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December 2006
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February 2007

Sundance Film Festival 07 Comes to an End

This is the first year I can remember where we didn't have a big snowfall for the film festival.   Make sure you see "Grace is Gone" when it is released.    John Cusack  (a fellow Chicagoan) did a great job as the father of two girls whose wife was sent to Iraq.  Very well written.  It works on many levels.

And then of course the movie "Fido" about life in a small town after the zombie wars.   Zomcon has aFido collar which domestics zombies.   This is the tender story of a relationship between a boy and their home's zombie.   Makes you view zombies in a whole new light.

Marketing Wallowing

Great post on how to make sense of something.   Which is part of our job.   I run into people who are totally analytical.  By golly if there isn't a 40 page study on the topic, then it cannot be true.  There also are people who shape their understanding by one experience on the topic.  And then there are those who go to the voice of authority and whatever they say must be true.

I like to wallow in it.

The first step is to read, read, read about the topic of interest.   As you read, make sure you have a way to collect notes on the more interesting things you read.   Look at studies and what people are saying.   The time to stop reading is when everything is starting to repeat itself.

Then put it aside.

The mind is an amazing thing.  You will start to notice hints in everything you look at from that point forward.   After a while, you will start gaining insight.  Try to boil it down to three things.   Three is a magic number.   

Next try to discount those three things.  If you can.  Some will go away and be replaced by others.  Talk to other peers (comment on their blogs) about the topic.    Then pretty soon it will become self evident what is important and what is not.   Then you have understanding.

Maybe you cannot grab the whole truth and gain total insight about a matter, but chances are you will see a sliver that is relevant and make sense.  Then apply that sliver and see if it holds up. 

Now you can stop wallowing and use your new found understanding to take action.  And marketing is about action.

Chase Marketing Gone Crazy: The Worthless Privacy Policy

In the last week or so I got a privacy policy update from Chase.  Unless you opt-out they get to share all your information about your business with Chase with anyone they want.  When you opt-out they still get to share all your information with anyone they want.   

The inmates are running the asylum. Chaselogo

Even if you do tell us not to share, we may share other types of information within our family. For example, we may share name and address, information about transactions or balances with us, as well as survey results.
and my favorite:

unless otherwise permitted by law.

Note the fine legal point here.  It's not required by law, but permitted by law.

So even if you tell Chase you want them to respect your privacy, they have no intention of doing so.   Makes you want to bury your money in mason jars in the back yard (but convert them to euros first).

Thanks for stopping by Doc

A friend of mine was in town for a few days with his family.  So we give them a complete experience with snow, then snow and cold, then snow and cold and high winds.   The entire Park City experience in three days complete with some restaurant price gouging.  Later we all had a great time and a great meal Friday.
If anyone is in town between now and April, drop me a note and we can do one of my favorite things.

Product Development: Things they don't teach you in books

O.K. Mary, I accept the challenge.  Many books and courses have been taught in product development, but there are some very potent factors which never seem to be covered.

1) Swing for the fences: build the vision
I tried a safe project once.  Nobody cared.   Instead take on a big problem and come up with an ideal "after our product" scenario.  Then everyone on the team "gets" the big picture and you will have outstanding results.   Working within a large corporation, I kicked off the development meeting with our primary objectives.  Instead of "meet product requirements, stay within budget <yawn>" ours were "We want product of the year in....."   And yes, we did it in 5 countries.

2) Fire comes from friction, friction comes from diversity
It takes a community to build a product (tacky, but true).   You need the sage experienced types, the cynical, the historian and the can do people.  But you don't always get to choose the actual members.  Remember the best team to build a product is the team you've got.  Instead reach into each member and develop those diverse attributes.  And they don't have to be on your payroll.  Pull in your suppliers and partners into the process.

3) Go anal, then back off
Plan, plan, plan up front.  Look for those land mines and external dependencies.   As long as the team is involved and agrees, you really don't have to worry about it.  On our latest project we looked at the original work we had done 6 months ago, and guess what?  We were on track.  Because the team believed in it.

4) Never challenge, tell stories
Your team will make assertions as your project goes along.  I cringe anytime someone challenges those assertions.  "Why do you say that?"  Bad vibes.  If you're not sure about the assertion, tell a story about how a user might use the product and simply ask how it would work.  That way you're both on the same side of the table.

5) The wheels will come off sometime, be gracious.
This is a certainty.  Something always happens.  Don't snap, don't bark.   Just smile and ask "So what are we going to do about it?".   My favorite was 2 weeks before full production, an engineer was testing the product and found all the SCSI cables were 1 inch too short.   I laughed.   We fixed it and made the ship date.

And for you in big corporations, and added bonus:
Never nick a King or a Queen, they'll get better.
Pay attention to the politics of the organization.  In the effort to stay on track when someone in power makes a mistake we are tempted to nail them.  Well guess what?  Payback will happen.  So be very careful to give them a way out.  You will need their help in the future.

Simplify: A route to Market

Movie rentals have been evolving for some time.  First came the neighborhood stores.  Then the nationals took over.   However after going to a physical location, you couldn't always find what you wanted. 

Enter the Internet and Netflix.  Now they just send you what ever you want.  But you do have to plan ahead.

So Blockbuster responds with their Netflix wannabe plus the option to go to the local store.  But you still have to plan ahead or take your chances.  Plus you have to either shell out $4 per rental when you do find something or you sign up for a monthly plan.  And Blockbuster hosed a useful website.  Don't believe me?  Tell me what movies have been released for the past three months.  Cannot be done.

So Coinstar (the grocery store change counters and gum ball machines) get McDonald's Ventures to invest some burger bucks along with Coinstar's $20M to come out with Redbox.   Redbox Redbox is a DVD rental dispenser.    For $1 / night you get to take home a movie.  After 25 nights, the movie is yours.   Because you need a credit or debit card to rent, they figured you were probably 17 anyhow, so no problem with the R rated movies.   

But they also use the Internet in a clever way.  Each machine's inventory is online.  So before you hop into your car, you can search for movies and see what's in stock.   That's what sold me.  Plus the movies are due at 7 pm the next day.  Shopping at 6am, no problem.  And you can pick up a load of bread.

Originally the concept was bought off by McDonald to put increase food sales at their properties.  Didn't happen.  So Redbox is adapting and moving into grocery stores who had to close down their own video stores after the nationals ate their lunch.

Ah, but there is also Comcast's on demand.  But they also charge $4, don't support surround sound, and don't have the DVD extras. 

The marketing lesson here?   Watch the trends, pick out the core value, and deliver it.   Redbox is not in the clear.   If Blockbuster came out with "Bluebox" and did deals with Kroger and the other major grocery chains, bye bye Redbox.   So Redbox has to be hustling to lock in as much as they can.