Mom’s making lemonade – what’s your excuse?

Mom’s making lemonade – what’s your excuse?

Over the last week, shelter-in-place restrictions due to Covid-19 have turned the work landscape upside down.

This is one story of how one person, given lemons, has made lemonade.

Mom turned 89 last week.  She has been a lifetime pianist, still does performances at senior homes several times each month, and has been teaching now for about 65 years, currently with about 5-10 weekly students.

Mom then and now

The new workplace rules prevent in-person lessons, and as anyone who ever took piano lessons knows, skills deteriorate quickly.  This is not good when you’re a piano teacher.  You need your students to continue to move forward with their skills.

So, with guidance from a former piano student (now at MIT), Mom decided she would try to teach remotely.

And that is exactly what she’s done.

chrome zoom

As she described it excitedly yesterday:

It’s really very easy.  I’m using Chrome, and the Zoom app.  My students (aged 7-17) are quite capable of setting up a camera to show their hands on the keyboard.  I send them an invitation, give them the code, and off we go.  I see their hands, and they see me.  It actually works better for the younger students because they are forced to figure things out for themselves”.

Mom online

Mom has successfully completed her first 5 online teaching sessions, with more to come.

She did not have this skill last week.

What barriers are you facing?  What’s your excuse? 

Love you, Mom.  And yes, I’m washing my hands.

Read This Before Watching Super Bowl Ads

Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 7.23.16 PMExcuse me, the Big Game.  If you weren’t aware, there are very tight restrictions imposed by the NFL on use of the SB words.

https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/1/31/18202037/super-bowl-53-ads-trademark-the-big-game-2019

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But that’s not the point of this post.

You may be one of the many who watch the ads purely for entertainment value.  If that’s the case, you’re no doubt in for your share of brilliance, virtue signaling, emotional manipulation, morally questionable/disgusting, Christopher Walken and just plain bad ads (see “puppybabymonkey”).  All of which is great.  Enjoy.

https://thearmchairmba.com/?s=super

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The intended point is that even if an ad is unbelievably hilarious, poignant, memorable or otherwise highly engaging, advertising has diminished value if the brand is not well integrated.

2015SuperBowlCollage

It’s sort of like meeting that attractive person at a bar that you have an amazing instant connection with, but leave without a phone number or any other way to take action.  If the brand isn’t connected to the ad, it’s hard for the viewer to do anything about it.

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If you’re a marketer, however, SB, er, BG ads are interesting for different reasons – at $3.5M or $4M whatever the price for 30 seconds is these days, you are no doubt wondering how that expense can possibly pay out.

The good folks at Kellogg Graduate School of Business have come up with a formula called ADPLAN that breaks down key components of effective ads.  You can see how they rate Sunday’s ads in real time here:  https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/news-events/super-bowl.aspx

Attention
Distinction
Positioning
Linkage
Amplification
Net Equity

This point we’re talking about is related to one of the 6 points – L – Linkage – – of the advertising to the brand.

Many of the Big Game ads do a great job getting your attention, but don’t close the loop by making the brand an integral element.

As an example, compare two very entertaining ads – – which of them can you connect to a brand?

  • “Just OK is not OK” – whether it’s a tattoo artist, surgeon, babysitter or tax preparer, this campaign is highly entertaining, engaging and amusing. It just doesn’t have a strong linkage to the brand or core message (other than ‘we’re better than OK’ – – not necessarily ownable or particularly compelling). I’ve enjoyed this campaign immensely but have never remembered the advertiser.  (It’s AT&T, by the way.  I checked).

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/IZ6U/at-and-t-wireless-ok-surgeon

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  • “Jake” You can probably already envision the scene (late at night phone call) and catchphrase “Jake…from State Farm”.  In this case, the premise (State Farm is always available) and the brand name are well integrated into the creative.

https://www.ispot.tv/ad/7ISp/state-farm-3-am-savings

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That’s it.  My intended takeaway is neither original nor news – – but it’s still really important in evaluating ad effectiveness.

So enjoy the game this Sunday.  There will be lots of great entertaining spots. And it looks like it could be a good game as well.

