New Product that is making a racket

It’s loud & has an awkwardly infantile name.

But it’s cheap to start, EZ to learn & sociable.

It’s… Pickleball

Check out which supplier firms are winning & which retailers, too. And keep in mind the Product Life Cycle; as a category matures, it explodes into +tightly targeted niches ergo the inevitability of Pro Pickleball, Seniors Pickleball, Family Pickleball, Tourist Pickleball, Pickleball sports lottery games, Pickleball lessons, Pickleball media deals & even e-Pickleball games (so sad to admit they prob already exist!)

I’d encourage Strategy or New Product Launch students to monitor its evolution, how major sponsors, gear suppliers & event/ promotion firms inevitably move in & drive out (or buy out) some pioneers who were so vital to advancing the sport to where it’s at.

There a lesson here about keeping your head down, not shining too bright, lest you draw the attention of powerful usurpers.

Choose your ‘trinkets’ well

my last post urged grads to consider careers in B2B Sales/Marketing; if that intrigues you, pay respect also to suppliers of ‘leave-behind premiums’ ie ‘momentums’ or even (ughhhh!!!) ‘Trash & Trinkets’- promotion tools firms use to leave an impression at/after in-person events eg trade shows. On Dec 1-2, Seneca College partnered w Sheraton Hotel, Queen Street, Toronto to host the 2022 Ontario Collegiate Marketing Competition (OCMC). Thanks to a convenient venue & the perseverance (& contact list!) of event guru Nancy Bodi, a record number of Pay It Forward minded sponsors opened their wallets and sent talented (B2B) staff.

Thanks to this sponsors! And thanks for showing students the role of ‘Premiums’. B2B Marketing makes a science of Trade Shows- choosing which to attend, how to participate (manage a booth or just attend), what else to sponsor (speaker, meal, mix & mingle, etc), who to send (from your staff), booth design, sales materials (biz cards, promotion sheets,,…) and … choosing the ‘Premiums’. There are so many possibilities- & always a (risky) chance to separate one’s brand from the crowd with a novel item. But also: concerns about lead time, safety, durability of construction, how easily it ‘takes’ a logo (in the brand’s pantone!), cost/unit- & much more. The items say something about your brand, & its impression of the attendees’ importance, so consider well!

The OCMC gave most student attendees their 1st taste of a Trade Show- how booth exhibitors demo a brand, start a conversation, use easy casual banter (ice breakers!). They’re professional!

Students: Want to Be in B2B? watch & learn!

And note the Show ‘Premiums’- what’s hot? (it tends to change each year-(I recall when Flash Drives & Sticky Notes were the hot Premium choice); it takes skill to stay atop such a lively field. Most big brands hire a specialist to help them choose & then oversee design, QA, inventory /delivery, packaging, etc. Think it’s ‘Trash & Trinkets’? Nope. It’s your brand’s leave-behind impression. This year:

Metal water bottles are hot- they take a logo well & ooze politically correct ‘sustainability’, but come at a high cost/unit and they’re bulky for the exhibitor to lug around a show, replenish inventory, etc.

Mittens (imo a bright choice to separate sponsor McGraw, albeit very limited seasonally);

Privacy/peeper Camera covers for phones/laptops -they’ll get lots of impressions (one each time you open your laptop!) but QA must be rigorous (awkward brand impression, if durability or adhesion is iffy);

Poppers or PopUps for phones

Socks! (yep, Socks!)

Stress relievers- often it’s stress squeeze balls; at this show it was an X’s and O’s fidget device

Business Card holders and Pens- (traditional choices)

An unusual choice at this show -STICKERS! lil fun character stick-ons to engage students in a chat, presumably to ensure they don’t think working for a tech firm (Salesforce) needs to be dry /boring.

Not at This Show (but hot elsewhere): RFID wallets, card sleeves, key holders.

