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Upcoming Presentations

  • Womma_orlando_1
    At the WOMMA Basic Training Conference (Jan 19-20), I’ll be sharing some Brand Autopsy wit and wisdom as a panelist during the WOM: Is It Marketing or Customer Experience? breakout session. [LEARN MORE]


November 22, 2005

Lowest Common Coffee Denominator


Last year, I had some thoughts about the Fast Company web-exclusive article on Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) be faster and be cheaper business strategy to siphon customers away from Starbucks. And recently I shared some more thoughts with Stephen Rodrick, writer from NEW YORK MAGAZINE, on DD’s push into New York City.

In his “Average Joe” article, Stephen writes about DD's lowest common coffee denominator approach …

“At Starbucks, your coffee is lovingly prepared by that eager, bright-eyed barista, cup by custom-made cup. At the second Dunkin’ stop, a pencil-thin store at 43rd and Second, the Dunkin’ Eight watched approvingly as a nameless staffer took three orders in a minute, hitting a red button for two sugars and a green one for a dash of milk. Customers came and went as if on an invisible conveyor belt. “See how quickly we move them through?” said one of the Dunkin’ ocho. “In and out, in and out.”

What I was witnessing, of course, is the McDonaldization of coffee. Following the model of the Golden Arches, Dunkin’ prizes speed and sameness above all else (Dunkin’ is owned by Pernod Ricard, a French conglomerate, but its stores are all franchised). In addition to its state-of-the-art push-button standard-coffee machines, each Dunkin’ store has an $8,000 espresso-and-latte machine. The goal is simply for every cup to taste identical, whether you’re in midtown or Park Slope. It may not be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had, but you can rely on its predictability. And, again copying the McDonald’s model, it will be there instantly.”

SOURCE: New York Magazine | “Average Joe” | Stephen Rodrick

November 21, 2005

Home Depot’s Parking Lot Advertising

During brainstorm/ideation sessions, any thoughts that are off-topic, off-base, or need future follow-up get written down in a proverbial parking lot. Well, some marketing ideas are best left on parking lots in conference rooms -- not in parking lots of retail shopping centers. Case in point ... a Home Depot parking lot in Austin, TX.


Who are the ad creeps behind this ad creep? Parking Stripe Advertising are the creeps.

November 19, 2005

Forget RSS, We Got Bigger Issues


According to this Wall Street Journal online poll, 62% of voters do not read blogs. [Ouch.] And, only 17% read more than five blogs. [Double Ouch!] Seems to me we need to get folks to read blogs before we worry about whether or not they use RSS.

Whattaya say we all agree to tell five people this week about a few blogs we like. Then after we get these five new folks hooked on blogs, let’s agree to tell them how to use RSS to make reading blogs easier. Deal?

November 18, 2005

RadioShack’s Holiday Irrelevance

This Holiday season expect to see a lot of RadioShack advertising. Kieran Hannon, RadioShack’s vp of marketing and brand communication, had the following to say regarding RadioShack’s heavy-up Holiday advertising blitz …

“We want to entertain [consumers] and make RadioShack relevant and exciting again for people to shop at. We have high awareness, but not high relevance. People don’t realize the depth and breadth of products we have.” [SOURCE: Adweek | Nov. 7 | pg.6]

Hmm, I’m not sure RadioShack gets it. It being … it’s not what you do during the 6-weeks leading up to Christmas that makes a business relevant. It’s what you do during the 46-weeks leading up to the Holidays that makes a business relevant.

If you are expecting a multi-million/multi-dimensional Holiday advertising blitz to make a brand relevant, then you should expect to fail. Businesses and brands are not made with heavy-up Holiday advertising. They are made with all the everyday marketing and business activities done in the many months before Christmas comes.

November 16, 2005

RSS Needs to Come With the Cup

a follow-up to my earlier post about RSS
What if the only way you could get a cup of Starbucks coffee was to bring your own cup? Sure, we could do that and some of us would. But the majority would of us find it too difficult to always bring a cup with us to get our coffee.

That’s how I see this RSS thing.

I still have to bring my own cup in order to get it filled with website/blog updates. I don’t mind bringing my own cup. But for RSS to go beyond reaching the few and into the many, we cannot expect others will be cool with bringing their own cup. RSS needs to come with the cup. Dig?

The Wrongview of the RSS Worldview

A wise marketer once said, "Don’t try to change someone’s worldview is the strategy smart marketers follow." But this same wise marketer (Seth Godin) is trying, for a second time, to change the majority of his blog readers’ worldview.

In a recent blog entry, Seth points out that the percentage of his blog readership from RSS feeds is “scary-low.” Seth then goes on to simply explain what RSS is and how to subscribe to his blog using an RSS feeder. This is the second time Seth has tried to get his readers to do something they either don’t care to do or still don’t know how to do. Or maybe most people don’t want to have an RSS reader.

The only way RSS is going to work is if we don’t know its there. RSS needs to be 100% invisible. RSS needs to be baked inside every program on everyone’s computer. RSS must be seamless to reach the masses. We shouldn’t have to use an add-on program and copy/paste geeky code to use it. It has to be simpler. It has to fit our worldview like so many other computer applications of being super easy to use, we don’t even know we are using it.

