The End of the World as we know it!

Quite the headline isn’t it.

It conjures up images of apocalyptic events both natural and man-made.

Mother Earth’s patience; finally exhausted by the endless squandering of her bounteous gifts, wreaks vengeance on her tenants, delivering a rolling series of natural catastrophes.  Not to be outdone; Mankind, completely looses it’s already tenuous grip and vents its spleen…. heaping brutality upon brutality. Together elemental forces and mankind’s lunacy escalate the violence to a gargantuan grand finale. In spite of the carnage, a battle torn Brad Pitt or Colin Farrell performs multiple death-defying feats along the way and saves the buxom love interest, a cute recently orphaned kid and a dog. Holding hands they bravely head off into the sunset to begin the circle of life anew…the soundtrack comes up, the credits role and the lights go on.

Great epic material but not much of a likely scenario (2012 will come and go as have the last 10,000 before it)…too static and if nothing else, life has shown us that it’s shamelessly intolerant of anything static. And no history does not repeat itself…historians do. Although at times it’s hard to tell, we no longer dwell in caves. And we shop for groceries!

The truth is…the world as we know it ends every night when we tuck ourselves into bed. Thankfully tomorrow is another day but it’s a day that stubbornly defies prediction. More so now, than at any other time in the history of man.

The winds of change are howling through the alleyways. We’re accelerating …to what end I don’t know but we seem  to be perched on the very cusp of an all-encompassing change. In the off-chance that I’m the only one who’s noticed…stop and do a quick mental check. Can you honestly think of one institution or social structure that isn’t covered in cracks? Straining at the seams?

Economies have tanked so many times they deserve a snorkel and fins. Despite all the back slapping and glad handing, we have not emerged from this latest plunge with a shiny new, functioning economic model. It’s the old one patched together with baling wire, duct tape and a lick of paint. Oh! and it’s shifting…big time. You may want to keep an eye on emerging economies.

Business? Business is lost. The whole concept of control and market domination are out the window. Most traditional business systems are floundering. Consumers are a lot more savvy these days. They know what they want and they want it custom tailored to meet their needs and they don’t give a damn about shareholder dividends or stock value. A quick trip along the highways and byways of social media and they can find out everything they need to know about a company, its competition, its products and where to get better and cheaper. In less time than it takes you to drink your morning coffee and read your newspaper.

Employees are beginning to realise that they can live without that extra TV, especially if it requires being a wage slave to acquire it. They want more from their companies than a pay check. They’re learning to put their interests first, no longer willing to risk retrenchment to protect shareholder wealth. Big business has taught them well.

Politics. Politics is now so devoid of leadership it would be comic if it wasn’t so tragic. Pick any flavour you like, Socialism, Communism and Democracy the greatest disappointment of them all. Have all failed systematically. The west once the beacon of civilised society and fair play; have in spite of their continued self adulation become the pariahs of the world, the single greatest threat and obstacle to world peace, a stain on the fabric of society and a blight on the rose garden of humanity. What Weapons of Mass destruction? Does anyone think the world has forgotten?  Does anyone still foolishly believe that the Iraqi people regard the west as liberating hero’s?

The only luminaries on the horizon, are those scant few leaders who have demonstrated their wholehearted commitment to place the benefit of their people, (as defined by those people) above their own, and they hail from every colour of the political spectrum.

The family. Surely by now the children being raised in single parent homes, outweigh those kids whose fathers don’t pick them up every second weekend if at all. (myself Included)

Infrastructure and social services. Are a mess. “Pay more get less” has become the norm. Everywhere there are homeless people living in cardboard boxes. The sick and elderly, beggared to the point of starvation are living on pet food. No one should have to choose whether they eat or keep a roof over their head. It’s simply not  acceptable. Do you really need me to tell you that? Employment opportunities? Good luck! Just ask any graduate?

Education, Judiciary Systems, Religion, Taxation, Health Care… pick any one you like. They’re all facing radical changes.

Sounds bleak doesn’t it….you may well think I’m the prophet of doom.

Not so. As painful as it may seem, it’s all good. We’ve got to lose the old to make way for the new. Will the changes be better? I believe so. I think there will be growing pains, some we’re already experiencing. Technology is only getting going and look at the changes it’s already brought about. Self determination is coming of age all around us. We have access. People are making better and more informed choices about their lives and lifestyles. Change is a journey, no one knows what direction it will take. It’s invigorating, long overdue. Buckle up and smile! Wherever we’re headed… it’s gonna be an exciting ride.

