Good is the enemy of great

‘Kun det bedste er godt nok’ (‘Only the best is good enough’) is the LEGO company motto.

“Since its first interlocking brick was launched in 1949 it has become more popular than any toy in history. Every second, seven new boxes of Lego are sold; for every person in the world, there are 62 Lego pieces; Lego people – mini-figures, as they’re known – outnumber real people. You’d think it would be impossible to to go wrong with a brand as beloved as that.”

Yet five years ago, they almost went bankrupt.

LEGO

“The problem lay not with the product, but with the company’s attempts in the Nineties to make itself more modern and relevant in the age of video games. It had attempted to broaden its appeal to the young female market; it had tried to become a lifestyle brand with its own lines of clothes and watches; it had built more theme parks. But in doing so it had neglected its core business.”

This is a fascinating story of a company that reinvented itself by going back to the core. With some incredible pictures from the inside, great stuff.

Most Contagious 2009

Every year at the end of year there are 2 reports worth looking out for, one is FEED from Razorfish that came out a few weeks ago and the other one is Most Contagious from Contagious Magazine which was released this Friday. Make sure you get them both.

contagiousmag2009

And while you’re at it, take a look at the new Contagious Magazine website as well.

SMC2009: Marketing Renaissance

For more than 20 years I believe Stichting Marketing organizes the biggest Marketing conference in the country… and I’ve never ever felt the need to go before. For one because the 2 day congress happens to end on a Saturday, but also because I’ve always seen it as a well established marketing congress for well established marketers hearing to hear about … well you catch my drift I suppose. This year I was invited by the organization (thanks to @mediagast) so no reason not to check it out this time.

So I went to the congress, and truth to be told, I had high expectations. I hoped Stichting Marketing proved me wrong about my opinion about the congress, I hoped to see some interesting and inspiring talks and (last but not least) I really hoped to see at least a few speakers that could make that connection between the more traditional way of marketing versus what we’re all supposed to be doing right now. Why? Because there was a window of opportunity given the audience’s background I suppose. And the premise seemed to be right:

“There’s a growing consensus that in times like these not every ‘old rule’ still applies. More than ever, we have to be smart in marketing. Rationalizing our structures or adapting old models just won’t do it anymore. … We have to understand that marketing solutions are not there for eternity just because we’ve successfully used them in the past. Some insights still apply, others are clearly past their shelf life. What we need, in other words, is a true marketing renaissance.”

We kicked off day one in rather good fashion, Don Sull (Professor of Strategy of London Business School) did a talk on “The Upside of Turbulence”. And just as the title already suggests, Don talked about the opportunities you have in times of turbulence, stating clearly there aren’t just downsides linked to it. He showed us he sees to different kinds of ways to deal with turbulence, one being ‘agility’ and the other ‘absorption’. Something he explained using the famous Rumble in the Jungle fight between Foreman (‘absorption’) and Ali (‘agility’). Conclusion of all of this being you got to have both to be able to deal with turbulence in the best possible way.

After a quick stint from Nokia’s Global Marketing SVP (I’m sure he knows what he’s doing but presenting is clearly not his ‘shtick’) we got Jonathan Salem Baskin to talk about the “Digital Plague”.

jonathansalembaskin

I expected quite a lot from this presentation and I think I was kind of severe afterwards to Jonathan when I told him he had missed the opportunity to really convince people. We agree on the main idea of his presentation, saying digital is not just something you do aside it is part of the whole thing. You don’t need a digital strategy, you need a business strategy (just like before) that’s ready for the digital age. Why missed opportunity? Because I don’t think it came across that way to everybody, I think some people will have walked out of that presentation thinking that doing business as usual is just fine. Anyway, that might be just me – I still enjoyed the presentation and we had a great chat afterwards so that’s good :).

Day two opened with Charlene Li, another keynote I was looking out for. Great personality, nice talk and we had a quick chat afterwards as well but nothing new to learn. The talk we had afterwards was related to the work of an analyst and it’s one of the things I still miss in presentations such as Charlene’s – tangible examples from non global high involvement consumer brands. It’s on thing to analyze why Vodafone or DELL have been successful with some of their social media activities, building and implementing your own strategy for a brand of say sandwich meat is something else. Charlene still is one to watch though, don’t get me wrong on that. Here’s Charlene’s presentation btw.

Dan Hill (President Sensory Logic) told us we get way more effect by being on-emotion instead of on-message, playing on human emotions instead of being factual. Nice talk but hardly anything new. And sometimes jumping conclusions – Dan showed some eye-tracking research showing people didn’t look at the ads to then suggest to change the ad placements… now that’s not really what this means right? Then Niraj Dawar (Professor of Marketing, Ivey Business School Canada) talked about “Downstream Innovation”, an interesting talk about re-focusing our innovation efforts into how we deliver products to consumers instead of just on what to deliver. We at Duval Guillaume often also ask our clients about the why on top of that.

Last but not least, our own Geert Noels (Econopolis) closed the congress. Always good to see someone looking at something you know from a totally different angle, this time Geert who is an economist shared his look on marketing with us. You can find his “Marketing lessons from the Econoshock” right here. Just started a conversation with Geert on Twitter about his presentation, let’s see where that leads us ;)

Anyway, that was that. I enjoyed the congress, it was good meeting up with people as usual but I did miss eye-opening, truly inspirational talks… presentations that would have people go home and change the way they do marketing. Maybe next year?

The Avatar Marketplace

Branded virtual clothes spotted in the Xbox Avatar Marketplace. This means you can now buy Adidas, Quicksilver, … gear for your Xbox avatar, great stuff. Before I go any further you need to understand something though. The Xbox avatar used to be a small square icon just like the avatars you see at whatever internet service of choice. Twitter, Friendfeed, … you name it. With the latest release of the Xbox dashboard last year they changed all that for the Xbox though. Avatars now became virtual 3D characters which you could personalize to your own wish, making them look like you as much as possible (or not at all).

xboxavatar

That’s all fun and games but the real importance of all this is only showing now with the launch (beta still) of games such as ‘1 vs 100’ in which you literally play the well known tv show on your Xbox against another 100 real people. And you might have guessed it, the game is showing a virtual studio full of avatars of the people playing. The new avatar, a better representation of you and not just a little square anymore. Thus the importance of brands being very valuable in this context.

Today Adidas, Quicksilver (and maybe some others) are present with virtual versions of a part of their real collection. Should this be limited to fashion brands only, sure not. And should it be limited to existing clothes only, sure not. Wouldn’t it be cool if someone actually launches a new collection on the Avatar Marketplace first, I think it would. Yep, we’re definitely only just scratching the surface here – to be continued for sure!

Consumers don’t care about strategy

I don’t think there’s another product in tech that is ridiculed as much as Microsoft Bob. Never heard of it? That’s probably for a reason. Kudos to Monica Harrington for ‘confessing’ that she used to work on Bob and for writing a blogpost about it on Todd Bishop’s Microsoft blog. The product might have been a failure, the lessons learned are absolutely worth for everyone to read. Here’s one that stood out for me:

Consumers don’t care about strategy. Corporate customers do because if they’re investing big dollars over many years in a product, they want to know that it will continue to evolve in ways that are beneficial to the organization. In the corporate market, selling a vision is huge. By contrast, selling a vision to consumers is pointless. The key question they want answered is, "Does it make my life better today?"

It reminded me of how we always try to translate what lives in the ‘Meeting Room’ to something that can work in the ‘Living Room’ for all our clients. Make sure you read Monica’s full post, it’s worth it.