Yes … RSS is not for nerds anymore. However, RSS is still too geeky for the rest of us.

November 14, 2005

Interview with Anne Saunders, Starbucks marketing svp


From the folks behind Reveries “Cool News of the Day,” comes THE HUB, a bi-monthly online magazine designed for senior-lever marketers. The latest issue of THE HUB has just been posted online and it includes a Q&A; with Anne Saunders, Starbucks senior vice-president of marketing.

Given my insider knowledge of Starbucks, I found the article interesting and I think you will as well. Below are a few snippets and quick Brand Autopsy take on one of Anne Saunders’ comments.

Anne Saunders on how Starbucks goes about “marketing”…
”It really is about connecting with someone in a more intimate, experiential way that we think will have longer lasting ability to build affinity than a 30-second TV commercial or an ad. Yes, we do some advertising, and we see value in that as well. But I have a team of people who, given our product line, are focused on what we are going to do in the stores, and how we communicate that.”

Anne Saunders on Starbucks & traditional advertising …
”The thing I’ve learned since I’ve come to Starbucks is that advertising isn’t the only way. You can be extraordinarily successful as a business using what people would call non-traditional means. It’s really
expanded my view of how one creates awareness and builds loyalty and affinity among customers. It’s expanded my notion of how important experience versus information or one-way communication can be.”

Anne Saunders on communicating with in-store Starbucks customers …
”The average customer is in our store six times a month. If I look at our heaviest 20 percent of customers, they’re in our stores an average 16 times per month. So I have this great opportunity to have those people have an experience and a relationship with us that in many, many businesses you don’t. So, part of that gives me the luxury to think about marketing in a different way.”

Anne Saunders on the Hear Music CD-burning stations …
”We’re doing awesome with the music venture overall but we are definitely still in test mode with the burning stations. I don’t agree with the thesis that it’s not going very well. It’s been a really strong and healthy part of our business, and we’ll keep at getting the digital piece right. It’s new. No one else is doing it. We really want to make sure we learn and get it right.”

BRAND AUTOPSY TAKE >> Hmm … reading between the lines here, I surmise the Starbucks CD-burning station project is on hold … indefinite hold. If you recall in a Fast Company cover story (June 2004), Starbucks announced plans to roll-out the CD-burning stations to 1,000 locations by this time. However, less than 50 stores have been outfitted with the CD-burning device. I live in Austin, TX, one of the test markets for the CD-burning venture, and haven’t seen anyone burn a CD in months.

Anne is spot-on when she says Starbucks is still trying to solve for getting the digital piece right as users of the music kiosk can only burn tracks to a CD and not download tracks to an MP3 player. Big miss. However, by having a digital pipeline in-store, it opens up lots of future opportunities for Starbucks to take advantage of.

  • Click here to access the full interview (.pdf file) with Anne Saunders in THE HUB
  • For vintage Brand Autopsy comments on the Starbucks CD-Burning kiosks click here and here.
  • November 11, 2005

    Ideas versus Opinions

    Dustin Staiger on the differences between IDEAS and OPINIONS.


    >> LINK <<

    Smart thinking, eh?

    November 08, 2005

    Starbucks Holiday Red Cup

    Paul Williams, Brand Autopsy alum and current Idea-Sandbox guy, is sharing some behind-the-scenes stories on what it’s like to manage a Holiday retail promotion at Starbucks. (Paul should know … he managed three of them during his time at Starbucks.)

    In Paul’s first entry, he points us to the online campaign Starbucks is running this year – Enjoy.

    November 05, 2005

    Getting Back in the Box

    “… if you always have to think outside the box, maybe it’s the box that needs fixing.”

    That’s one of my favorite quotes (albeit paraphrased slightly) from Malcolm Gladwell [source article link].

    And now, the forward-thinking Douglas Rushkoff has written a business book seemingly riffing off that profound line.


    Over the next few weeks, Rushkoff will be posting short excerpts on his blog from his to-be-published book -- GET BACK IN THE BOX: Innovation from the Inside Out. Sure, Rushkoff is preaching to this choir of one … but that’s cool … cause what he is preaching sure is tasty. Here’s an excerpted excerpt:

    American companies are obsessed with window dressing because they’re reluctant, no, afraid, to look at whatever it is they really do and evaluate it from the inside out. When things are down, CEO’s look to consultants and marketers to rethink, rebrand or repackage whatever it is they are selling, when they should be getting back on the factory floor, into the stores, or out to the research labs where their product is actually made, sold, or conceived. Instead of making their communications less [Saatchi & Saatchi] and more [Craigslist], they should be reinventing their core enterprise. >>MORE

    If You Want to Lead, Blog


    If You Want to Lead, Blog | Harvard Business Journal | Jonathan Schwartz

    As the COO/President of Sun Microsystems, Jonathan Schwartz is one of the more prominent c-level blogging execs. (Wander over to his blog and I’m sure you’ll be impressed with his candor and easy-going blogging style.)

