Best Practices stalls improvement

Every “Best practice” should come equipped with a “Perfect enough” definition. If they don’t they are a recipe for stagnation. Here’s why:
When an organisation takes a new initiative, i.e. developing a Christmas themed ad campaign, and that initiative works, it would be complete idiocy not to do it again. The next time around the experience gained in the first implementation creates improvement in execution which in turn leads to improved results. This virtuous cycle continues, and the initiative becomes an institution, and somewhere around that time improvements cease to happen. You still get good results, but you don’t get significantly better results no matter how hard you try.
This is perfectly natural. Almost every type of activity has a limited max potential and as you get nearer to maxing out, the same effort to improve the execution yields less and less improvement of (business) results. It’s called an asymptote, a value that you can get close to, but never reach. In my experience it’s usually the S-shaped version that pops up in business, with a slow start, a good ROI on efforts in the middle, and then that discouraging lessening of improvement at the end.
What happens to almost all businesses (and their marketing departments efforts) is that by getting good at something and dubbing it a “best practice” they tend do do more of it long after they’ve stopped improving results. Good advertisers continue to increase media spend. Strong sales forces keep paying for ever moire training of sales people. Clever innovators focus even more on features. Imagine what would happen if they borrowed some insights from each other! But self-critique is hard (don’t I know it) and when the tactic feels good, it works, it’s safe, why bother casting for something else?
This is when your organisation needs to realize that you’ve traveled the curve beyond the point where it’s “perfect enough”, and you should be searching for new initiatives that still have potential to deliver meaningful payoff on invested effort and resources.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be doing things that work. But good development takes good resource management, and if your looking to improve maybe it’s time to quit digging ever deeper and instead go prospecting at some other place. There’s got to be something you haven’t tried yet.

We are all competing with the Xbox

Not too long ago, if you had something interesting to say or something exotic to show you had a pretty decent chance of actually getting through to most people. And I really mean “most people” as in the majority of your nation or culture. After all, people led fairly predictable lives full of repetetive tasks and a slow information flow. You might think I’m referring to agricultural villages in the early 1900’s, but no, I mean the 70’s when I grew up.  At that time you could even catch the attention of a classroom full of 10-year-olds by telling them of far away places and historical times.
Those days are gone. Now, teachers are up against the Xbox. Or 48 tv-channels. Or the Internet. And they don’t stand a chance if they try running their old routines. This goes for all of us. Even if your target audience isn’t comprised of clan-members on WOW they are still likely to have high standards of reference when they decide what they’ll pay attention to. Do you really think your average print ad will do the trick? No, you’re right, it won’t. So what to do?
We all have to work with what’s unique and/or sought after. When it comes to education I’m convinced teaching could be much more effective if the classroom experience was had out of the classroom to a greater extent. Involving more grown-ups (parents, volonteers, etc), integrating subjects, and getting more hands-on experimenting will probably also be good things to try.  All of those are things the Xbox can’t do.
For businesses this means NOT trying to do what the market leader is doing, especially if all the competition is copying the leader. This is not news to any marketers, and still, incredibly many marketers do just that. The fastest path to getting some attention is usually to earn it. Create something worth paying attention to. Write a book about the stuff you know and your clients don’t and give it away for free. They’ll still come to you for help, trust me, but this time they’ll listen. Don’t piggyback on bought celebreties. Instead find some that actually like what you do, and put the spotlight on it. If they come to you instead of the other way around you’ll also save yourself some of the embarressment of having sponsored the wrong spokesperson (someone up for sponsoring Tiger Woods? anyone?No? He still plays very well.)
So remember that the next time you try to get some attention in this day and age: We are all competing with the Xbox.

How to avoid dirty quick-fixes and encourage longterm solutions in democratic elections

What is the problem?

The strategy for politicians and political parties today is to make promises of a better tomorrow if you vote for them and where tomorrow was once a metaphor for a long future, but nowadays it’s literary tomorrow.

Why is this a problem?

Personally I don’t think that the literal tomorrow is fixable, it’s way to late. Politicians arguing about how which brand of silver-tape to use to fix the leaking boat is less appealing to me when I have the strangest feeling that no one is working on a solution to avoid the giant iceberg ahead. It makes the whole process of voting a bit pointless, and people that are not engaged by old school ideology catchphrase questions less likely to vote at all.
(If you don’t consider that a problem you can stop reading now)

The solution

Instead of one we should elect three cabinets layered like this:
1. The Here and Now Cabinet.
2. The Not Yet But Soon Cabinet. Dealing with issues 4-5 year into the future
3. The Way Ahead of You Cabinet. Dealing with issues 10-15 year into the future

What would that accomplish?

For the Here and Now Cabinet the effective strategy to get elected probably remain the same. Vote for me and you will get less taxes, higher income or why not both? We still need people looking out for the quick fixes. They would however have an option to sync their message with long term goals as well.
However to get elected for the Not Yet But Soon Cabinet and would have to win the debate dealing with consequences of policies that the candidates for the Here and Now Cabinet are proposing. Their strategy would also be to co-tail and follow up on popular policies from the Way Ahead of You Cabinet.
To be elected for the Way Ahead of You Cabinet you have to debate your opponents on really big issues.

