marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Advertising Joke or Marketing Blunder?

Everytime I see this ad from Old Spice, I do a triple take.

  • First, my reaction is "ick" that's an ugly wolf.
  • Second, my reaction is "creepy, who is the ad targeting", and 
  • Third, my reaction is "what were they thinking? I would never buy that"

Are any of those reactions the desired response from guys? The women I've shown the ad to had similar reactions. Most said that the ads creeped them out and would make them think the guy who uses that particular Old Spice product was either dumb or smelly. My follow on question is why the "dumb" question, and the clarification is that "any guy who wears that trying to get woman would be dumb or desperate."

The optimist side of me approaches this add differently. Maybe, the agency is going for extra campy, maybe the idea is to be soooo bad, that it's good? Additional searches will yield additional funny/campy ads, so this is clearly an attempt to be funny. In fact, maybe there's some demographic where this does lead to sales lift.

I have yet to find anyone who thought that the ad was more funny than creepy, but at the same time I see that the ad continues to run. The only two explanations I can come to: 1) I completely don't get the demographic that this is targeted to, or 2) Someone in marketing at Old Spice is measuring lift around this ad.

I really hope someone is measuring the success of this ad, as I would love to learn what demo this ad pulls in.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Victoria's Secret is about Women in Technology

Another year, another Victoria Secret prank. It's a good day when fellow Mudders make the press in positive ways.

Incoming Freshman and Current Students at Tiny Liberal Arts College Band Together to Combat Victoria's Secret's Objectification of Women Their Own Way
The article is nice reminder that the web is a canvas where creative minds can vote or take other actions to support or raise awareness of their causes.

In this case, the cause is promoting women in technology and doing it via a Victoria Secret contest for a campus party.

Is the code mightier than the sword? Better yet, can it make a point when your numbers are small compared to larger and more popular organizations?

The results are in. Go Mudders.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nuke business meetings, save productivity

I just launched a free meeting time, cost, and waste tracker app for android and was pleasantly surprised to topic discussed on linkedIn today. The crux of the article is summed up pretty well at the end "The traditional business meeting is broken. Transform it by keeping it timely, concise, and used only when necessary."
find the exact

This topic and the recommendations are not surprising, however, what is surprising is that this same discussion comes up over and over again. It's easy to forget the meetings are tools, and as tools they serve a purpose in moving business forward. This is best accomplished when everyone involved knows what the purpose is, and meeting attendees act to respect that purpose.

That doesn't mean that all meetings need to be short. Some of the best meetings are the "brainstorms" that energizes people and gets innovation and creativity on the table. I've seen many of those take a while to get into a creative flow. On the other hand, some meetings serve as an opportunity to berate and belittle others, and those can be severely damaging to the business, personnel, and attitude.

That said, I won't waste any more of your time, but please do check out my time, cost, and waste app.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Does Bullying Ever Work to Motivate Employees?

I've heard that startups sometimes think of themselves as strike teams working as a tight knit stealthy force to take down opponents. Unfortunately, modelling a business on that analogy comes with limitations, as a strike team is never intended to become large thriving business, and the policies and strategies that may have worked in a small strike team break down and give way to intimidation-like tendencies. I was reminded of this in an article about intimidation as a management style.

The story used to make the point is a bit long and drawn out, but it does make a good point. Intimidation does not breed a work force that will stand by you when times get tough. The intimidated will move to better opportunities, while those who have no options will stay behind. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you foster personal ownership and self-motivation, employees won't see a downturn as a chance to run away, but instead a chance to prove that they were right or that they can make a difference.

I've surely over simplified the article, but it's a good read that can make you think about management and how motivations can impact company success.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Findability is better than SEO?

How do you find things when you don't know what you're looking for?
Source:, June 7, 2013

The obvious answer would be search, and that makes sense, as you can search via dictionary, book index, or via any of several online search engines. The same could apply to buyers of your product or service. Remember, however, to look at the bigger picture - purchasing is about trust. When someone decides to buy from you, they are expressing some level of trust, and whether you like it our not, a product vendor shouting that they have the best product might create awareness that you THINK that you have the best product, but that may not convince someone to buy.

I would propose that the your excellent SEO is necessary, but not sufficient. Generic external links to your site will help the SEO, but external links that are relevant can provide the external validation for your product that provides even more value visitors if they find you via an educational link, an independent third party, or a comparison site. Links of this nature can be earned via hard social media efforts, a PR push, or even participating in online forums or places where your customer might be, such as stackexchange for programmers or LinkedIn for human resources professionals.

So when you look at the image in this post from, where the source article stated "Sites listed on the first Google search results page generate 92% of all traffic from an average search", think about more than just traffic. You want traffic that trusts you and with whom you can build a financial relationship. If you just build traffic without trust, what was the point?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is there a limit to Marketing Effort?

In my early days of marketing, I was an operational machine and proud of it. Too proud of it.

At the time I worked for an Asian networking equipment manufacturer, managed product and corporate marketing, product management, and customer service. I was given responsibility because I could simply do everything that was asked. All told, I had check list of 120 marketing task items that I managed, doing all of them on time and on budget while leading the company's marketing efforts from zero to millions in revenue.