As the Chinese say; “May you live in interesting times”.

Push a couple of those little social media buttons down below won’t you?  Ta.

Xross that Line.

Cheers Steven.

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When all else fails, try the truth.

In the wake of the turbulent economy tired consumers are fed up, too many have been badly burned. People no longer even pretend to believe advertising hype that implies benefits and outcomes that…well, that simply aren’t going to happen. Frankly I think consumers will be slow to spend and when they do, it will be on products that they  trust. I think companies who can win that trust will benefit.

It brings to mind a global brand of shampoo who back in 87 (when the global economy was faltering).  “Body-On-Tap” adopted a positioning that was up front, no bullshit, straight down the middle.

Amidst a clutter of competitor advertising that suggested, endlessly enduring beauty, an  improved sex life and the promise that “the man of your dreams would sweep you off your feet” if you used their product. Body-On-Tap (I think…hope?) thought outside the box and launched a campaign featuring the predictable image of a beautiful young woman with lustrous thick hair caught in a slow-mo twirl but the ad copy went something like this; (paraphrasing here…it’s been a long time).

“Our shampoo will make you hair  clean, shiny, healthy and look and smell great…What you do with the rest of your life? Is up to you!”.

It was a great campaign, ‘though I have no idea what the impact was on the bottom line it certainly moved their product up more than a few notches on the consumers score card. Why? It was honest. It clearly conveyed a simple message. We make great shampoo! If you use it you will have healthy, clean, beautiful hair… that’s all! It appealed to consumers who had lost their confidence in the business world and had, had their fill of twaddle.

Considering that once again we’re emerging from the economic dog house, beleaguered consumers ( better informed today ) are once again woefully short on trust. I think they  will regard companies that advertise their products in a truthful and honest way as being more worthy of their support.

Looking at some of today’s advertising I notice a lot of ads targeting young men (in particular the deodorant market) imply that the use of their product will lead to wild and gratuitous sex with unbearably gorgeous women. Really! What bunk. Do we really think anyone believes this? Even naïve young men?

I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a quick dummy ad ( forgive the hasty layout etc) for a fictitious men’s deodorant that may score a few points with consumers that have become  a lot more cautious, distrustful, and frugal. The kind of  positioning that may win an increased share of wallet as the competition for jaded consumers tightly clenched dollars heats up.

What do you think?  Heading in the right direction or not?

Xross that line.

Would you mind pushing some of those buttons below? Thanks awfully.

Cheers Steven

Man with flowers image:  courtesy of Photobucket

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Once Bitten Twice Shy?

The past 12 -18 months have been brutal. Many people are still reeling in the wake of the Granddaddy of all recessions.

Hopefully the worst is past,’though most pundits expect that the ripple effect will last for some time yet and a “double dip” is not out of the question (fingers crossed people)? Many are predicting an “uneven recovery” whatever that means?

One thing’s for sure, the past few months have raised a lot of questions and a lot people have taken the time to re-examine their values and spending habits. I think that’s a good thing.

Many consumers have adopted that stance that “once bitten twice shy”; especially those that may have lost jobs, lost their business and homes. Some are thinking “never again…will I put myself and my family in the position to lose it all“.  Not unusrprisingly, many people have lost confidence in business, and the economic system or more specifically, those who are meant to safeguard and administer it. If you thought the consumer was value/price driven in the past? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

In the past year or two a lot of people have had to give up things that they thought were vital to their lifestyle. Discovering along the way that not only are they not vital, many consumers are wondering why they ever thought they were?

Certainly there will be some consumers who will opt for pleasure revenge and spend to  compensate for the depressing woes of past months “Come on Alice, lets buy that new car! We deserve it after all we’ve been through.” But most consumers, I think (and hope) will hit this next Christmas thinking “Spend 5 grand on useless stuff we don’t need…are you mad?”

No. I think most consumers have adopted a very frugal outlook , they will think twice if not 3 times before they spend a dime and they will be looking to maximize value at every opportunity… saving money to replenish the nest egg. Good.

But…Maybe not so good, if you’re a marketer?  A lot of companies must be thinking, Now What?

