I'm joining Percolate -
I’m excited to say today that I’ve taken a role on the leadership team at Percolate, as VP of People operations. I’ve been friends with Noah and James forever. Noah was a Barbarian back in the day, and established the planning department there. When he left to form Percolate with James in…
Woohoo! This is so awesome.
Meeting Rules at Percolate -
This Tweet/post of mine really blew up and I thought I would share it here as well. When we first started Percolate I wanted to make sure that we didn’t become a company that became taken over by meetings as we grew. To that end I set a few simple rules in place, most important of which was that no phones or computers were allowed in meetings. Below are the rules or you can check out the whole post at the Percolate blog.
This is a bullets:
The six rules of meetings at Percolate.
Introducing Transition -
In July we’re holding our first conference at Percolate. It’s going to be called Transition and it’s meant to explore how the world, and specifically marketers, are dealing with the massive transition to software and systems. I touched on what this means for marketers in a blog post last week:
For marketers this means two things: First, as a core function of the business and owner of the message, this explosion in communications technology falls squarely in their wheelhouse and gives them new opportunities to prove their value to the organization. Secondly, to achieve this, marketers will need to rethink the way they operate as the core channels (local to global), audiences (millions to billions), and content (stock to stock & flow) they once worked through shifts under their feet.
Marketing is in transition. But what happened? How did it happen?
Phase 1: 1989 – 2004
The shift started 25 years ago with Tim Berners-Lee and the founding of the World Wide Web. For the first time people and organizations were able to connect directly with each other. Marketers went out and built websites, email marketing lists, and (in)famously, banner ads to reach these customers.
A bevy of new companies emerged to help marketers deal with the various needs that surfaced in this period: Omniture for analytics; DoubleClick for serving banners; and, of course, Google for organizing the web and helping marketers reach the people searching it.
While the total number of Internet users grew by more than 30x during this period, 2004’s mark of 910 million users still only accounted for 14% of the world’s population.
Phase 2: 2004 – 2014
Ten years ago social built a layer on top of the web. Led most famously by Facebook, this layer provided a graph of relationships and interests that started to map the planet. Social presented a different set of challenges to marketers. Instead of just thinking about pushing messages, social created a participation architecture on the web that caused the enterprise to think about moving their service infrastructure into a digital environment.
As smartphone sales began to accelerate a few years ago, usage and engagement numbers in social skyrocketed. The growth of those companies followed suit. Facebook became only the second platform in history to pass 1 billion active users, joining the Fortune 500 in 2013. Today, across the Internet, there are nearly 3 billion total users, covering roughly 40% of the world’s population.
Phase 3: 2014 – 2019
That leaves us at today: The third phase. What started just over five years ago, with the introduction of the iPhone, has become a revolution that changed nearly every facet of communication for both individuals and enterprises. While it took us over 20 years to reach 3 billion Internet users, it’s predicted we’ll double that number in just the next five.
In the 1960s Marshall McLuhan theorized on the effects of the “global village,” a place where “everybody gets the message all the time.” In just five years that world will be a reality. For all the questions people may have about valuations of these new-media companies, what we do know is that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a developing country, GDP rises by 0.5%. It’s hard to overstate the realities and excitement of nearly 100% of the planet being connected on the same network.
You can read the rest at the Percolate blog. And if you’d like to join us for the conference, you can find the details at TransitionConference.com.
On Process -
I’ve been experimenting with posting around the web lately. This weekend was a post about first principles thinking on Medium and today it’s a post about process on LinkedIn. It’s based on a quote I gave to Digiday about what big brands can learn from startups:
I’ve been reading “Creativity Inc.,” the Pixar book by Ed Catmull. In it, he realizes at some point the goal became the process — the goal was not making great movies. That’s what happens inside big companies: The process becomes so locked into place that you forget what your actual goal is. It’s not to follow the process, but it’s to create a great product or deliver a great service and do whatever the brand is there to do. Inside startups, because they’re so much smaller and younger and the process is much less fossilized, you don’t have the chance to do that. What I’m trying to do at Percolate is make sure we never do that. I want people to think the process can change. Because it should.