However, from a marketing perspective, if you can’t remember the brand whose commercial you just watched, there’s work yet to be done.

‘Tis the Season of Fulfillment Gaffes – Make the Most of it!

This is the season when gifting and shipping reaches a frenzied peak — and with it the highest level of product fulfillment mistakes – – the wrong product, the wrong location, missed timing, missed gift message, etc.   It’s inevitable.

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For those fulfilling orders, mistakes are going to happen. And the fallout is customer dissatisfaction.

There are two ways to deal with mistakes:

1) wring your hands and work to assign blame, OR

2) as has been attributed to both Winston Churchill and former Chicago Mayor and Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel – “Never let a good crisis go to waste”

What this means is, mistakes provide an opportunity to go above and beyond in correcting the mistake, which can actually generate more goodwill than getting it right the first time.

In other words, it is possible to fail your way to customer satisfaction.

We hereby repost one of our most popular posts on this topic, from 2017.

https://thearmchairmba.com/2017/05/29/fail-your-way-to-customer-satisfaction/

For those of you taking care of customers, don’t lose this opportunity!

(And for those of you on the receiving end of a mistake, make the most of it!)

Introducing Quadrant Corner! All of Your Problems Solved!

The best kept secret in business – – really – – that the nation’s top business schools are keeping from you is that all management issues can be solved through the use of quadrants.  Really, all of them.

Quadrants

This introduces Quadrant Corner, which will periodically shed light on how you can better understand some of the thorniest, as well as some of the most obvious, issues – – simply through the use of quadrants.

The best quadrants have two axes, where the resulting intersections have meaningful insights.

We promise to not bother you with stars or barnyard animal nicknames or anything like that.  That stuff is yesterday’s news.  And we definitely won’t use things that look like quadrants but are really just a way to stuff related ideas into a box to look more profound (and charge higher consulting fees).  Like the annoying SWOT chart – – which is just 4 semi-related ideas smashed together in a graphic.  Cha-ching!

Band Set List Quadrant

We begin with the inspiration of music.

As someone who periodically plays music to get fellow old people to dance, I can tell you that the party song list is really important.  Every song must either be something danceable or something familiar – – and the best songs qualify in both categories (songs that have neither attribute are a quick trip to a short party).

You need to jam the list with upper-right songs that everyone knows well enough to sing or air-guitar along with while they spill their G & Ts while unwittingly doing great Elaine imitations.

Elaine

It’s fine to throw in the occasional the danceable but less universally known songs – – your Beck, your Skrillex – -but don’t overdo it.  Similarly, fine to mix in a few stadium songs or ballads or Bohemian Rhapsody – – but don’t let your crowd get too comfortable.

The quadrant above shows the relationship between the appeal to the group (danceability) and the need to minimize effort (familiarity).

Business quadrant 2

The same theory could apply to implementation of new business practices (I know, I know – – just stay with me for a minute).  In a business context, appeal to the group is changed from can you dance to it to ‘what’s in it for me’ – – the expectation that the outcome of orientation/ training will be immediately beneficial (more $, greater chance for promotion, less tedium, etc).

On the other axis, the ‘required effort’ measure is defined as ease of putting the new approach into practice.  Like familiar songs, it’s comfortable to attend training where the concepts are easy and there’s a catered lunch.  However, a steady diet of familiarity – – or in this case, ‘fun’ training – – with no substantial hope of personal benefit, may be a welcome break from the routine, but is not a good long-term proposition.

So thanks for reading this first Quadrant Corner.  We need to check out now, to refresh ourselves on the deep learning of those well-regarded consultants EW&F.  Their first and most critical guiding principle:  never, under any circumstances, succumb to pressure to play ‘Celebration’.

EWF

 

Boeing 737 Max – end of a brand?

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One year ago Boeing’s 737 Max was one of the most successful launches in company history.

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A re-imagining of the venerable 737 design, it used updated aerodynamics, materials and engines to achieve 14% greater fuel efficiency vs the base 737, to compete with the Airbus A320neo (and it competed quite well).  It was granted FAA approval in March 2017 and the first copy was delivered shortly thereafter.  The product strategy expanded to include 4 variants.