Well, it really boils down to 3 options (albeit with a lot of variations)

1. Drop prices

2. Increase value

3.  Do Both

I think we’ll see initially a renewed call for lean principles but they’re not going to work, those self-same principles in practice are part of the reason we’re in the mess were in. In principle the idea is sound. Cut the operating cost while maintaining value and price, keep the increased difference in profits.

Unfortunately in practice I think what happens is a reduction in operating costs to the point of compromising value, in the hopes of gaining extraordinary margins. Nothing to obvious,  a gradual nibbling away at value… one small thing at a time. Other companies appear to believe, that because small incremental erosion may go unnoticed, value can be pared down to some knife-edge point and held there, maximizing profits while at the same time optimizing value, maybe even up the price a tad. Nice theory…I don’t think it works. Values are aggregate and fluid, not constant.

What consumers want is a demonstrably healthy relationship between value and price. They don’t want cheap and nasty and they don’t want overpriced fluff. What they want, is a reasonable price for good value, evidential value, not a ruse…not smoke and mirrors. In particular they admire brands that they perceive to be part of the solution…not part of the problem.  They’re going to take the time to check out offers and compare value more assiduously than they have in the past. Not much of a future in impulse purchases, I wouldn’t think?

Those companies that figure out how to deliver it, will do well. Those that don’t, will not.

Hint: Find ways to deliver remarkable value.

What do you think? Drop prices…create remarkable value? What solutions is your organisation considering?

Ohh be nice push some of those buttons below, please.


Xross that line

Cheers Steven.

For an interesting read on “When Low Price Competitors Appear” McKinsey and Company. Go to Library

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For a Good Time call Amber at 901 555 1212.

When we talk about social media these days,

we tend to think about digitally driven platforms that encourage people to interact in a spontaneous and informal dialogue.

“What’s on your mind” or “What’s happening” or “Start a discussion” are your cues to leap in, start a conversation and get connected. Whether it be, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging or blogs… it’s all social media.

Content can be anything from simple greetings to deep musings or solicitations for goods and services, either personal or business.

And we like to think this is all very shiny and new!

Is it?

Think non-digitally for a moment,

How about the community message board in your grocery store?

” 1986 Toyota Corolla needs TLC…” and “Looking for Room-mate – must be….”

The campus hub message board?

“Does anyone have a copy of “Plato’s Republic …” or “Hi, I’m looking for a ride to…will share gas” and “Party! Sat night, 22 Riverside Road, BYOB (nursing students eagerly sought)”

The tourist office in Madrid?

“John, if you get here I’ve gone to Ibiza, will hook up with you on Friday, love Gina”

I think we’ve engaged in social media for donkey’s years. The message boards have just gotten bigger, slicker and fancier.

In fact… when you think about it? Maybe the earliest form of social media was the graffiti on the lavatory wall. A mixed bag of prose and commerce.

“For a good time call Amber….”

Here I sit broken-hearted paid my dime……

Xross that line,

Oh Yes! Be a good chap and push some of those little buttons below will you?…Thanks.

Cheers Steven.

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A Fork in the Road…time for some changes.

Most of the articles that I write, are…well, sorta tongue in cheek. Partly poking ( safely behind the fence) at the world with a stick, to see if it’ll bite…it does! And partly serious.

We’ve hit a fork in the road and it’s time to split the blog into two different genres, “xross the line” becoming a bit more serious and focused on the business side of my life. Paying particular attention to marketing & advertising  which has been a long term love affair, albeit one that I’ve neglected too often.

and now…. Jibarish

The new Blog is “Jibarish” and as the name would imply ( yes I realise it’s misspelled but “Gibberish” was taken so I had to come up with a phonetic… yup Jibberish too) Jibarish is where I will put all my rants, musings and the odd’s n sods I stumble across when my head goes walk-about. Including One Cool Thing and whatever else may take my fancy.

The tagline reads “Go on then… open your mouth and let your guts rumble.” which ought to give you a clue about the nature of the content.

Also you may notice I have included a new page” Library” on this blog, where you can find  interesting and useful articles on marketing, social media and advertising. Written by a number of industry leaders, as well as my self (as soon as I can grab a few free moments). I will add to the library from time to time as I uncover articles that I believe contain qualified opinions and insights. To Begin with you should take a look at Seth Godins “Insubordinate”

Please feel free to download them as you wish…however you may not sell them. They are for reference only. If you do quote sections please remember to credit the source.

Xross that Line

Cheers Steven.

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