Consider: if YOU were to choose a premium for an upcoming show- what would you choose? Would it say the right things about your brand immediately?.. after some use? Would it separate your brand? …carry the logo well? … arrive on time?… be affordable? … be easy to lug about the show & keep at the booth? Think about it: choosing a Premiums is not a ‘light’ decision at all. We do learn to #Respect the ‘Premium’ suppliers, designers -even if some still refer to their industry as ‘Trash & Trinkets’


B2B Sales/Marketing – #respect

I devote hours of Marketing diploma student class time to careers- types of careers, skill sets for various careers, typical career paths, etc, as there are many misconceptions/myths for ‘Marketing’ grads -eg Advertising & Brand Management roles have long held ‘the glam factor’. Yet other roles do have their own ‘glam’ and appeal, even if, for example, roles in Analytics, Planning & B2B Sales are too-often improperly/inaccurately portrayed in Pop Culture & the pre-Secondary education system.

My advice to grads: consider your own skills preferred work style & aspirations-not what Uncle Joe/Cousin Sue think you’d excel at or should do for a living.

B2B Sales, a career typically under-respected in the Canadian education system, requires planning, analysis & strategic skills. Such roles do often involve long hours or after-hours work; but what promising career doesn’t? At least, in many B2B Sales roles, you eat what you kill– ie your comp is often clearly linked to the new accounts you secure, the extent to which you help grow sales & satisfaction to/for your customer, etc, etc, etc. You perform: –> you earn.

Students ask if introverts can succeed in Sales roles? Yes!

Is B2B Sales pretty much just firm handshakes & being quick on your feet? PLEEEEEEEASE! Stop watching bad TV shows! B2B Sales requires Preparation, Research, Listening, Relationship Management- when you graduate & meet various B2B Sales professionals, you’ll undoubtedly be impressed by their deportment, insight, readiness, attention to service. In decades in Marketing, I’ve been impressed by various suppliers & prospective suppliers. Now, in Education, I find B2B account reps & ‘Biz Development’ staff at publishers & other partners, to also be impressively professional.

And, if you think B2B ‘Sales’ peoples responsibilities, empowerment & compensation are remotely similar to that of Retail Sales people, think again! Those are 2 ENTIRELY different worlds– the pay structure, amount of empowerment/ autonomy, resources & time horizons couldn’t be more different- in fact, many B2B ‘Sales’ roles aren’t actually not called ‘Sales’ roles at all; their titles are often rephrased as ……..’Marketing Reps’!!!

– so there! Does that have a bit more ‘glam’ to it, Marketing program grads?

The ‘Marketing Plan’ Meeting

It’s the time of year when many firms’ Marketing staff are fatigued & either feel relieved, or confused-crushed, pending the outcome of their ‘pitch upwards’ in a Marketing Plan approval meeting. Decades of those meetings taught me the content of the Plan is just a part of which team’s Plans get OK’d, versus mercilessly ripped apart. Such a meeting is often about who presents the Plan. Annual meetings are a popular time to clean house eg to ‘kneecap’ a Marketer whom a CMO/CEO wants disposed of. A chance to humiliate & betray a Marketer whose work actually shows them worthy of rewards, not punishment. PopCulture TV doesn’t do justice to the brutality/variety of ways one can be ‘ambushed’ in a meeting when presenting a Plan.

If you’re in Marketing, by late November you’re (i) at a rare nonpolitical win-win culture organization (KUDOs!); or (ii) you haven’t had your meeting yet [ you may soon learn vital, albeit somewhat sobering, lessons! ]; or (iii) you have proven you can ‘play the game’**

**Many successful Marketing trainees have a background in student politics or ‘gaming’ situations (akin to prolonged’ ‘Survivor’ or ‘Big Brother’ contests). They’ve mastered building/breaking alliances; their ethical code is flexible; they’ll aim for personal victory ahead of a moral code. Congrats! I was naive when I started in Marketing; I actually believed I might just choose to ‘not play’.

