Can you help me?

I’ve been re-reading Nilofer Merchant’s book Eleven Ways to Add Value in the Social Era. I love this book.

It’s about context for business in the 21st century, creating value via social connections beyond an organizational construct. The organizational construct is the hallmark of the information era, but gets in the way of the social era, she says. I could not agree more.

People ask me all the time if I will help them. About 99% of the time, I say yes. Helping others is my secret weapon to stay informed.

I continue to see examples of just how much organizational structures get in the way of how great business sharing can work. In some organizations, it’s about cross-charging for people time. In my view this can be eliminated with a bit of hard work on compensation. When people within  the same company have a bunch of different P&L’s to manage and each one hits different wallets, it gets complicated.

The natural urge and tendency to share and give time to help others gets disrupted. It’s hard stop being helpful, and wow, can a lack of help cripple an organization quickly. I know a lot of folks who have to account for time in a dishonest way because they spent time helping others, and it’s just demoralizing.

Ms. Merchant sees a day when companies will have to reconcile profit and purpose. I see inability to for many leaders (especially in marketing) to face the fact that NOW is that time. It’s not hard to respect, honor and reward the value of connected human contributors, in theory.

In practice, I see organizations that are still only crawling in an effort to move toward the constructs of truly allowing humans to add value in the social era.

How broken will business have to get before helping each other can become the only way to work?  Will business ever catch up to human nature?

Which comes first?

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The sale or the system? The process or the team?

I think the answer to all of these is a combination of effort and trust.

When the bird goes through the effort to lay the egg, she trusts in the opportunity for either a meal for someone else in the food chain, or the chance for a next generation.

When the smart person sells an idea that is great, they trust the organization that they represent will put in the required effort it takes to build the system to make it happen.

And when a process comes first, it works in theory, but sometimes its the sheer effort and trust (read KARMA) of a team can shine like a beacon to lead a client through new or muddy ground toward a big win.

And that is why some of us keep our heads high and our reputation on the line every day. Bring on the chickens and the eggs. We’re building a feast!



PayPal – Brand or Commodity?

Well. I just got an e-mail to take a survey about PayPal. I thought: “I use it, so why not take the survey?”

I think I flunked.  The invite told me it would take ten minutes, which I was willing to invest…but it only took two…..a sure sign of self-select termination survey research.

When I thought about it while answering the first few questions, the brand doesn’t really have a benefit to me other than it allows me to pay my tech service vendor with one-click.  I literally use it ONLY for that. When I answered the first two questions in that frank of a manner, the survey then stopped, and told me “Thanks, we have no further questions.”

Hmmmm. I have a sneaking feeling that in fact, PayPal might want to hear more about why I dumped its brand into a commodity category the moment I tried to find more than a convenience benefit and could not. I can’t recall thinking about wanting or trying to set up PayPal to be my go-to payment method for anything else. I have a (sort-of) positive feelings about the brand, but when pressed , those feeling are really not anything I’ve ever acted on.

The oddest thing is, as I dissect what just happened, I still can’t summon up any desire or reason to change things.

To think…how quickly what you might think is a brand can become just another commodity……..


When P&G Invests, Pay Attention

I am re-posting an article from today’s Wall Street Journal in its entirety. Why? Because in my twenty years of shopper marketing, I’ve learned that when P&G makes a commitment to anything designed to make it easier for consumers to stay in their billion dollar brand franchises, marketers everywhere should pay attention.

I think this investment is an AHA! moment in mobile marketing.  It has tremendous potential to be a huge moment of truth for P&G brands AND to ensure that shoppers can trust the tech just like they trust the P&G brands. It might take a while to get it right, but the magic of P&G investments is that they are early and insightful.


P&G Clears Plan for Mobile Coupons

Dec. 20, 2011 Posted in the Wall Street Journal, by HANNAH KARP

Digital coupons are catching on with consumers, but the market’s growth has been hampered by a pesky problem: Many retailers still aren’t equipped with laser scanners that can detect bar codes off of the reflective, shiny, backlit screen of a smartphone.

Procter & Gamble Co. is working on a potential solution. The consumer-goods giant said Monday it is working with start-up mobeam Inc. on a pilot program that will allow consumers to redeem coupons for P&G products straight from their phones. San Francisco-based mobeam has patented a way to beam out a bar code from the screen of a phone that is legible to normal laser scanners.

U.S. consumers saved more than $1.2 billion from redeeming digital coupons in 2010, according to a research report by digital-coupon provider, up 41% from a year earlier.

The challenge for mobeam now will be to get its technology integrated into smartphones so consumers can use it. The technology must be installed in the guts of a phone, which requires the cooperation of device makers.

Mobeam says it is working with handset makers so that tens of millions of phones hitting the market in 2012 will include its technology, though it declined to say what device makers it is in discussions with. Samsung Venture Investment Corp., the venture-capital arm of Samsung Group, a large maker of mobile devices, recently invested money in mobeam.

Scanning technology is improving slowly. Airlines and some retailers like Target and Walgreens have developed technology to scan bar codes off of the mobile coupons they issue themselves, but consumer companies cannot guarantee exactly where customers will be able to use their coupons since they don’t control the checkout lines.

For P&G, another potential payoff could come from the data it could gather from consumers who use the digital coupons. Mobeam says it will provide its partners with a trove of information about their mobile coupon users with consumer permission, allowing companies to track where and when they redeem them and what they buy.

Fascination Triggers – a shortcut worth exploring in shopper marketing

Were you, like me, taught that taking shortcuts is a bad idea? Were you taught that the slow and thorough way of working was “THE” path to success?

And do you, today, after working for many years, want to throw that slower way of working out the window for good and get on with life at the pace of NASCAR?

Tough call, isn’t it. When I’m in creation mode, especially when it comes to strategic insights, I make myself slow down and let things “bake in my brain” while I garden, take a walk, go shopping, or clean up my office. Subconscious contemplation time is essential to a lot of my good output and I am not going to shortcut that in any way.

But, when it comes time to DO SOMETHING with an insight, as in “create the brief that inspires the messaging to the target shopper”, I think there is a shortcut we forget about and don’t use. The short cut is to really understand the target, and get right to what the brain always craves when we write message concepts, and that is fascination. Sally Hogshead gives us a way to do just that in her Fascinate book.

The BENEFIT of the applying her concept is this: We can shortcut the TARGET SHOPPER’S decision making process to plus or minus 9 seconds when we hit the right triggers and cut right through all the distraction.


The only marketers who  can get away NOT cutting through distraction are “THE Monopoly” players. But I would posit that some of those, like Apple, got there because they “get the concept” and have applied it from the get-go.

I know it’s a long video, but block 20 minutes in the next few days to watch Sally Hogshead talk about the concept of fascination at TEDX Atlanta. In the video she gives us six fascination triggers. In the book, oddly enough, she gives us seven, and starts with lust.

Power. Passion. Mystique. Prestige. Alarm. Vice. LUST.

I just had to put LUST in all caps. It’s a shopper thing, right?

A month ago I bought her book and it’s already full of highlights, turned corners and margin notes. Sally encourages everyone to find their natural  primary, secondary combination of personal fascination trigger,  harness them in your first 9 seconds of everything you do. It will get you past “just communicating” and move you to “make people fall in love.”

Not only am I going to try this for a new biz concept/company I’m working on, I’ve also used it to identify the triggers for target shopper strategy projects as well. It may well be a very beneficial shortcut on the path to purchase.

I’ll post my 9 second round-up as soon as I finish the process. Wonder what my words will end up being?