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Now, after 2 mass-fatality crashes, production is on hold, the global fleet is on an expanding grounding with no firm restart date, and the entire line’s future is in doubt, taking with it the fortunes of a host of related entities including GE, the FAA, and the town of Renton, WA, where the planes were built, among many others.

Is this the end of what we know as the 737 MAX? 

Surviving a crisis seems to be some combination of:

  1. severity of an ‘event’
  2. how likely are negative consequences to occur in the future
  3. A third key factor is management’s action to swiftly and effectively mitigate future risk

Some very well-known brands have survived severe crises.  All are very healthy today.

Tylenolproduct-recall-tread-separation

  • Tylenol – while the fatalities were low, the Tylenol poisonings of the early 1980s were a huge public threat
  • Perrier – – in 1990, a crisis emerged when a toxic substance, benzene, was found in some bottles of Perrier
  • Firestone – – in the late 1990s and early 2000s, hundreds of people died related to accidents attributed to tread separation of Firestone tires, particularly on Ford products
  • There are others: Volkswagen (Dieselgate), BP (Deepwater Horizon), SeaWorld (orcas)

In all of these cases, Management worked to swiftly remove any affected (or associated) product from circulation, provided consumer hotlines, publicized the recalls, and provided clear ongoing updates to the public.

In all of these cases, there was a clear explanation given for what caused the issues, and the solution was directly linked to the cause.

aydsvalujetVioxx

Other brands did not fare as well:

  • AYDS was a very popular diet-suppressant candy in the 1970s and 1980s, but could not survive the mid-80s emergence of the disease AIDS. Because this association was not likely to end, the candy fairly rapidly was withdrawn from the market.
  • ValuJet – a budget airline, its Flight 592 crashed in 1996, killing all 110 aboard. The severity of the crash brought the airline’s poor safety record to light, thus raising doubt about future safety.  A rebrand was attempted but the airline eventually was discontinued.
  • Vioxx – -an anti-inflammatory marketed by Merck, this brand had over 80 million users. It was withdrawn in 2004 following reports that it could accelerate heart attack and stroke, exacerbated by the fact that evidence was known for about 5 years prior to action being taken.

In two of these cases, the severity of consequences was high, and there was low confidence that a long-term solution was possible.  In the third, the brand was associated with a disease with severe consequences – – just bad luck.

So will Boeing’s 737 Max survive?

  • High consequences from failure
  • No definitive cause or solution identified
  • Indecisive management reaction pushes resolution into the hazy future

The longer the lack of clarity lasts, the more doubt will grow around the 737 Max.  (As they said of the moon shot: “a million things have to go right.  Only one thing has to go wrong”.)

collage737Max

After a quick check of the headlines, put me down for a no.

PROOF! The internet is not all real!

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The late football coach Dennis Green famously sputtered after his Arizona Cardinals lost a big lead to the Chicago Bears in 2006: “They are who we thought they were!!!”.

they-are-who-we-thought-they-were

DOES NOT APPLY TO THE INTERNET

No longer just the province of faceless hackers and fake identities, the internet now is the land of fake faces, too.  Very often people are not who you thought they were.

James support agent

I first became suspicious when my LiveChat support agent ‘James’ was a little awkward (every conversation started with “hey”), and he seemed to operate from a very different time zone.  He just didn’t seem like the chill dude in his photo.

Suspecting that his image was stolen from a real person, I did what anyone with borderline clinical stalking tendencies would do – I did a reverse Google search on his photo.

Tom Brown Facilis

Eureka! ‘James’ was actually a real person named Tom Brown, a Director at a company called Facilis in the Bay area.  Hey – I’ll let Tom know someone stole his photo.  Upon looking for his contact info, I found out that this was fake, too.  There’s a Facilis, but this isn’t it.  The site URL http://www.pgyx.com/team-member.html# looks like a developmental website for a business that may or may not exist, now or in the future.  You can check for yourself.