Why not just have one cabinet with ministers looking out for the different perspective?

Without prototype testing I can’t say for sure that that wouldn’t solve the problem, however I do see the risk for business as usual if the day to day work is not split into three separate entities. If you have tasks you have to solve today you are less likely to devote any time to plan tasks that have due date ten years from now.

What’s next?

Obviously there is a massive amount of details that need to be tested before rollout, and you have probably spotted problems with this model already. I don’t mean problems like it would be impossible to radically change a the parliamentary system of a country, that’s just short term thinking, but real what if problems. If you do, please post your feedback and especially if you agree that this is a problem.. And if you can think of a problem and a solution as well that would be even better. Why not do your own blogpost response? Post the link if you do.
The next step I’d like to try : Test a prototype by role-playing a mock government scenario to find problems. Would you like to join?
This entry was posted by Tomas Seo on

Great insight requires great creative – even in B2B

I have worked with several B2B brands, and most of them had a very good grasp on what made their customers excited. Others quickly recognized the importance of what I  found out while researching their target markets. Insight seems to come natural to people in B2B markets. Unfortunaltely, I can’t say the same for their grasp of creative execution.
Now, here’s a cautionary tale on the dangers of not being able to make the leap of faith from strategy to execution: You’re in B2B. Everyone you deal with is a pro. They might not buy one of your products every year (because it’s a huge machine that costs $50 000) but they are experienced and know what they want. You also know what they want, because like you’re buyers you’ve lived practically you’re whole life in this business. And what they want is a turbo-charged RX450 compressor powered Rock Combustor that will run 4500 hours or more before requiring maintenance.

Tomas Lundgren

Tomas Lundgren

There are many other firms selling similar machines, cheaper, more expensive, higher powered, etc, but you are the only one who sell such a low-maintenance machine at a reasonable price in the high-power segment. You’ve got your insight into the target audience down pat. If anyone buys this, it’s because they know maintenance is a real drain on the overall budget to keep a machine fleet operational. So, you brief the agency. The agency people nod and take notes and go to work.
They come back with a concept that is visually daring, has a memorable pun in the headline, and really stresses maintenance costs, but it doesn’t show the machine. Instead the image shows a guy dressed in a business suit asleep in a bed (aren’t we supposed to appeal to a male audience here?) with a “dream bubble” above where dollar bills are jumping across a fence. You immediately feel uneasy. This doesn’t look like what your company usually put in its ads. Actually, no one in your industry have ads that look this way. There’s supposed to be a machine in the picture. Or a bikini babe. Or both.
You’re customers are serious people that buy serious, powerful equipment for serious amounts of money. This is not going to work. So you say you like the copy and appreciate that it makes a good, strong point for maintenance cost reduction, but end up giving your great-idea-but-I-don’t-know-if-I-like-this speech to the agency team.
The art director stares at the table. The copy writer says it reinforces the headline that you said was good. The account manager tries to make a case for it, but quickly accepts defeat and takes the team back to the agency to have another go. A week later they arrive again, this time without the art director. It now looks like a typical industry ad, but nice. They’ve used your best product shot and done some quite magical effect in some image processing software and it looks stunning. Your boss is gonna love it. The guys at engineering is going to pin it to the wall and buy you a round. The customers are going to be impressed. This is going to work!
But of course it doesn’t.
Your customers, while not insensitive to the seductive image of a powerful yellow machine in a glowing late afternoon light, are so used to seeing product shots that they just skim over your ad. They are busy worrying about all that money disappearing in maintenance, and actually, they haven’t been able to sleep very well lately because they are going to take serious heat because of that budget running wild. They sure would like to find a low-maintenance machine, but can’t.
Your company still sell it’s quota that year. You even get a little bonus, and you’re very popular with engineering. Everything has worked out fine, just like last year , and the year before that.

75 million users that doesn’t Twitter


Yes I have a login for Twitter. I registered, tried it, didn’t find it very stimulating. Not much fun reading, and mostly frustrating to write. I simply never got hooked on Twitter, or the other examples of “micro blogging”, but I always put that down to me being a very sophisticated and selective consumer of communication. Turns out I’m more the absolut prototype for the regular Twitter account registree.

Twitter’s been dragging in new registrations in huge numbers over the last years, but the truth is the vast majority of those people never use it. It so happens that only about 17% of people ever send a single tweet in a given month. And 40% have never ever sent a Tweet!! Twenty-five percent have no followers.And on top of that, fewer and fewer new users are joining.

Still, 17% of 75 million are still very very many people that at least send one tweet a month. But the numbers show that maybe the hype is very far off the mark, and we need to question just how engaging Twitter really is. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, social media is not about the tools but the thinking.

Just as with styles of music though, new communication formats seldom disappear entirely. It will be interesting to see where Twitter and microblogging will find it’s balance and becomes appreciated bythe majority of it’s users because it fullfills some special need that other formats don’t.

Here’s the original post at Clickz.