My latest MediaPost column makes the case that startups are not a fad, fleeting tactic du jour or "The Next Big Thing."
Actually what I really hope is that less brands will be doing the WRONG things with startups and more brands will be doing the RIGHT kind of partnership and collaboration.
Read on and weigh in...
My friend David Berkowitz, CMO of MRY, just wrote an opinion piece titled “Why Brands will Focus Less on Startups in 2014.” In the piece, he cites (1) clutter, (2) too much P.R, and (3) lack of results as the three reasons why “brand and agency love for startups is going to fizzle.”
What David is referring to is a sickness that seems to strike many marketers and is passed on to their agencies (or perhaps it is the other way round): namely TNBTS, or The Next Big Thing Syndrome. The good news is that there is a cure. It’s called strategy. When there is none present, I strongly recommend abstinence (hence, the title of David’s article, and why I chose to take the same title although I have a divergent opinion.).
“Clutter” represents all the noise out there; the tonnage; the quantity of startup candidates. In fact, when TechCrunch pretty much opened its entire startup database to the public, I rejoiced. 30,000+ one-liner descriptions in an Excel spreadsheet! That’s like referring to the phone book as your list of potential dates. Good luck with that! The antidote to noise is the filter, curation or vetting that helps weed “too many” and weave “too few” into “just right.”
The problem with P.R. is P.R. itself. Ever since I stumbled into the world of P.R. during my social media days, I keep coming back to “those who can, do; those who can’t, P.R.” as I wrote in an Online Spin six+ months ago. I do recognize, however, that there is value to both internal and external merchandising. I think where David and I diverge is that he is referring to P.R. as being first to market with Vine, Snapchat or Google Glass – ALL OF WHICH are hyped up by the very P.R. and trade engine that accepts or rejects what is newsworthy on their terms. In addition, none of these platforms are early stage; none of the collaborations are strategic; all of them benefit the trade publications and the platforms themselves (can you say acquisition or IPO?) as opposed to the brands that helped them get there in the first place!
Then there’s “results.” Certainly if a startup collaboration is being attached to quarterly earnings, then we would do well to cut off funding to them altogether and instead invest this money to determine the same “results” from “working” media – specifically, how many millions of dollars are being completely wasted and negligently justified through outdated marketing mix modeling.
I hope 2014 is not the year of the startup. It’s very simple: 2013 was the year of the startup. 2012 was the year of the startup. Every single year in which the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and kicking is the year of the startup. Startups are nothing new. They were, are and always will exist.
To cover startups so prolifically (Berkowitz notes that the word startup was mentioned in Ad Age more times in 2012 than 2005-2009 combined) and then summarily declare, “it’s over” is proof positive of TNBTS.
I hope 2014 puts an end to endless “speed dating” without any intention of a second date; hack-a-thons with an emphasis on the word “hack”; brand accelerators that are led by agencies who implode when their one-man-band startup-guy leaves to join another agency or, more likely, a startup; and, last but least, the $5,000 pilot program, which is nothing more than a checkmark on the Next Big Thing checklist.
Domino's recently announced they were giving $500 "Pizzavestments" to 30 startups. I'd like to match the offer with $15,000 of my own money. There's just no way an individual should be able to match a giant corporation when it comes to making a commitment to startups, but there you go...
To Domino's CEO, Patrick Doyle: "Patrick, I think you're awesome. You've done a phenomenal job all round and led the brand through the YouTube fiasco to the well documented, Pizza Turnaround. I totally get the connection between pizza and burning the midnight oil, but I think you can do better. This isn't a fad, gimmick or ad campaign. Innovation is the lifeblood of corporate evolution and survival. Contact me and let's figure out a better way to spend our $30,000 and then some with bright and talented startups."
This offer is conditional on Patrick making contact with me and the two of us sitting down to brainstorm as per the challenge above. I will not be providing Pizza, but I'm happy to invest in these companies commensurately.
Microsoft just announced they are to write off close to $900m of excess inventory on their Surface tablets. OMG! How is this kind of colossal failure possible? Add the ridiculous amount of money spent wasted on marketing and advertising and you have a billion dollar white elephant and migraine.
I'm sure the surface is not a lemon, but I wouldn't know because all I see on TV is a bunch of out of work actors who can't a job on Apple commercials (because Apple just uses blue shirt geeks now in their commercials) dancing around like cool kids, snapping their surfaces.
Hint: It's a tablet, not a musical instrument.
This is a classic example of old school marketing that simply does not integrate digital and social best practices from 5-10 years ago.
To the execs at Microsoft, I'd like to volunteer my services free of charge to help you turn your frown upside down and Flip your Funnel.
In Life after the 30-second spot, I wrote about R.U.E. - Relevance, Utility and Entertainment (which I would now rename as - Customer - Experience). Now Jay Baer has written the definitive book on Utility. What a novel idea…brands actually being useful! Bravo!
I was just interviewed for About.com in their Entrepreneur column. Also, Saymedia wrote a very cool column on 10 Interesting Media Winners on Kickstarter. To be listed alongside heavyweights like Veronica Mars Movie Project (Warner Bros) and Zach Braff is pretty cool...but then again, so is Z.E.R.O.
Even though we reached our funding goal, this doesn't mean the project is over. In fact, I hope that you will get behind this project for a bunch of reasons:
It's like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but much scarier, especially if you don't know what you're doing with respect to dealing with "backlashing" customer. Fortunately for you, author Paul Gillin, who - along with Greg Gianforte - wrote "Attack of the Customers' does know a thing or two about the emerging space.