    Throughout the recently held BLOGGING ENTERPRISE conference, Jonathan’s blog was mentioned as a benchmark blog for c-level execs. And whattaya know … in the November issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR), Jonathan has written a must-read article for any business wrestling with the idea of starting a company blog.

    Because HBR is super-vigilant about copying/posting/distributing their articles, I’m not comfortable setting this article free. (Take a look at the terms & conditions I had to agree to in order to access the article online.)

    Since I can’t free the article, I’ll share some key highlights…

    Many Sun Microsystems top-level execs blog. In their blogs, they talk about business strategy, company values, products in the pipeline, successes, and failures. Sun realizes this may seem risky but Sun believes it is riskier not to blog. Sun wants to be a part of the conversation that will go on whether or not Sun participates.

    By participating in the blogging conversation, Sun is able to communicate its corporate culture to not only customers but also to current and future Sun employees.

    For companies interested in blogging but not knowing where to start, Jonathan recommends first reading Sun’s blogging strategy and guidelines document. He goes on to make more recommendations for blogging companies …

  • use an honest, humorous, and open voice
  • show respect for the audience
  • don’t treat blogging like advertising
  • don’t micromange … communicate the guidelines and let company bloggers loose
  • revisit and modify your company’s blogging policy if need be
  • listen to feedback
  • respond to legitimate feedback
  • “Authenticity is paramount.”

  • This was only an abstract of the worthy read article. My advice is go to your local bookstore, open up the November issue of Harvard Business Review to page 30, and read the entire one-page article. Good stuff.

    November 04, 2005

    Blogging Enterprise Follow-Up

    I’m way tardy in posting takeaways from THE BLOGGING ENTERPRISE Conference. Alexander Muse and Scott Allen have provided full coverage and links to others covering all the goings-on from the conference so I'll refrain from regurgitating what's already been gurgitated.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was on a panel discussing using blogs/blogging to position a company as a thought leader. Joel Greenberg from GSD&M; superbly moderated the discussion which also included Charles Bess (EDS), Scott Rehling (Lava Studios/UT Football Vlog), and Todd Watson (IBM).

    During the panel discussion, I shared the following thoughts:

    Blogs help small companies look bigger and allows big companies to get smaller.

    When it comes to blogging, business size doesn’t matter. Since we are all using the same tools to blog, the playing field is level. Thus, small businesses can look bigger in the minds of customers by having a blog presence. And big businesses can get smaller by carrying on conversations with customers on a blog.

    It’s less what you say and more how you say it

    One barrier businesses face when deciding whether or not to blog is the issue of “what” should they blog about. That’s the wrong question to ask. It doesn’t really matter what a company says in its blog because customers are starving for any information that goes beyond a sound-bite from a commercial or a blurb of copy from an ad. What matters more is HOW a company says what it says. A company blog should be written in a genuine, forthcoming voice that shows personality and doesn’t succumb to hubris-heavy marketing speak. Think tonality, tonality, tonality.

    Have a take and don’t suck

    That’s the Jim Rome philosophy to good sports talk radio. This approach also applies to blogging, especially for individual bloggers wanting to get their message heard amongst the millions of other blogs competing for people’s attention. Having a take is about being interesting to get people interested. Not sucking is about being passionate and compelling. Wanna position yourself as a thought-leader? Then, have a take and don’t suck . Dig?

    Brand Autopsy Reader Mail

    Jeff Johnson writes

    John, good job at the blogging enterprise meeting. I'm a branding guy too, and was the one that asked the question about weighing the risks of content control versus uncensored blogs. As one who has spent a career creating brands, I still struggle with the idea that if I create a blog, anyone in my company can add to it, and anyone outside can too.

    One of the presenters at the meeting said that the old communication paradigm was that companies had the same message in brochures, Press releases, Web, etc., and this paradigm is dead. But what about the time-tested technique that "repetition builds retention." A blog post is a moment in time. How can you build a brand using point in time, one-off comments?


    Hmm … lots to chew on here Jeff. I’ll start, but I’m sure others will chime in and offer their perspectives.

    First, a blog post is one moment in time. But a series of blog posts are many moments spread across time. By consistently writing compelling blog posts, it makes relevant the old school technique of “repetition builds retention.”

    Now, when the speaker mentioned something about companies putting the same message in all its marketing collateral pieces, my takeaway was the speaker was referring to the highly refined and superficial language that many companies put in their brochures, press releases, etc… The best blogs reject superficial language for real words with real meaning. It’s less formal writing but more meaningful reading. Customers today are becoming more immune to super glossy marketing copy and many are appreciative when companies eschew hype for realness.

    As far as struggling with the idea of giving up top-down marketing control so that anyone anywhere can change/modify/add-on to it from the bottom-up … I must quote from BRAND HIJACK:

    “Marketing managers aren’t in charge anymore. Consumers are. Across the globe, millions of insightful, passionate, and creative people are helping optimize and endorse breakthrough products and services – sometimes without the companies’ buy-in. What exactly is going on? Let’s call it brand hijacking.