Ha! You can play Defense politically, or play Offence. But you must play.

So, if you see a tired Marketer at this time of year; approach with caution. They’ll need rest. They may need compassion, too. But if they look smug, they deserve reverence. Give ’em a wide berth.

Candy’s Dandy

Artisan candy? In the Long Tail era (thx Chris Anderson!) it seems inevitable EVERY category has room for ‘artisan/ custom/ exclusive’. Why deny candy a niche ‘sweet spot’?- and it seems Canadian firms are gettin some sugar

Dominos Italy: Veni Vidi Arrivederci

in August, US-based Dominos shuttered its 30 or so outlets in Italy. Qu’elle surprise! Or not. You could easily imagine the internal debate, eg

1. our Master Franchise partner will add local legal, regulatory, employee management & cultural savvy;

2. if we can make it in Italy, it says terrific things about how authentic and globally revered our product is.

Alas, “No dice” said the Italian prospects. And a very public failure to be given the boot from… The Boot. Would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the launch prep sessions! I’ve no doubt much work was done before launch; yet they fully failed to understand consumer attitudes/receptivity. How can that happen?

Here are a few possible ideas from a cranky old warrior who saw several well resourced, well paced firms blow their offshore expansions:

  1. They did OK research but ignored the findings. This isn’t as unusual as you might think, esp if the launch takes on ‘project momentum’. To raise your hand & question an inertia project is to risk being labelled a naysayer, a barrier, etc – perhaps get fired.
  2. The project had a ‘supported’ sponsor. A USA tissue company tasked its Darden-Wharton KantMissKidz to a European bath tissue expansion. They were given specific info about necessary steps to take & barriers to avoid, but ignored all of that advice, and blew the launch. Even STILL, another group got blamed.
  3. The executed plan differed from the test plan; perhaps the price structure was revised late in the game due to Supply Chain or Exchange Rate challenges, or maybe a media campaign was ‘trimmed’ to less than the intended spend. This happens a lot!
  4. The research was flawed. They may have used a skewed Sample &/or wrong research methods, leading questions, poorly chosen survey question/ response options. Or the research medium itself created an atmosphere where respondents felt social pressure to reply positively.

You & I will never see the detailed ‘post-mortem’ of what went wrong. Even if you found such an account,, don’t necessarily believe a word of it. I guarantee you: in a Big Org such as Dominos, the backstabbing & blame reallocation maneuvering has been fast & furious ever since this Star started to look like a Dog. Careers have been lost – and probably not by those who deserved it.

But that’s a subject for another day- as is “Does pineapple belong on a pizza?”

Acquisition ‘Wins’ Will Vary

The beverage sector may be more interesting to follow for the next while, we may see some dominoes fall (acquisitions) or launches. A fascinating aspect of acquisitions is they show the specific growth strategy in a more revealing way than a CEO’s words/guidance. Monster energy drink acquired a craft brewery, then announced a 6% malt brew; they ‘unleashed the beast’ of an expansion plan. The buyout wins them expertise & credibility/access in a new sector (imo it was wise that their brew is under a non-Monster brand. An energy drink that sponsors extreme sports -Red Bull, Monster etc- must recognize the iffy optics of blending alcohol & extreme sports. That’s an #ethical powder keg).

Also in beverages: when Sapporo bought Sleemans in 2006, or Royal Unibrew bought Amsterdams (this summer), the new owner wins added brand(s) for a global portfolio, yet the end-game is to gain local market (Canada) expertise & channel access to win more presence for their home brand in Canada. You find Sapporo beer in many more Canadian pubs & liquor stores now, than in their Pre-Sleeman days. Expect the same for RU; prepare to see the Danish firm’s iconic Faxe beer in more Canadian pubs (perhaps including their overly potent 10% alcohol beer!). Contrast those wins with why Labatt bought Mill Street (2015); the late (& sorely missed) Joel Manning was a brilliant brewer, but Labatt already had brewing savvy; their big win was the Mill Street ‘craft brewer’ #brand when ‘mass’ beer brands were on the out; boutique brands that signaled individuality were on the upswing esp with GenyY/GenZ drinkers.

