It seems I might have to eat a little crow. My last post celebrated Domino’s Pizza Turn Around promotional campaign for its innovative use of TV, Web and social media to launch a new pizza recipe aimed at restoring the Domino’s reputation on taste. And while I still believe that the promotional effort is incredible, the pizza (at least for me) was not. Having 3 pieces of 2 different pizzas, I feel I can reasonably conclude more work still needs to be done for the brand to improve its taste issues. This reminded me of just how important it is to address ALL aspects of marketing–Promotion, Price, Place AND product. Or as a Ogilvy has recently evolved them the 4E’s of marketing (Experience, Everyplace, Exchange and Evangelism).
So why the discrepancy? How can all these people claim that there’s been an improvement in the pizza and yet so many comments on pizzaturnaround.com indicate otherwise?
My guess is that the Domino’s didn’t really want to rock the boat too much and alienate their core customers my making significant changes to the product (though as I understand it, you can still get the original pizza recipe), or the abilities of the corporate kitchen do not reflect the executional capabilities of the chain. Either way in my experience, the product didn’t match the promotion. This is a rare case where an agency out did the client–in other words the campaign (what the agency is responsible for) brought customers in the door but the product (what the client’s responsible for) probably isn’t good enough to create a meaningful following.
We’ve all participated in a brain-storming session that resulted in only a drizzle of novel thinking. So, why are some brainstorming sessions more successful than others?
My brother is a firefighter. He told me once that in order for there to be a fire you need heat, oxygen and fuel. I think the same is true for a successful brainstorm. It’s just that in a creative environment we define heat, oxygen and fuel differently.
Everyone in the session needs to feel the heat a bit during the session. “Heat” is created from everyone feeling accountable for the results of the brain-storm. Two easy ways to generate some heat are competitive pressure (e.g. assigning teams to compete against each other), and peer-pressure (having representatives present their ideas to the group). When colleagues see that there is some sort of reward for the effort, or disincentive for not participating fully I’ve noticed that the intensity and focus for the session improves.
Pump Oxygen into the Room
The word oxygen comes from greek oxys (sharp) and genes (producer or former). When I speak of having “oxygen” in a brainstorm I mean making sure your “sharp producers” are in the room. These people will breathe life into a brainstorm. Sharp producers look at a problem from all angles. They aren’t afraid of being wrong. They are willing to build off other ideas and capable of connecting disparate thoughts. And perhaps best of all, they are comfortable with ambiguity.
Sharp producers create an atmosphere of “renewable energy” for the session, maintaining momentum and providing practical optimism when others in the group see obstacles or are jaded from previous failures. Sharp-producers aren’t compelled to blast down a singular path like a rocket, putting on blinders and focusing solely on one idea. Rather they float above the problem like a hot-air balloon–high enough to keep a wide perspective, but close enough to the ground to make out some of the details.
Fuel for Thought
For a good brainstorm you need an exercise to serve as fuel for the heat and oxygen you’ve generated. It needs to provide focus for the session and encourage new perspectives. Additionally, it needs to set general guidelines to drive the group toward delivering new ideas and solutions.
There are a number of good brainstorming exercises out there. Do a Google search and you’re sure to come across thousands. However, some are better than others. My recommendation is to look for exercises that:
- Keep sessions fun, engaging and moving
- Creates a goal for the session
- Encourages collaboration between all participants
- Re-focuses energy on what is possible–not just probable
- Maximizes the quantity of ideas being generated–not the quality (there’s plenty of opportunity to apply filters later)
A list of great books I read over the last ten years that will influence me in the decade to come
Books for strategy development
W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Stuck in a strategy slump? Kim and Mauborgne offer an incredibly simply and effective way to size up a market and create sustainable differentiation. I’ve successfully used their “strategy canvas” exercise with a team to determine where the competition plays and how we can chart a course to stand out in a crowded and confusing marketplace.
I’ve used the approach for solving problems Roam outlines over-and-over again. His theory is basic—but all good theories are—visualizing the problem leads to better solutions. I keep a copy of his framework tacked up on my desk for constant reference.
Al Ries and Jack Trout
A marketing classic. Still relevant 20-years after it was first published.
David A. Aaker
Aaker builds off the foundation from Reis and Trout.
When I read this book, I had flashbacks to Blue Ocean Strategy. Fundamentally, they’re saying much of the same. Blue Ocean is more Business Strategy while Purple Cow has a tighter focus on marketing. These books complement one another like cake and ice-cream.
Intuitive Web design isn’t necessarily intuitive. Krug provides sensible recommendations on improving user-experience.
The concept of the “long tail” isn’t novel—firms like Netflix recognized it long before Anderson, but Anderson is so incredibly perceptive in his analysis of this trend you still walk away from the book with gobs of insight and a sharper perspective of online retailing.
Books to Build Better Teams
Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles
Spirit of the Squirrel. Way of the Beaver. Gift of the Goose. Blanchard and Bowles tell an impactful story and provide salient messages for managers. If you seek to build a strong team or strengthen an existing one and haven’t read this book, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Know thyself. If you believe that a key element to building an efficient team is to first take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, this is the book for you. A combination book and online assessment, I walked away with a solid understanding of the fundamental skills
Just because it’s a children’s story, doesn’t mean there isn’t value in adults reading it. Someday I’d like to teach a management course and use children’s books as the required texts. The Emperor’s New Clothes and this story would certainly be on the syllabus. In Yertle the Turtle, Seuss offers a A timeless tale on the impact of ego-centric work environments.