    Brand hijacking is about letting customers (and other stakeholders) to shape brand meaning and endorse the brand to others. It’s a way to establish true loyalty, as opposed to mere retention. We’re not talking about creating hype here. We’re talking about a new template for going to market. We’re talking about a complex orchestration o many carefully though-out activities. An above all else, we’re talking about being willing to collaborate with a group of people you’re not use to collaborating with: consumers.”

    [Source: BRAND HIJACK | Alex Wipperfürth | pg. 6]

    October 31, 2005

    Measuring Word-of-Mouth

    I’m surprised there has been virtually no chatter about Adweek’s feature story on Measuring Buzz. It’s probably because the article has been trapped deep inside Adweek’s guarded online gates. Consider the article hostage no more …

    DOWNLOAD | Psst! How Do You Measure Buzz (pdf) | Adweek | 10.24.05

    ”Indeed, the rise of word-of-mouth and buzz marketing couldn’t come at a better time – or a worse one. On one hand, it offers marketers the chance to bypass increasingly spotty communication channels and avoid the middleman known as paid media in favor of one of the oldest and most effective forms of communication. On the other hand, it is enormously difficult to quantify return on investment from this most ephemeral of media. A whole cottage industry has sprung up around the demand for word-of-mouth measurement. But so far, not even the companies that are best at monitoring word-of-mouth feel they’ve cracked the code.”

    That’s how Catharine Taylor, Adweek writer, sets up her story. From there she gives a quick run-down on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) from its purpose/vision to the Association’s terminology framework (WOMUnits, episodes, etc). [Click here for a PDF of WOMMA’s Framework Terminology.] Taylor then touches upon the work from Intelliseek, BuzzMetrics, and BzzAgent.

    However, the article never fully answers the question of how to measure word-of-mouth because that question has yet to sufficiently answered. WOMMA (of which Brand Autopsy is a member) and other groups are still working on figuring out the metrics issue.

    While Brand Autopsy is a WOMMA member, I’m less concerned about solving the measurement issue. Instead, I believe the bigger issues facing marketers today have to do with the WOM message more than the WOM metrics.

    The major reason why word-of-mouth hasn’t taken off is not because marketers lack the metrics to measure it. It’s because most products, services, and businesses simply aren’t worth talking about. Marketers should worry less about the metrics of “WOMUnits” and more about the message of the word-of-mouth activity. The more compelling and interesting the “WOMUnit,” the more people will talk about it.

    Also marketers need to realize word-of-mouth is more than a marketing issue -- it’s a business issue. Marketers cannot simply sprinkle magical word-of-mouth marketing dust to create long-lasting word of mouth. For endearing and enduring word-of-mouth to happen, the activity must become part of the company’s culture. Sustainable word-of-mouth is much more a way of doing business every day than a component to a two-week heavy-up marketing blitz.

    The Adweek article closes by quoting some smart thinking from Jim Poh, director of creative content at Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

    ”The more you measure it [word-of-mouth], the more you find ways to manufacture buzz. And manufactured buzz starts to feel like that.”

    Well said Jim … well said.

    October 28, 2005

    Song. Gone.

    NOTE: updated links (10.29.05)


    A few weeks ago I shared some Starbucks Tribal Knowledge. One of the nuggets I shared was how Starbucks never intended to build a brand. Starbucks was too busy building a profitable and viable business to worry about branding. The lesson I learned from working inside Starbucks was you cannot create a brand before you create a business. The business creates a brand. The brand should never create the business.

    Hmm … the brand should never create the business … hmm.

    That’s exactly what I thought today when I heard the news Delta was shutting down Song Airlines -- Song was all brand and no business.

    Song was too busy creating a brand to think about being a business. Song was too busy crafting a brand ethos to think about being a business. Song was too busy prescribing feelings than to think about being a business. Song was too busy designing signature cocktails and installing boutique Song stores in SoHo (NYC) to think about being a business. And because Song was busy working on and working in its brand, they built a brand, of which, the by-product was the creation of a weak business.

    Should this really surprise us? Song, after all, was built by marketers so it’s only natural the branding elements would come before the business elements.

    I’ll throw this out to you … what will Song’s legacy be?

  • The Persuaders (documentary)| Frontline (PBS) | stream parts 1 & 2 of this way worthy documentary to learn more about how Song was built by marketers.
  • Song’s Start Up Flight Plan (article)| Fast Company (June 2003)
  • Interview with Song’s CMO | Reveries
  • Interrview with Andy Spade | The Persuaders (online extra)
  • Peter Davidson (blog) | shares some Hot Marketing Opinions on Song | 10.28.05
  • Laura Ries (blog) | in typical Ries fashion, Laura has a strong take on Song | 10.28.05
  • Some guy named “Seth” (blog) | “Song wasn't a failure on at least one level ...” | 10.28.05
  • Rob Marsh (blog) | “Great brands start as great businesses.” | 10.28.05

  • Putting Faces to Blogs

    It’s always great to connect offline with someone you’ve connected with online. And this week I was able to put a few faces to a few blogs.


    First up was DUST!N from the Casual Fridays blog. As the VP of Programs for the Business Marketing Association (Tulsa Chapter), DUST!N invited me to share some Starbucks Tribal Knowledge at the chapter’s last meeting. Afterwards, DUST!N and I discussed a cool online venture we may introduce. If you have yet to wander over to the Casual Fridays blog … do so now.