In this episode of our monthly debates, Mitch and I tackled the "Rise of Machines" i.e. automation of marketing & advertising versus "How do you Scale Humanity?" with respect to investing in talent and "humans" to serve "other humans." It's The Matrix meets Sixth Sense. Creepy! @mitchjoel and @jaffejuice
My first Online Spin article, where I revisit good old Second Life as an analogy to present day commitment to startups by brands. It's all about patience, commitment, perseverance and staying the course, but more importantly, it's about recognizing that brands (and not the media) have the power to make the difference in terms of an emerging platform.
I guess I was called a “Second Life booster” back in the day -- and guess what, I was OK with that. I still am. As an early adopter (professionally) in the virtual world of Second Life, I witnessed firsthand the highs and lows; how the press initially went gaga over it, and then turned their back, to the point of making it their personal vindictive mission to destroy evidence of any self-created hype.
Perhaps my former company’s island of crayonville was a utopian oasis that existed in the eye of the storm. Perhaps our “Virtual Thirst” foray for our client, Coca-Cola, was the exception to the norm, since the brand did not (like many others in the early days of Second Life) get pelted with flying penises for its troubles.
In many respects, we were witnessing a mini-bubble being artificially pumped up and then burst in spectacular fashion. And all the while, real people were making real money -- admittedly, doing unreal things.
Virtual worlds, gaming environments, augmented reality, avatars and 3D simulation should not be alien terms to you. It should not come as a surprise that these items once coexisted in perfect harmony with each other, along with red dragons and drag queens. What might surprise you is my assertion that brands were to blame for the demise of Second Life.
Can you imagine if Christopher Columbus had looked out his telescope at the “New World” only to see angry, strange-looking people with painted faces and ornate head dressings waving native weapons -- and subsequently turned around to head back to Europe?
Sound familiar? It should be, because it’s the same scenario that happened in Second Life. And I hope it doesn’t happen again with respect to collaborating with startups.
These days, brands have become enamored with the next bright and shiny object, namely conducting tests or experiments with startups. Only startups aren’t some passing fad, gimmick, flavor of the month or test tube guinea pig. Collectively, they represent value propositions or utilities that disrupt norms, challenge conventions and move markets. Only they won’t get to realize their vision -- their proof of concept -- if brands continue to hold them at arm’s length, dispatching their agency minions to negotiate the impossible “big ideas at scale.”
Innovative and unprecedented executions are absolutely doable. It falls apart when brands turn away because the reach isn’t there -- or, put differently, they can’t measure or compare these “startlings” to incumbent blunt instruments like TV, radio, print or even online.
My message to brands is very simple: don’t be turned off startups’ lack of reach. In fact, this should turn you on! You’re dealing with the most fertile real estate, untouched and unspoiled by the “masses” (even your competitors). You have the incredible opportunity to help them achieve their path to reach with your brand dollars, talent, resources and media.
You have the unique chance to join forces with them at the earliest possible stage to co-create and own that big idea.
And, irony of ironies, you have Second Life to thank.
I have a love-hate relationship with Apple. I’d like to describe myself as a Pragmatic Advocate (as opposed to a Zealot Fanboy prepared to sleep outside for 5 days to get a phone that everyone else will have within days or weeks).
I personally have switched almost entirely to Apple products (Phone, Pad, Air) based on the unbeatable form and function combination that truly is superior to anything else on the market. I don’t do this blindly. I feel like it’s been a logical and natural process. I love the tangible product family, however I really love the intangible service and experience excellence (Blue shirts, Genius, 1-to-1) that truly separates them from their competition.
With a bar set so high, one would think it’s OK to slip up once in a while. Perhaps they’ve earned a Mulligan or two in the marketplace. Only that they actually slip up more often than one would think (the antenna fiasco, battery issues, cracked screen, overheating – the list goes on.) My problem with the company is their detached closedness, secretive opacity and perceived arrogance associated with how they go to market.
This is a company that projects aloofness and a superiority complex, which does not behoove a humble leader. I say that intentionally, because I don’t think they want to be humble. They absolutely believe they know better than their consumers and aren’t influenced by the market.
I don’t even have a problem with that. I just wish the company would — occasionally — admit when they’ve made a mistake.
Here’s the most recent one: My new iPhone 5 arrived on Friday, Sept. 28. Today (as I write this), it’s October 12.
I still don’t have a case for my iPhone.
The Apple store has nothing in stock. In fact, they’ve never received a single case. They also have “no idea” when they’ll receive cases. They are, however, very happy to sell you Applecare for $100 and a $49 replacement fee for when (not if) you drop your caseless phone and crack the screen.
My latest MediaPost column is up, which focuses on how Nike used Fuelband to activate their #FindyourGreatness platform. Or perhaps it was the other way round.
It's a great example of what happens when "you put 1 (technology) and 1 (creativity) together? You get 12, August 12, 2012 to be specific. #findyourgreatness Day. On August 12, all Fuelband users had an opportunity to set a “world” record of Fuel earned in a single day. A global challenge uniting every single customer. In addition, individuals had the opportunity to set their own personal best and break their records."
to the reincarnated and reinvigorated Jaffe Juice.
What was once a weekly op-ed column is now an unshackled, uncensored and uninhibited dialogue
on the subjects of new marketing, advertising and creativity.