I was doing a great job and executing on everything. I earned media placements, replaced competitors, and amazed my friends and co-workers with my efforts. With that success in my rear view mirror and wins that few people have replicated, I eventually realized that I was misguided -- and misdirected.

The constant lack of budget meant that my team constantly tried to do everything ourselves. We rarely hired contractors as there was little time to train them, and instead depended on overusing internal staff to design posters and print ads that were beyond our skill-sets. Worse yet, we did everything because the highest ranking executives said so.

Doing what I was told kept me employed, but it also cost the company untold revenues. Luckily, in the course of doing everything and interacting with customer and prospects, I gathered information about the real cost of marketing to our premium prospects. These prospects pointed out that we were absent from a few pricey marketing events that our competitors attended, but more importantly, the competitors at those events all had premium customer contracts. The events? Telecomm and Carrier association meetings. Our President had fit at the price of joining, but literally, within 3 months of paying the hefty fees and participating in the first events, we were in negotiations with a telco for a trial.

From then on, I stopped the team from doing everything, and focused on those things that had clear impact and actionable customer value. I was fortunate to learn that it wasn't all about effort. It was about impact and moving the needle.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Is your leadership hurting your organization?

In my work, I enjoy looking for opportunities where not only can I make impact, but where I can also learn from others. In pondering such an opportunity, I found a great article in Inc magazine that had me thinking about the views that people have around leadership.

In the article, 4 key signs of leadership failure are discussed. Read the article and feel free to share your opinion and let me know if you agree or disagree.

My quick take, however is to look at it a different way, the way attributed to Raph Nader "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers."

It's a simple, but powerful statement if you think about it. If you produce more leaders, you need to do several things:

  • Provides examples of good leadership
  • Give people the chance to develop leadership skills
  • Operate in an environment of respect (if you believe leaders deserve respect)
  • Have a definition of success or at least of what successful leader is

This seems self-evident to me, however I realized that others may not see it that way, and it does matter from your frame of reference. If you subscribe to the method of leadership that states that fear drives people and that great leaders should be feared, than we would be at odds.

That said, I would challenge the leadership by fear believers to compare the market growth and market capitaliation of leadership by fear regimes to those based-on developing a culture of leaders. My non-scientific counting on fingers had the fear-based technique as non-scaleable and leading to low to negative growth.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Pain and Process in Choosing a Name

A recent naming exercise reminded me of the rat hole a naming exercise can be, and how, after many years, many attempts, and improved processes, it all comes down to a personal choice. I’ll attempt to explain one process that works but also point out how it can be sidetracked at the last moment.

But first a wisdom alert. Marketers must judiciously apply the “If no one loves it or hates it, it’s probably too generic” rule. To use this rule, remember that there’s a wide range outside of love and hate. Now back to my story.

Having worked at many startups, there is little to no budget allocated to hiring a “naming firm” to create a brand name for products. The fees often run in the tens of thousands, and, even then, you may not get a name you like. If you have the budget, hire a naming firm, as a professional firm will guide you through the process and reduce or at least highlight hidden biases in the decision process.

If you don’t have the budget what do you do? You should prepare for the exercise with the realization that it’s more than a mission in name selection. The name design process has several key steps, and depending on the type of product, you may add other steps. I break this process into several steps, each of which come with some cat herding, input selection, and some post-processing to insure alignment around the process.

  • Step 1: The brainstorm. Get all stakeholders to systematically provide input in the following key areas: what the product does, characteristics of the product, results of using/owning the product, and word association around the product. Request that participants provide at least three for each part. In this brainstorm, do not remove ideas.
  • Step 2: Meta brainstom. In this phase, get everyone in the room from step 1, put all the ideas on a the wall, and ask the group to add more to the lists.
  • Step 3: Require each participant to mark the top 3 in each section that the love and hate (6 total).
  • Step 4: Stack rank all the choices for each section based on the votes, from most loved to least loved, tossing all the ones no one voted for or hated.
  • Step 5: If any items has both love and hate votes, the item is announced for removal, and people have 1 minute to present what they love or hate the item. If the “hater” wins, the item is removed, if not, the item remains on the table. At this point, the group should have a list of descriptors that are mostly loved and mostly acceptable.
  • Step 6: The sections are reduced even further by another round of voting to determine the top 3 for each section. This should highlight the core values of the product and align the participants around the core values.
  • Step 7: The naming begins, with another brainstorm where group members submit names that fit the core values and a “searcher” is selected to find other terms that match the agreed upon core values. The searcher also researches connotations, conflicts, url implications, and baggage associated with each term.
  • Step 8: The search and term analyses are presented to the group, who then vote for the top 5 names
  • Step 9: A “searcher” then looks into language and cultural aspects of the top 5 terms presenting them to the group. With the new information, the group votes again, leaving a stack rank of choices.
  • Step 10: The CEO or product owner makes a decision.
This process usually insures some transparency if the stakeholders are chosen from a wide base, but usually the process yields a bland vanilla name. All that work and the name still sucks? This often happens in a design by committee group where group members are focused on being the least offensive. Another risk is the hidden last minute legal check to find out whose trademark is being violated. Another more common risk is the CEO intervention - the CEO likes something and that becomes law.

There it is. Naming can be difficult. The more people to please, the more difficult it is to do a good job. On the other hand, if you start with clear goals and a good process, you might, just might end up with a good name.