    Next was Matt Galloway from The Basement blog. While at the BMA Tulsa event, I met Matt (and Hetty, his super-savvy marketing research wife). Matt has emerged on the blogging scene recently with his passionate takes on the power and potential of word-of-mouth marketing. His recap of the WOMMA NYC event was excellent!

    And I also met with Ethan from The Vision Thing blog. Recently I shared some thoughts about Whole Foods Market and in comments to my post, Ethan clued me in on the Sprouts Farmer’s Market store in Plano. After trading a few emails, we scheduled a time to tour the Sprouts store and then Ethan recorded our conversation where we dissected … I mean discussed … the Sprouts shopping experience. This conversation should turn up on one of Ethan’s The Sound of Vision podcasts.

    But wait, there's more … I get to put a few more faces to blogs next week when Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion) and Shel Isreal (Naked Conversations & It Seems to Me) are in Austin speaking at The Blogging Enterprise Conference. And … on Thursday, Mike Landeman (Here’s the Thing [blog] & Ripple [business]) and I will connect over a few beers at the Ginger Man.

    October 25, 2005

    What You Do vs. What You Did

    Via the WOMWatch blog

    In a worthy read ClickZ article, Mark Kingdon, Organic CEO, shares thoughts about what to do when a client requests a Subservient Chicken-like viral campaign. Mark writes …

    My advice is simple: take a (calculated) risk. Christian Haas, our group director of online advertising and our viral expert, says, "Stay consistent with what your brand stands for, but remember that sometimes the edgier the content, the higher the viral factor. You have to stretch beyond your brand comfort zone to capitalize on the power of viral."

    I have a different take. As a student of Sethology, my advice to clients is to spend dollars to make the product more remarkable, not to make the word of mouth tactic more remarkable. Otherwise, all people will be talking about is what your company did and not what your company does.

    When working with clients, I stress the importance of TELLING THE STORY and not Making Up a Story.

    TELLING THE STORY is about designing marketing communications to deliver on the promise all the while being clever, savvy, authentic, and true to the brand. It’s about treating consumers as being interesting and interested.

    While, Making Up a Story is when marketers engage in outrageously gimmicky attention-grabbing antics that over-promise and woefully under-deliver. These marketers treat consumers as being boring, indifferent, and brainlessly gullible.

    To me, the Subservient Chicken, Ugoff, Dr. Angus, and The King are diversionary marketing actions designed to get consumers to focus on the kooky creative Burger King did and not on the food Burger King does.

    Sure, people are talking about The King on blogs and such … but no one is talking about the breakfast goodies The King is hawking. As a marketer, I want people talking about what a company does and not what they did. Dig?

    Sex Sells

    Egads … looks like more sexually suggestive print advertising is in order. A recent survey conducted by MediaAnalyzer (pdf) reveals purchase intent increases when using sexual imagery in advertising targeted at men. However, brand recall suffers because men are too busy ogling the hotties and not the logos.

    Take a look at this Adweek article (pdf) analyzing the survey results. It shows the viewing patterns of how the men and women survey respondents look at sexual and non-sexual advertising. It’s a revealing look at how differently men and women view print ads.


    SOURCE: Adweek | Does Sex Really Sell? (pdf) | Oct. 17, 2005]

    October 24, 2005

    The Blogging Enterprise Conference


    It’s about time a conference on business blogging came to a top-ranked creative class city like Austin, TX. On Wednesday, November 2nd, THE BLOGGING ENTERPRISE conference will invade the badlands of Central Texas.

    This conference has been designed to offer attendees provocative, yet practical, ideas on how businesses can get smarter about using blogs, vlogs, and podcasts to better connect with customers.

    Steve Rubel (MicroPersuasion blog) will kick-off the conference and Shel Isreal (Naked Conversations [blog | book]) will close the conference. And in-between … there will be panels on Citizen Marketing, Anticipating & Managing the Blogstorm, and Using Blogs to Position Businesses as Thought Leaders.

    [Psst … I’ll be sharing some Brand Autopsy wit and wisdom as a panelist on the Using Blogs to Position Businesses as Thought Leaders discussion.]

    Come join us at THE BLOGGING ENTERPRISE Conference. The registration fee is only $170 and by attending … you’ll be the first on the blog block to receive a copy of NAKED CONVERSATIONS.

  • Conference Agenda
  • Speakers List
  • Online Registration

  • October 19, 2005

    Mad Money Red Fez


    Wander over to Sam Decker’s blog for his <<Jim Cramer meets Seth Godin>> Web Site Lightening Round blog posting series. Sam is reviewing websites and offering insightful and actionable advice on ways to improve them. Good stuff … well worth a visit.

    October 18, 2005

    Magazine Clips


    Forgot where I first saw the collection of the 40 Best Magazine Covers from the last 40 years … oh yeah, at the Tom Peters blog … and Worthwhile just mentioned it so I’m jumping on the blog bandwagon.

