20 years ago, the conversation in the telephone, television and cable industries was about “the last mile.” Everyone knew digital and fiber optics were coming, but the question was how to get that last mile—the old copper lines into the consumers’ houses—wired? We’re seeing that same question playing out in every other industry today. Everyone from grocery stores (Peapod) to eTailers (Amazon drones) is struggling to solve the riddle of that last mile. How are you planning to reach your customers when they no longer want to go out for any reason?
We were watching the Monaco Grand Prix over the Memorial Day weekend (on TV, <sigh>, not from our yacht docked trackside in Port Hercule). The racetrack was lined with the usual signage you see at international sporting events: Tag Heuer. Emirates. Rolex. But a whole new set of sponsors have popped up on the global stage. Have you heard of BetClic? Zepter? Bioptron? We didn’t, but were curious enough to look them up to see what they did and how they could afford prime racetrack real estate. The results were a bit of a surprise: did you know you could get a home light therapy device for 996 Euros? (Plus shipping and handling, of course.) How are you keeping up with new businesses and global disrupters?
Microsoft’s move to acquire LinkedIn makes lots of sense to us. If you can’t build it, buy it seems to be the new call of the day for leading digital companies. LinkedIn has become the go-to business social network even to the point where a growing number of companies don’t even list their people’s bios, but rather include links to LinkedIn. Wisely, Microsoft has announced LinkedIn will remain a stand-alone company—hopefully avoiding the “Microsoft-bought-us-and-no-one-heard-of-us-again” syndrome. What do you do in the build or buy business environment to ensure that your portfolio is a relevant and quality as it can be?
So now, social media has been linked to eating disorders. There appear to be lots of reasons for the linkage between too much social media and imbalances in energy intake. Of course, we’ve got a lot of questions about this study. Like, “Do these social media couch potatoes sit at their desks sipping 64-ounce Big Gulps while they’re texting?” And which came first, the Big Gulp or the texting? But the question is still reasonable: What is your personal balance between human communication, digital engagement, health and exercise?
James Patterson is about to pioneer BookShots, short inexpensive books you can read in a sitting with a clever tag line, “Stories At The Speed of Life.” Master of the short chapter book, he will probably pull it off. Like the Japanese “texting novel” and Kindle Singles, publishers and authors are continuing to explore new ways to reach and satisfy readers. What are you doing to keep your old customers engaged and win new fans?
Steve went looking for a “feature phone” for his family network. “Feature phone” or “dumb phone” is a retronym for mobile phones that only make calls. Amazingly, there are dozens of choices out there—mainly because smartphones haven’t captured the Japanese public’s enthusiasm—ranging from $9.99 to several hundred dollars. We’re not exactly sure what $200 gets you for a phone that only makes phone calls, but it’s an interesting niche in the mobile market. How do you serve the unusual needs of small parts of your markets?
Whatever you’ve read about Muhammad Ali doesn’t begin to capture just how “big” the man was. Four days after The Rumble in the Jungle, Steve got to spend a day with Ali shooting a series of commercials Steve had written for Brut by Faberge. He still remembers it as one of the more magical days of his career. When Ali walked into a room he filled the space in every sense: physically, emotionally, psychically. This is one of those men for whom the term “larger than life” doesn’t seem big enough. So while you might think the tributes to The Champ as overblown, on a personal note Steve thinks they barely did the man justice. He was a lion among men and the world is less for his absence.
There’s an old business aphorism we often forget: “There are only three things in business–Fast, Cheap and Good. The bad news is you can only have two of them.” Two months ago, Steve made a deal with a contractor to replace his home’s gutters. In his delight at scoring a “good, cheap” price, he forgot the third element. He’s still waiting for the guy to show up. What do you do to ensure your “contracts” are honored and in a reasonable time period?
With not enough happening for the brand (other than a boost from All Day Breakfast), McDonald’s put its marketing account up for review. But a major storm has erupted as terms of the review were leaked to the press. It seems McDonald’s is demanding that the winning agency work at cost—no markups, no overhead – before meeting target numbers set by the client. When you crunch the numbers, it means they’re asking the agency to lose money on the business unless McDonald’s itself starts to turn around. WPP, one of the agencies involved, immediately withdrew from the pitch. The two incumbents (and long-term McDonald’s agency partners) are still competing. But we’re not sure for what. How do you make sure your suppliers are fairly compensated?