003 passed 57-40
* The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 passed 51-49
* The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005 passed 54-44
* The FY2006 budget resolution and Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 passed 52-47
* The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act passed 55-45
* The FY2007 budget resolution passed 51-49
Today, under the administration of President Barack Obama, the House has passed bills preventing climate destruction and reforming our broken health care system, while the Senate searches for 60 votes in the face of Republican obstruction. Every day the Senate delays, more people die from lack of health care.
The filibuster should apply to the initiatives of both parties or to neither. Why should launching wars, and cutting taxes for the rich, require only 51 votes while saving lives requires 60?
Why indeed? Go to StopSenateStalling.com >>
If you haven’t heard about free2work.org, you will. This is part of a growing explosion of consumer-education organizations dedicated to exposing “worst practices” among multinationals.
The hope is that if consumers know what is going on, they will vote with their purchasing power and seek out the companies that are doing good. I’m all for it. Who wouldn’t be? Oh, I forgot about the US Chamber of Commerce…
On the academic side of things, we see the same story emerging:
Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s latest book, SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good argues that “the model of American capitalism that worked so well to raise the fortunes of millions of people last century appears to have hit a wall. What’s good for General Motors may no longer be good for the country. In its place must arise a new model of the company, one that serves society as well as rewarding shareholders and employees.”
Maybe Doug Smith was just a little ahead of the times when he wrote On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We in an Age of Me - which to me is still the best book in this space.
Step one: Know who you are...
borrowed from Alina Wheeler's Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team
Townsend makes a good point:
So why can't a company like GE follow down this path with "open reverse innovation" - inviting small companies in India and China to submit their products, services and ideas to be evaluated by GE for global distribution. Of course, the open model would require an environment of trust - but what better way to create goodwill in new markets than to be seen as a development partner in the China, India, and resource-starved Africa? A.G. Lafley sits on GE's board; surely he could help them get started.Townsend also proposes the formation of innovation collaboratives funded by companies like GE to create a pipeline of new products for GE.
Not a bad idea, if you consider that a recent McKinsey survey found that 20% of companies have opened up their innovation processes to employees and customers and they report a 20% rise in the number of innovations, on average.
Edo Segal has an interesting guest blog at TechCrunch describing the “Future of Media.”
He points to Apple’s App Store as an example of what the rest need to learn:
The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a media company can generate is to couple said experiences with extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation. They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is the future evolution of the media industry. It has arrived from a company that is delivering the goods. Apple has made it painless for consumers to spend money and get the media they want where they want it, proving that consumers are happy to pay for media if delivered in ways that make it easy and blissful to consume.
He also states, rather matter of factly, that “he premise of extending the media experience to the cloud is a core necessity for the survival and growth of the media industry.” I agree. The media industry needs to “sell access and experiences, not media files.”
So how does an artist or a media company build these experiences?
I’ve been doing some thinking along these lines for a band I’ve followed for many years - Steel Pulse. What’s interesting is that while the band has a huge, global, cross-generational following built over the past 35 years - the media companies that were responsible for promoting them have done absolutely nothing to tap into this enthusiasm. Not one thing.
The same goes for most of my business thought-leader clients as well. The publishing houses do nothing to create a conversation with the passionate fans.
Engagement is the key. How does a musician or an author engage with their audience, their fan-base? It starts with the quality of the conversation. And let me tell you, it’s far easier for an individual thought-leader or musician to do this than companies, largely because companies are too formal, too corporate, and don’t usually communicate with a human voice.
What’s needed is a way to go direct.
Let the celebrity or thought-leader engage with their fans directly to build an attention platform, unique to the celebrity. The company that empowers this attention platform, and builds new services for the fans, will build the next media empire with the “lock-in” that comes with authentic engagement.
Of course, none of this works without authenticity. The celebrity must remain true to themselves. In Steel Pulse’s case, this means they need to stick to their core brand dimensions. So each successive album, each song, each product, each statement, builds on the Steel Pulse Experience.
They could even track the core messages of a successful album - in this case “True Democracy” - and extend their meaning in new songs and releases:
Phase One: PUSHSo what does the celebrity do today? In Britney Spears’ case, she’s tweeting her launch of a new song. To me that’s not much of anything. Yes, she’s reaching out through social media -Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace - but these are all still one way marketing pitches - push media.
The artist pushes their songs, their products, their newsletter, their tweets, etc. etc. No discussion, no give and take. Products are created and sold. One market, one size fits all. Core fans are treated the same as newbies. Nothing special except the show and the products - media files: audio or video. See what I’m getting at?
All of this is still just pushing product.
Phase Two: PULL
What happens if the fans come to you - with their suggestions, requests, and insights? What happens when they want to participate? Is it possible to co-create products and services based on insights from yoru fans? Of course it is.
Start the conversation. Go 80/20: focus on the 20% of fans that will get you 80% of your profits. Start talking (and listening) to your biggest supporters.
Engage: physically meet the 20%. Create special events for them. In soccer for example, fans pay $30-50 dollars just to watch Cristiano Ronaldo practice. What’s wrong with doing a 30 minute sound check for your fans? Invite them to the sound check - and have exclusive “sound check products” available only for these fans - available at the event, and online as well. You could even have a question and answer session that they get to download later that evening.
Then of course you sell the live version of the show - for a “limited time only.” Vary the show slightly with the song set, so every night is a different.
Let your fans download the raw tracks and make their own mixes. Have a contest for the best mixes. Sell the mixes to other fans. Use them in your album.
And when you create a new album, it’s version-time. Reggae music has a long history of selling versions. What’s sad is they’ve stopped this traditional practice when really they need to be exploiting it. (See Hal Varian on versioning.) So every song should have the following versions: album version, extended version, dub version, accapella version, acoustic version, dance version, Nyabinghi version, etc. etc.
Talk to the fans about the songs through webcasts, band-calls. Let then know where and what’s next. Let them vote on what you should do next.
For legacy songs, make sure you sell versions-in-time. The 1983 version of Chant a Psalm a Day is quite different from the 2000 version, which again is totally different from the 2009 version. Real fans want them all.
All of this is do-able today. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude, and the ability to communicate, to lead. For a cause-driven band like Steel Pulse, this is their opportunity to shine.
And let your fans share in creating and spreading your experience.
Now let’s take a quick look at the business world.
VG, as he’s called affectionately, is an author and well known strategist. His latest article in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Jeffery Immelt and Chris Trimble, has been a huge success - introducing the world to a concept called reverse innovation.
What we’re doing now is building his engagement strategy - through his innovation newsletter. The idea is to start a conversation about innovation with the people most interested in this topic.
A small step to start, but I know from experience that a “simple” newsletter can drive over 50% of monthly sales online.
The great news is anyone can build an attention platform like this. And if you have something important to say, your platform will bring you the attention you deserve.
It may even elect you President!
As I was finishing up on this, I just saw a tweet from John Hagel on author platforms (read here). Again, if Apple can help an author or musician build that platform, then Apple will “lock-in” that artist for life. Same goes for Amazon.com. The distribution model for media is changed forever, period.