    The .PPT slide show the ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors) plopped up on their website showing the winning covers is worthwhile viewing for creative (and non-creative) marketing types. However ... after some slight tweaking, like trashing the garish gradient red background and adding covers # 1 - #10, it shows better. Take a two-minute break and have a look …

    ASME 40/40 Magazine Show
    [6.2MB (.ppt) download]

    October 17, 2005

    Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is Blogging

    Mackey_3For a much deeper dive into the business philosophy/social responisbility of Whole Foods Market, check out John Mackey’s Blog. Yep, late last month Whole Foods Market CEO began blogging.

    Mackey’s initial posting is less a blog entry and more about giving us access to a very insightful article from Reason magazine on “Rethinking the Social Responsibility of Business.” The article is a debate pitting the business philosophies of John Mackey with uber-Libertarian Milton Friedman and ardent shareholder value advocate T.J. Rodgers, founder/CEO of Cypress Semiconductor.

    As I mentioned, this article is a very deep dive into the philosophies of mixing business values and with social values so it ain’t casual reading … dig?

    The great thing about Mackey’s blog is comments are open.

    October 16, 2005

    The Winning Ways of Whole Foods Market


    An article in the October 24th issue of BusinessWeek takes a somewhat critical look at Whole Foods Market (WFM). It questions whether or not the company can sustain its sales gains, ambitious new store growth plans, and its cachet with customers. One of the business areas the article questions is WFM’s decentralized infrastructure.

    ”As Whole Foods gets scale, its ability to efficiently manage distribution becomes a greater issue, too. It has 11 geographic divisions, each boasting its own president and handling its own store network. That's fine for a regional player, but a company that aspires to have $10 billion in annual sales within the next few years requires a more centralized strategy. Right now, everything from transportation to product sourcing is local. "They don't have a professional supply chain," says one consultant familiar with the company. Whole Foods is working on these logistical issues, but faces less pressure to be efficient because of premium prices.” MORE

    Having spent time as WFM’s Director of National Marketing, I experienced first-hand how the company’s decentralized infrastructure fosters bottom-up innovation (not top-down direction) to drive sales and build the brand. To give you a better insight into the unique business and marketing culture of Whole Foods Market, I’ve outlined 10 core philosophies the company follows.

    1 | Maximum Freedom. Minimum Governance.
    WFM operates under the belief stores should have the freedom to meet the needs of its unique customers and team members. The only governing rule all stores must dogmatically adhere to is all food sold at WFM must be free from artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils.

    However, unwritten social rules do govern stores. These unwritten social rules come in the form of ‘best practices’ which its stores and regions openly share.

    2 | Small Pieces Loosely Joined
    WFM is comprised of entirely teams. Every corporate/regional department is a team. Every store is a team. Every department in every store is a team. And every employee is a team member. The success of the company team is dependent upon the collective success of all the teams.

    WFM believes in self-directed teams and its success is dependent upon the shared fate of all team members working together on every team. Every small piece is loosely joined and requires interdependence to reach store level and company level team goals.

    3 | Getting Bigger by Acting Smaller
    WFM decentralizes nearly every business function. The regions are charged with procurement of product, training of store team members (store employees), PR/marketing activities, and making business critical decisions.

    As WFM gets bigger, it actually gets smaller.

    In 2002, WFM operated 140 stores with 9 regions. Today, WFM operates 176 locations with 11 regions. By decentralizing decision-making to the increasing number of regions, WFM is able to reduce corporate bureaucracy.

    WFM seeks to make as many decisions as possible at the regional level, a level closer to understanding the local shopper than a centralized corporate entity ever could understand.

    4 | Food as Theater
    A trip to a conventional grocery store is a shopping chore. While a trip to Whole Foods Market is a place to explore.

    WFM emotionalizes the shopping experience by appealing to the five senses. Its stores are spotless and the merchandising displays are beautiful to the eyes. Shoppers are encouraged to taste and to touch everything in the store. WFM is a muzack-free zone and thus doesn’t sound like a traditional grocery store. And the smell of bread, coffee, smoked meats, and fruits waft throughout every WFM. WFM celebrates food like it is a theatrical production.

    5 | Shoppers as “Brand” Ambassadors
    Through extraordinary customer service and exceptional customer experiences, WFM believes it can turn its shoppers into brand ambassadors who will voluntarily extol the virtues of WFM to their friends and family. So instead of using traditional advertising vehicles, WFM uses the influential power of customers as the advertising vehicle.
    6 | Education Leads to Appreciation
    WFM appreciates and celebrates the role natural/organic foods can play in helping people live a happier, healthier, and more rewarding life. The company believes it can cultivate loyalty beyond reason with its shoppers by educating them on the natural/organic difference as it relates to better tasting food, healthier living, and the positive impact on the environment. At every opportunity, WFM communicates good food feels good.
    7 | Everything Matters
    WFM’s well-defined quality standards force the company to always question everything about every product it sells. WFM will NEVER compromise its quality standards. To become certified as the first national “Organic” grocer, WFM had to go to extreme lengths to prove to Quality Assurance International (QAI) they maintain the organic integrity of every product they sell. There is not another grocer the size of WFM that has also been certified “Organic.”
    8 | Price to Value
    WFM has no intentions to ever compete on low prices. WFM prices the products it sells to the value its customers have for the products. Shoppers value WFM’s values of pure, authentic, and flavorful foods so much so they will gladly pay more.
    9 | Profit is a Good Competitive Game
    WFM is a relentless competitor. The company has very little quit in them and will work extremely hard to overcome any deficiencies in its game.