Books That Inspired Me
Stephen B. Oates
Despite it being a work of non-fiction, the book reads like a novel with a vivid depiction of Lincoln’s public life. If you want a real life example of a leader who kept it together in the face of tremendous obstacles—many of which go unmentioned in popular teaching, this is the book.
Undaunted Courage is to the American West as The Right Stuff was to the Space Program. Makes a cross-country trip with the kids to the Grand Canyon look like child’s play.
My daughter loves to play with our plastic-ware. It’s in the only cabinet in the kitchen that isn’t baby-proofed and she takes full advantage. Lids, bowls, tubs, big, or small she doesn’t discriminate. It was during a recent cabinet raid, that I noticed our collection of plastic-ware expanded considerably. In fact, we have quite a few tubs of a particular size from buying a particular brand of luncheon meat. Here’s the rub: What I originally perceived as a value-add of buying this product is now actually going to stop me from buying it in the future. Short of adding another cabinet in the kitchen I just simply can’t store any more of this stuff. Throwing it away or even just recycling it seems wasteful.
Perhaps my household isn’t the ideal target for processed-meat-packaged-in-plastic-ware. Maybe their targets are folks who make a lot of lunches and give away tubs full of homemade soups and cookies with their excess containers. But I doubt it. Instead, I just think the company may have forgotten that it’s possible to give your customers too much “value”.
Shared experiences fundamentally connect us. Although we often seek to express ourselves as individuals, we also still long to be a part of a community. Whether it be a hundred thousand fans attending a fierce rivalry between college football teams, or a few thru hikers on the Appalachian trail around a campfire–sharing an experience can create deep emotional connections. N.I.F.T.Y. marketers can create opportunities to build stronger brands using shared experiences as the impetus. A great example is the Nike+Human Race Event, held tonight all around the world. Billed as the “world’s largest one-day running event.” There are 24 official cities participating in the event. Additionally, anyone can turn their local route into a 10k simply by registering on the site and using the Nike + gear.
It’s every marketer’s dream–a clearly identifiable and accessible target with a demonstrated history of spending money–taking over their store to hang out and maybe pick up a few items while they’re there.
Target Corp. created just such an opportunity in recent years by targeting college freshman headed away from home for their first time. The Minneapolis based retailer recently launched a series of very clever, very focused private store parties for freshmen. Here’s why I believe it’s N.I.F.T.Y. marketing idea.
Novel: Target invited freshmen just arriving on campus to an in-store after hours ”dorm party”. It coordinated with approximately 35 colleges and universities nationwide according to an article in The Daily Iowan (though it appears that at least some of these parties were not
limited to just freshman). DJ’s helped create a unique atmosphere and students had a chance to win prizes that ranged from an X-Box to goldfish(ones with gills–not the ones in the packaged foods section). To be entered to win some of the prizes, students had to text their entries to the store. Because some universities do not allow freshmen to have cars on campus, Target arranged for round-trip bus transportation.
Inteligent & Flexible: Strategically for Target, the back-to-school/college programs are extremely important sources of revenue for the third quarter. However, Target’s approach with college freshman wasn’t just N.I.F.T.Y. because it helped reach a short term goal. It’s savvy because it establishes a relationship with young adults just at the infancy of their consumer potential. According to Leah Guimond, spokeswoman for Target (as quoted on Marketplace) the initiative is expected to have an ROI that pays dividends into the future. From Target’s point of view: ”It’s way for us to build relationships with these students over the years as they evolve into different life stages of getting married and having babies and growing with us over the years”. Brand loyalty aside, there’s also a more immediate pay-off to the tactic as well. Boston College business professor, also quoted on Marketplace said that the parties help students find the closest campus Target so that when parents are in for a weekend and need to pick up a few items for their kids before heading back out-of-town, the students know just where to take them–extending the revenue stream for the retailer into Q4 and beyond.
Targeted: According to information for the National Retail Federation, college freshmen spend more money than upper classmen on dorm furnishings, electronics and school supplies–all things that Target provides at price points can afford. See the chart to the below.
While the information provided from NRF certainly justifies why retailers should target college freshmen, it doesn’t
necessarily tell retailers when they should engage them. Obviously, the back-to-school season makes the most sense and that’s when most retailers typically make their move. Certainly, Target is no exception. However, Target is also reaching out to freshmen during the few days they’re on campus ahead of upper classmen. Traditionally freshmen arrive on campus 3-5 days ahead of the rest of the student body giving them a little extra time to get settled in and take care of some of the university’s pre-class requirements (remember convocation: “look to your left and then to your right–one of you will not be here in 4 years??”). Additionally, when the upper classmen arrive on campus, freshman are more easily distracted by trying to fit in–finding the right bars, the right fraternity houses etc. SoTarget’s smart to hit campuses early when freshmen are likely to be a little more attentive.
Yes!: One Target store, located near the University of Iowa campus indicated that the sales from the Dorm Party represented 14% of the receipts for the day. According to an August 19th conference call with analysts, Target’s August sales were trending slightly higher over recent months, though it was still early in the season. The company expects same store sales in Q3 to improve over last quarter partially as a result of driving traffic from aggressive back-to-school and college programs.