Collage 1

Back to the image search.  It turns out this person, whoever he is, has been replicated and is now overrunning the internet.  Sort of like the magic brooms in Fantasia.  ‘James/Tom’ is also Michael Flynn, lead developer at a tech company; Bob Roger, CEO of a restaurant supply company; Mike Hussy, data guy at Delhi Public Schools, and many more.

Sorcerers magic brooms

This dude is everywhere!  It is likely that many or all of these people are placeholders on developmental sites created by a web developer somewhere.  At this point I stopped the investigation…almost.

collage 2

Because the fake sites usually had more than one photo, I did the same search on a female face in one of these sites, and found that there’s lots of her, too!  And lots of other people as well.  It’s like there’s a parallel iStockphoto universe of smiling people.

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/health-startup-ubiome-used-stock-photos-for-website-testimonials-11558016423?mod=searchresults&page=2&pos=4

Well, according to a May 16, 2019 article in the Wall Street Journal, there is.  A company called uBiome recently had to take down a photo accompanying a testimonial, because they used one of these stock models as well.

In a final act of avoiding doing something useful, I did a reverse image search on the uBiome guy as well.  HE’S ONE OF THEM!

uBiome

It was at this point I needed to remind myself that these faces actually belong to real people – they’re not just virtual props for developers.  But good luck finding the real one.

There has been an increase in the use of images of real people, to humanize online transactions.  Just be warned that the person you think you’re interacting with may not be the person you see.

Cowboy philosopher Will Rogers once said:  “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see”.

I think it’s time to take that down to a quarter of what you see.

clooney

Hey – it’s me!

Mainstreaming #Foodporn – – has it come to this?

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A story, perhaps apocryphal, describes the past-his-prime comedian who, when the laughs just aren’t coming, drops his pants, revealing brightly patterned boxer shorts.  Unfailingly it gets a reaction.  Problem solved.

There is an analog if you’re in the business of selling consumer products – – you need to have a compelling story to tell.  Brands who don’t know why they’re better than the competition often resort to fail-safe attention-getting tactics – – puppies, babies, tear-jerker stories, corn syrup…

…and of course, sex.

Burger Girl

Carl’s Jr./Hardees and GoDaddy.com are just two of the many who made sex their Unique Selling Proposition.  You can check their commercials out on YouTube; I cannot safely post a link here.

Both appear to have moved on, ostensibly to broaden their audiences as they move out of copywriting adolescence.  In the #MeToo era, many advertisers have thankfully become more sensitive in how they go to market.

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But there is a convenient alternative: #FoodPorn.  With a wink and a nod and a hashtag that telegraphs ‘we’re hip’, #FoodPorn is titillating with words otherwise not used in general conversation, but without the photos.  The buzzword gives permission.

In the most recent Super Bowl, Kraft Heinz’s Devour frozen food brand actually advertised on a real porn site, Pornhub.com, blurring the line between metaphor and reality.  The brand is positioned as ‘flavor first’, the very embodiment of FoodPorn, and thus this stunt was all a humorous, one-time attempt to make the point and get some attention.  But based on their website, they’re sticking with the FoodPorn angle.  Not sure what the results were, other than a ton of attention.

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But do we want to go there?  Despite the old adage, not all attention is good attention.  Most brands would prefer to focus on the product and avoid the crass associations that undermine credibility and turn off potential customers.  But not all.

Burger 1

At a favorite burger chain recently (not fast food – – burgers are $10-14), where it talked about ‘friends and family’, part of the menu was blacked out.  Upon inspection, it revealed that the blacked out words completed the language: “Post that #BurgerPorn and tag us.  We never get tired of seeing them sexy burger shots.

Burger 2

Upon conversation with the waitress, this is a case of man bites dog.  The headquarters marketing staff decided to send sexed up menus to all of their restaurants, and in at least this case, the local owner disagreed with their judgment and took a marker to it.

I’m guessing the owner knows his customers, sees a lot of moms and dads, and drew the connection that they might not be interested in explaining to the kids what that all means.  (I had a similar experience explaining the Clinton impeachment hearings to single-digit aged kids).

The irony is that these guys have a great concept – outstanding quality, reasonably priced food in a very pleasant environment.

Why mess all that up and distract attention with references to #FoodPorn?

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