    Deep inside, WFM is infatuated with profit because everyone profits from profits. Team members profit by having more job opportunities because profits enable WFM to grow. Customers profit by being able to enjoy the in-store theater made possible from profits. And the company profits by increasing shareholder wealth.

    10 | Team Members Make the Difference
    WFM views its team members as being the company’s true competitive advantage. Competitors can replicate its products and programs, but they will never be able to replicate its people.

    WFM does not take for granted the power of a knowledgeable, caring, and passionate workforce in creating highly satisfied customers. WFM has created a company culture which connects with their team members and they pass that connection onto WFM shoppers.

    If one were to take the WFM team member out from its business, Whole Foods Market would not be the successful company it is today.

    October 12, 2005


    Enough with the teasing ...

    The short and snappy Starbucks Tribal Knowledge nuggets I posted last week are to be included in a book I'm writing titled, TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE: Lessons Learned from Working Inside Starbucks [Dearborn Trade | Fall 2006].

    I’ve enjoyed all the blog conversations and email conversations we’ve had whenever we share thoughts about Starbucks. So for the TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE book, I’m going to add a FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ) section. But the trick is … I want as many questions as possible to come from YOU!

    Yep, here is your opportunity to learn some things you’ve always wanted to know about Starbucks but didn’t know whom to ask.

    Go ahead, ask me. And if your question makes it into TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, you’ll not only receive a free copy of the book … you’ll also receive mention in the book by name.

    Send all Starbucks FAQ questions to me at this email address:

    If you are at a loss for which questions to ask, here are a few thought-starters:
  • Why does Starbucks not scoop beans and instead sells pre-bagged coffee?
  • What have been the biggest problems Starbucks has faced in scaling its business?
  • Why does Starbucks not capitalize its job titles?
  • Why does Starbucks keep opening up multiple stores in the same intersection?
  • Why is it the pastries Starbucks sells do not taste as good as the coffee?
  • I've got a great product idea for SBUX, what should I do to let them know about it?
  • What can I do to get a marketing job at Starbucks?

  • Deadline for submitting questions is Sunday, November 13.

    October 11, 2005

    Food and Wine ... and The Soup Peddler!

    For a refresher course on the Soup Peddler … click here


    Yes … that’s David Ansel, the Soup Peddler, in a lengthy spread from November’s issue of FOOD AND WINE magazine. (Nice to see the Law of Remarkability in action.)

    This autumn we find the Soup Peddler in the beginning throes of his fifth soup season. But this year, many things have changed for Brand Autopsy’s favorite jumboSHRIMP Marketing business. Gone is the infamous delivery bike in favor of deliveries by refrigerated trucks. And gone is the single-minded soup menu. In its place is an expanded menu including entrees because as David said in an email to his Soupies,

    Soup has definitely been the ticket for this business. So why would I choose to 'water down' the company by expanding the menu?

    Well, I looked really long and hard at what we were doing, at what the Soupies were eating, and did a little experimentation, you'll recall, with menu expansion last season. When we offered non-soup items, they were every bit as popular as the soups, which led me to re-evaluate exactly the purpose we were serving in your lives.

    It was not about soup, it was about lovingly-made food.

    I thought about myself as a Soupie. If I was one, if I was overburdened at work, if I was pretty well stretched out by raising a family, if I couldn't bear to go out to a restaurant for dinner or bring in crappy take-out, well, I'd want more than just soup delivered to my door.

    What I find remarkable about the growth of the Soup Peddler is how he continues to get bigger by acting smaller through using three core jumboSHRMP Marketing rules.

    (1) Be the Best, Not the Biggest
    The Soup Peddler’s kudzu-like growth is 100% organic. The changes he has made to his business are designed merely to meet the increasing bottom-up demand from his devoted customers. Sure, he could easily double, triple, or quadruple sales by going into the wholesale soup business. But the Soup Peddler isn’t interested in going big to get bigger. He’d much rather continue to grow his business by being the best, not the biggest.

    (2) Fostering Customer Devotion, Not Customer Loyalty
    Loyalty schmoyalty. It takes more than customer loyalty to sell soup to hundreds of Austinites when its 108 degrees outside like it was the second week of the Soup Peddler’s fall soup season … it takes customer devotion.

    (3) Local Warming is Good
    The Soup Peddler not only warms one’s belly, he also warms the local community. Through his SoupShare Programme, he’s forming win-win relationships with local non-profits and schools. The Soup Peddler has become so intertwined within the fabric of the Austin community that his story is included in the recently opened play, Keepin’ it Weird.

    All this talk about the Soup Peddler is making me hungry for some … soup. Reckon, I’ll have to wait until next week for my Multi-Critter Gumbo and Zimbabwe Peanut Stew to satiate my soup pangs.