First Principles Thinking -
Lately I’ve been talking a lot about Elon Musk’s idea of first principles thinking (finding the atomic unit of a challenge and building up from there) and I decided to write a bit about it over at Medium. Here’s a snippet about how it applies to working with designers:
What’s interesting, though, is I think you can apply it beyond just big problems to almost any challenge a company or product faces. I gave a talk at our recent DesignTalk event about how to work best with designers. I think encouraging designers to be first principles thinkers is key to getting the best work possible. By this I mean the best way to work with a talented designer is to define the core components of the problem and let them solve up from there. Encourage them to throw away existing solutions and instead solve the problem in a way that best suits the unique issues faced in this case. While the end solution might resemble something else that exists, by not applying analogical thinking you at least know that you’ve arrived at it because it is the best, not because it already exists.
Marketing Needs to be Pulled Together -
I really liked this quote Martin Weigel posted from Stephen King (the marketing guy, not the horror filmmaker) on how marketing companies must evolve:
Marketing companies today… recognize that rapid response in the marketplace needs to be matched with a clear strategic vision. The need for well-planned brand-building is very pressing. At the same time they see changes in ways of communicating with their more diverse audiences. They’re increasingly experimenting with non-advertising methods. Some are uneasily aware that these different methods are being managed by different people in the organisation to different principles; they may well be presenting conflicting impressions of the company and its brands. It all needs to be pulled together. I think that an increasing number of them would like some outside help in tackling these problems, and some have already demonstrated that they’re prepared to pay respectable sums for it. The job seems ideally suited to the strategic end of the best account planning skills. The question is whether these clients will want to get such help from an advertising agency.
What I’ve Learned About Sales -
I wrote a little thing over at Medium about what I’ve learned about how sales works from watching the great sellers on our team at Percolate. Here’s a snippet about how great sales people don’t run over barriers, they get to know them and figure out how to work with them:
What I mean is the best sellers don’t bowl clients over, they work with them, understand them, and ultimately make their way around every potential roadblock together, no matter how vague it might at first appear. This isn’t just about asking easy questions and listening for answers, it’s about being able to get beneath the surface and actually identify a core challenge or opportunity. In this way the same thing that makes a great seller actually makes a great product person: The ability to get beneath the surface and get the root cause of an issue. The challenge here is that it’s not always easy. “Whying” sounds a lot like “whining” for a reason, and that’s the core question you need to ask to identify true opportunities. While a great seller might make a client feel uncomfortable as they go through this process, they build trust in their desire to actually solve a problem instead of just selling whatever it is they have.
One More Note on Why Brands Aren’t Going Anywhere -
Yesterday I posted a few points in response to James Surowiecki’s New Yorker piece on the role of brand’s in a world of better information. I made a specific distinction between research-heavy products like cars and a product like soap or toothpaste, which people generally choose on brand alone. On Twitter someone asked whether that meant car brands are actually less valuable in this new world and I thought it was worth answering here as well as on Twitter.
First, the answer is no, they’re not less valuable even though research does even the playing field to some extent. But there are two important points about how people buy cars that need to be addressed. First, people generally choose out of a subset. If you want a “luxury” car you’re choosing between a BMW, Audi, or Mercedes. You don’t get to that point without brand. If you’re Kia right now, you’re advertising the hell out of your new car because you want to be in that decision set. While your ultimate decision may be purely on product merits (though it’s likely not), you have eliminated 99% of the other car options off brand alone.
Second, just want to reshare something I wrote a few months ago. This argument about brands is part of a larger anti-brand argument that’s best categorized by the quote “advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” Back in August I explained all the reasons this isn’t true and they still apply here.
Why Brands Aren’t Going Anywhere -
This morning Felix Salmon tweeted James Surowiecki’s latest article about brands at me to see what I thought. Basically Surowiecki makes the case that brands are less meaningful in a world of information efficiency thanks to the web. His thesis, roughly:
It’s a truism of business-book thinking that a company’s brand is its “most important asset,” more valuable than technology or patents or manufacturing prowess. But brands have never been more fragile. The reason is simple: consumers are supremely well informed and far more likely to investigate the real value of products than to rely on logos. “Absolute Value,” a new book by Itamar Simonson, a marketing professor at Stanford, and Emanuel Rosen, a former software executive, shows that, historically, the rise of brands was a response to an information-poor environment. When consumers had to rely on advertisements and their past experience with a company, brands served as proxies for quality; if a car was made by G.M., or a ketchup by Heinz, you assumed that it was pretty good. It was hard to figure out if a new product from an unfamiliar company was reliable or not, so brand loyalty was a way of reducing risk. As recently as the nineteen-eighties, nearly four-fifths of American car buyers stayed loyal to a brand.