Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Be like Tony.

I was cleaning out my desk this morning, sorting through the hundreds of business cards I've collected over the past year or so (yes, people do still hand them out and you should, too.) when I came across this one.

Tony Swan, who passed away last year, was a writer, driver, racer, editor, bon vivant, and curmudgeon. I'd met him early in my career when I was an intern at Car and Driver magazine but came to know him a bit better over the past few years as a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Some who read this blog may know that when I'm not helping companies with marketing, communications, and new product development, I write about cars for several websites including my own, Rides & Drives.

Tony was famous for many things, one was his personal motto...
"Drive fast. Take chances."
While Tony applied it to his time on the track and work at the word processor, it's easy to see how this simple phrase is crucial in business today.

The "Take chances" half of the equation is a no brainer. Business is all about risk, taking it and managing it. Without taking chances, ignoring the doubters, pursuing a novel idea, there is no progress. At some level, every decision we make requires a leap of faith no matter how many consumers we talk to or how may prototypes we test. That's where the "Drive faster" part comes in.

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, moving faster is a necessity. But it's not how just quickly you can get your product to market. Accelerating your time to profitability is crucial in a day where disrupters can enter the market from any direction and change the game seemingly overnight. That means a different way of innovating. Moving quickly with minimal investment, using MVPs to test the market, make adjustments, and move on.

This takes a clarity of vision, a commitment to strategy, decisive leadership, and an agile team. If you're mired by stages and gates, waiting for executive review committees, and fielding massive quantitative studies before making decisions, the market will pass you by.

It's time to run your business as Tony lived. Drive fast. Take chances.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Made You Look Marketing

It's cheap. It's easy. It's virtually worthless. And it's happening far too often these days thanks in a large part to the proliferation of media and all the 24/7 platforms that unquenchable thirst for constant content.

I call it "Made You Look Marketing." Or in other terms, executions in search of a strategy.

The latest trend is auto manufacturers to get attention is to have someone make their cars out of Legos and seemingly everyone is doing it from Chevrolet to Bugatti to McLaren. For Chevy maybe it makes some sense because it's a tie-in to the Lego movie (we'll discuss the merits of that at a later date), but why are manufacturers of multimillion dollar cars that are already sold out doing it? And, how can a tactic that's right for a mainstream brand be appropriate for a niche manufacturer targeting the 1% of the 1% of the 1%?

It's not just Lego cars either. So much is happening in marketing right now that is both derivative and ephemeral, with no grounding in marketing strategy and no lasting impact on brand image.

This short-term thinking is leading marketers to follow the latest shiny new thing regardless of its effectiveness. In some cases, it's undermining the integrity of our entire business.

Marketing and branding is strategic and requires long-term vision from which short term tactics can be executed. The pressure to get clicks, views, likes, and follows as a proxy for awareness, preference, and sales has been going on for far too long. It's time for marketing leaders to thing about the future of their brands, not the next big thing in marketing.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Apple's social strategy is its products

Recently, Christopher Heine, digital editor of Adweek was quoted on Smartbrief as saying "It's really hard to figure out what Apple's social strategy is -- if it has one at all."
This comment stems from the fact that unlike most companies, Apple doesn't have a legion of ninjas, commandos, wizards and rockstars tweeting, posting and instagramming inane content for them all hours of the day and night. Instead they decided to drop a few hundred grand on a promoted tweet for the iPad Air.
Rather than manufacturing news, here's Apple's social strategy: They manufacture remarkable products their owners love to talk about.
Just because a brand doesn't talk about itself on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram doesn't mean it doesn't get talked about on those platforms. And in the end, what is more valuable, Samsung telling everyone how cool they are, or Apple users telling everyone how cool their iPads, Macbooks and iPhones are?
Yeah, I thought so.