    October 10, 2005

    Social Shopping at Forth & Towne

    Check out the latest Business Week for interesting insights into GAP's newest brand extension ... Forth & Towne.

    The article details how GAP's Forth & Towne is using design to better connect with the wants (not needs) of women 35+. The center point of GAP's strategy is to tap into the emerging trend of social shopping, "... the notion that shopping can be transformed into a pleasurable communal experience."

    To encourage social shopping, GAP has chosen to focus much of its attention on designing Forth & Towne's fitting rooms to be more fitting for social interactions. Have a look-see ...

    "Architect David Rockwell created narrow, curtained doorways to emphasize the intimacy of the "fitting salon," which feels more like a small hotel lounge than a dressing room. Styles from Forth & Towne's four individual labels -- named Allegory, Vocabulary, Prize, and Gap Edition -- are mixed and matched in niches at the center of the store."

    "Rockwell designed the fitting salon to encourage interaction with friends, other shoppers, men-in-tow, and Forth & Towne "style consultants." A styling table will feature fresh flowers, complimentary bottled water, and magazines about fashion and other related lifestyle subjects, like gardening and home decor. Banks of hanging stainless-steel rods tipped with clear filament bulbs create a modern take on the classic department-store chandelier."

    "In an effort to empower shoppers to develop their own sense of style, Forth and Towne will individually decorate each fitting room, festooning it with unique wallpaper and fabric patterns. Mirrors on three sides and indirect lighting will ensure that customers -- and the clothes -- look their best."
    SOURCE: Business Week Online | article/images | Oct. 17, 2005

    October 08, 2005

    Funny Flyer

    I laughed out loud when I saw this flyer promoting an upcoming Texas Barbecue Festival. (And no, the belly below doesn't belong to me ... I'm much more svelte.)


    October 06, 2005

    Foster Healthy Dialogue

    [Eighth in a series of posts on Starbucks Tribal Knowledge]

    What happens when you gather a roomful full of passionate, and sometimes highly caffeinated, overachieving Starbucks Partners in a meeting? You get healthy dialogue.

    Starbucks has a peaceful business veneer but, behind closed doors in any of its 100+ conference rooms at its Seattle headquarters, you will witness heated and contested conversations.

    Starbucks would rather have these difficult conversations take place in conference rooms than in the hallways. That’s because Starbucks consensus-building decision-making culture requires all issues from all angles be discussed before a decision is reached. This can’t happen in a hallway conversation between just two people.

    In response to a rash of unhealthy hallway conversations which were undermining the effectiveness of Starbucks project teams in the early 2000s, former CEO Orin Smith posted Effective Meeting Rules signs in every conference room. These rules were designed to refocus and encourage healthy discussion for all Starbucks project team meetings.

    For Starbucks, an effective meeting follows these seven rules:
    1| Has clear objectives
    2| Follows a focused agenda
    3| Begins and ends on time
    4| Has a designated leader and attendees have clear roles
    5| Fosters open, honest discussion
    6| Communicates next steps and responsibilities
    7| Fulfills its objectives

    Participation is the Price of Admission

    [Seventh in a series of posts on Starbucks Tribal Knowledge]

    How many times have you sat idle in meetings or in conferences? Instead of participating, you choose to disengage yourself and simply coast.

    Coasting will not get you far at Starbucks. Your career will stagnate. You will get left behind. You will eventually get ejected.

    The most successful Starbucks Partners realize participation is the price of admission to meetings and conferences.

    When Starbucks Partners choose to accept an invitation to a meeting, they choose to come prepared to make a worthwhile contribution. They choose to offer their insights. They choose to ask the tough questions. They choose to participate.

    By participating, these Partners not only become a part of the consensus-building environment. They also help themselves get recognized as someone who cares about the business and as someone who is eager to make things happen.

    It’s eager partners who are the more successful employees at Starbucks.

    Starbucks Tribal Knowledge tells us participation is the price of admission to any meeting or any business gathering. Don’t procrastinate. Participate.

    October 05, 2005

    Locationing is Advertising

    [Sixth in a series of posts on Starbucks Tribal Knowledge]

    “Location, location, location” is the most well known mantra in the real estate game. Because of Starbucks, it is also becoming a well known mantra for savvy businesses to receive free advertising exposure.

    Locationing is a real estate/marketing strategy where every retail location also serves as a billboard for a business. Everything about a store’s physical exterior, from the awning to the logo on the side of the building to the company name in lights, is, in essence, a billboard communicating the business to customers.

    Starbucks locationing strategy is called Main & Main and the real estate department maximizes every opportunity to place Starbucks locations in the most highly visible and highly trafficked street corners ... just like advertisers do when selecting billboard sites.

    Locationing also extends to triggering impulse purchases from customers.

    Starbucks triggers impulse purchases from customers by locating stores near dry cleaners and video rental stores. Starbucks takes full advantage of the morning commute customer traffic generated from people dropping off clothes at the dry cleaners on their way to work. And, Starbucks positions itself to take advantage of attracting late afternoon customers picking up movies from video rental stores on their way home from work.

    Location, location, location … it’s not just for real estate anymore. It’s also for marketing.

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