In contrast, what are the specific ‘wins‘ for Tech Behemoths when they make an ecosystem acquisition? eg when Amazon buys iRobot (Roomba) or Google buys Nest, or FitBit; are they after the tech itself? Patents? Brand Name? Channel savvy? Nope! The big win: instant permission-approved 1:1 data access.

Acquisitions: we watch’em, learn from’em & see strategy revealed. But there are many reasons to buy a firm; we must not assume the same metrics, or reasons, apply each time. There are many ways to win.

Thanks to LastCall news and FoodDive for the news!

Community Customizing & Skill Sets

TechCrunch (Kyle Wiggers, 7/14) reports that Salesforce has launched a Code Builder, presumably, so that users can customize, add ‘apps’ & leverage (crowdsource) the collective efforts of a talented user base.

For Context: A decade ago, Leading ‘smart’ phone maker A recognized the potential of that talent pool, opened up their platform, leveraged those possibilities. Another leading smart phone brand, B, saw only risk & threats, kept development very limited and chiefly in-house.

A decade later: Where is (A) Apple? Where is (B) Blackberry?

Leveraging outside talent is risky; if caution isn’t taken, some apps will be awkward, irresponsible, flawed,… perhaps even bad for the brand rep. Salesforce is limiting access during this next (beta) phase & who can blame ’em? But the upsides of a creative motivated talent pool, speed to market & customized capabilities, seem worth the risk to a successful firm that evidently aims to stay ahead, risks & all.

Snap AND Crackle AND Pop

In June, Forbes, CNN & others reported on the Kellogg will split into 3 firms:

1. Plant-based food production/tech; 2. a Snack firm; and 3. a Cereal firm.

While some pundits & promoters may be keen to call this ‘visionary’, one might remind stockwatchers the business world, like any other, is subject to ‘fad & fashion’ cycles.

Samsung, 3M, Berkshire, J&J, Hitachi, Nestle, Mitsubishi, Siemens & (pre-Welch) GE: huge diverse firms-ie conglomerates- that succeeded.

Splitting up companies is now ‘in vogue’ –but read up, study up, find facts not just fashion imo since Plant-based manufacturing has relevance beyond a few food categories (Cereals & Snacks), I get that move. Cereals & Snacks, although in separate grocery & convenience store & mass merch aisles, DO share sales channels, however, imo the Cereal-Snack split is less compelling.

Consider the #Brand management complications: Sharing brands? If the Cereal firm aims to use a brand to convey ‘health/wholesome’ but the Snack firm wants to portray it as ‘indulgent/decadent/irreverent’?

Good luck. This is more complicated -and maybe more problematic – than pretty press releases about ‘splitting up the biz to release the untapped value‘ may indicate.

Cupertino Cash Cow dries up

For decades, Cupertino’s crew milked the charger/ cord cow. Invent a new type of cord connection – thunder & lightning-oh my! -then charge twice as much as an equivalent accessory for an Android device.

Lose a cord? Pay Cupertino (handsomely) again. Kink a cord. Pay again. Charger die? Pay again. Need a charger for the auto? Pay again.

This was a gift that kept giving— to Apple. Now that might change due to Europe- perennially the first jurisdiction to take on the tech behemoths- Google for its privacy policies, facebook for its inexcusable algorithms, and now Cupertino, for its price gouging.

You may need to redo that BCG diagram; as of 2024, Cupertino loses a couple of cows that served’em well- filling the cash drawer, so Apple could reinvest in new ecosystem growth categories.

So sad, but not even cows live forever.

“Coboss Charger, Coboss Cord”- time to graze in that great pasture in the sky.