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Science- Blinded Me

Thomas Dolby (yep- THAT ‘Dolby’) a tech-respecting pro issued a song a generation ago that captures the mindset of most of the public, news viewers, Social Media participants: ‘She Blinded Me With Science”

imo no other song so perfectly captures the skeptical POV of most journalists (few have a science background) & most ‘Influencers’ that Science is to be mistrusted & isn’t worth covering. They know the public are wowed by OPTICS- bytes, pics, Data ‘Visualizations” (often fraudulent) are what sells.

That accounts for ‘Virtue by Association’ efforts; orgs aiming to ‘look’ ethical may try to ‘leverage’ feel-good trends & slipstream’em. Sometimes they’re ‘outed’ (a green-named cleaner that isn’t ‘green’ or a global brand trying to ‘hijack’ the #BLM protest movement…. to sell soda). Sadly, the ‘Optics Of The Moment’ obsession can do more harm than good. Brands that misfire when trying to do the right thing may be ripped apart for trying but not nailing it. Trying badly is MUCH MORE costly than DOING NOTHING eg H&M improved their multicultural casting -a worthy aim- yet a lack of multicultural experiential savvy earned them rage (H&M ‘cute monkey’ kids shirt). Competitors, many of whom were way behind on multicultural casting, got a free pass!

In theory cellphones, active e-communities & instant global messaging could make companies/brands more transparent & accountable. In reality? People prefer bytes & pics to science & reading. They dislike complex info (science, data,..). Ethical ‘performance’ is a battle of speedy Optics tactics. The playbook: slipstream, divert, distract, make promises (that no one will follow up on when society moves onto the next ‘It-concern of the moment’).

Eg responsible scientists (unlike most Social Media Influencers & many reporters), seldom just label one approach Angelic & another Evil. A scientifically thorough, responsible way to evaluate 2 options’ total ecological impact is to compare them via a ‘Life Cycle Analysis’ which involves objectively measuring the resource drain, land & water pollution, nonrenewable /energy resources ‘cradle to grave’ of each option, incl. sourcing of component materials, transport to manufacturing & market, production, distribution, eventual disposal, etc. An objectively completed Life Cycle evaluation of cloth vs disposable diapers in 1990’s showed disposables were less ecologically burdensome than cloth, yet the story was too ‘sciency’ for the media to cover, or the public to read/comprehend.

I’d not be surprised if no Life Cycle review has been done for hybrid vs gas powered autos eg measuring (cradle to grave) the full environmental cost’ to mine & extract Rare Earth elements for batteries, review how the electricity is generated & how much energy is wasted eg lost in transmission or battery drain via cold weather, how to disassemble the batteries & neutralize their toxic corrosive materials, etc.

Optics are what sell & for the moment- Hybrids are GREEN! 😊. Governments & the public are falling over themselves to invest in them, force us to convert to them, lure their companies here, get taxpayer subsidies for the auto buyers & battery plants & auto assembly facilities & infrastructure builders …

Dare we even ask if a Life Cycle study exists? Nope, that’d draw immediate furor. A career-killing socially ostracizing move like that would certainly show we’re not remotely ‘Woke’ enough.

“Textbook correct” isn’t always… correct

Having written a textbook, I know there will be topics where authors are uninformed or suffer misconceptions (I sidestepped that by not covering topics I’m clueless about; so my Research Textbook doesn’t cover Cluster Analysis, or Least Squares methods in detail). Sadly, many textbooks are supposed to be ‘fully comprehensive’ so authors invariably write about subjects in which they lack knowledge &/or restate ‘pure’ (academic/theory) ideals. I get a laugh out of “It’s in the textbook, so it must be true” – Textbooks are much more reliable than wikipedia or marketing91, but fyi here are some ‘not so finer moments’ in my college’s textbooks.

One publisher of an Intro Marketing text used the wrong formulae for Markup* and Margin – then ignored my SIX YEARS of requests to fix it (*I also told them to remove ‘Markup’ altogether, since no retailer has used ‘Markup’ for.. oh… 30 years???… they ignored that request too)

A publisher recently showed a book excerpt where Quant ‘insights’ were taken from Focus Groups eg “14 out of 15 attendees agreed that…” -an error that wouldn’t have happened if the author had professional experience. Research Practice 101: you NEVER interpret numbers from Qual projects- duh!

Some Marketing Textbooks show a ‘Price/Quality’ or ‘Value/Quality’ Positioning Map (Perceptual Map). Free Tip: never show such a ‘tool’ in a Marketing meeting except to generate comic relief. Choosing vague generic axis labels for a Map will nullify its usefulness altogether. Laughably Bad.

A ‘lil chestnut’ pops up in textbooks wrt SWOT’s (a review of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats, part of Situation Analysis for a Marketing Plan); “We’ll convert that Weakness into a Strength”. Really. Ohhhhh… kay. Blurt out a naive, idealistic comment like that in a Marketing meeting & you lose all credibility. [Tip: First you must shore up a Weakness –that alone is typ. a multi-year effort, often ending in failure. Worse yet, if it’s a Weakness for you, you’re prob already far behind your competitors on that factor. Tip: Just set your sights on getting the dam shored up; you can build the Hoover some other day].

This lil jewel in a textbook: “Good marketers add value to their products/services by nudging ppl up the Maslow needs hierarchy” ??? Alarm companies, dental strips, bottled water, global tire brands… have been doing it wrong all this time? Wow! They better get some ‘Good’ marketers! The author is right; I can’t wait to give up safety & go buy my car some self-actualizing tires!

Errors happen- that’s life. I’d happily support publishers that ACT after being told of errors, but this rarely happens. I bet Publisher Reps fear telling Dr I. Vohr E. Tawherr that their tome is imperfect; I doubt any of my feedback got through to the blissfully unaware authors.

This blog is sure to get me ‘free feedback’ from idealistic authors; go ahead. Maybe it’ll generate a discussion & you can tell me you know of a 5th generation family run shoe repair shop still using MarkUp. That’d be good for me to know- and help correct my ignorance. No, wait! Better yet, I’ll convert my Weakness ie ignorance of such businesses, into a Best-In-Industry expertise, a Strength!

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.