Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Did Amazon kill the Re-tail star

If you want to know the future, review the past.

There was a time when there was one store in town. And it sold almost everything you needed.
Food, hardware, clothes, and toys all bought under one roof.
One guy would be in the store to take your order at the front counter.
You could wait for him to gather your items or you could come back later to pick them up.
If your order was big enough, he would load them up in his wagon and deliver them to you on his way home.

As towns grew, the General Store couldn't keep up, so competition emerged. Merchants figured out that demand was somewhat based on supply, so they built bigger stores, put more stuff in them and eliminated the counter person. Customers could pick up what they wanted. They would go to the counter and pay the clerk instead. Less staff kept prices down. And low prices were the way to win the customer's loyalty.

Competitors showed up and started to specialize in products. New needs emerged with technological advances and economics of a growing population. Instead of General Stores, we built clothing stores, hardware stores, drugstores, grocery stores, liquor stores, and service stations.

Many stores were still General Stores, but they didn't identify as such. Sears, The Bay, Eatons, Woolworths, Zellers and K-Mart kept acting like General Stores but didn't accept the changes of the market demands.

Instead of picking out what we wanted in the store, we called or mailed our order to a counter person and our items would be delivered to our local depot for pickup. The item would be picked by employees, while we waited for its arrival.

By using technology, those first to the catalogue business benefitted greatly from their innovation.
Was the concept much different from the General Store?

Some companies figured out that they didn't need retail space. Why spend rent when customers are ordering over the phone and by mail? Enter Consumers Distributing.  From 1957 to 1996, Consumers Distributing sold "online" only. Their business model was flawed in that they were often out of stock when customers tried to order.

The new-age General Store emerged with Sam Walton guaranteeing lowest prices. He recognized the inefficient supply channel and knew if he fixed it, he couldn't be beat on price as the current game was being played. And thus emerged the term "Category Killer".

Say good bye to Consumers Distributors, The Bay, Sears, Eatons, Woolworths, Zellers and K-Mart. They were all competing on price with each other and Walmart changed the game to their advantage.

The General Store still exists and will always exist.

In 1994, technology brought in the next wave of competitors.
You still go to a counter. We call them websites now.
Someone else picks the item.
Someone delivers it.
You still have choice.
And price is still important.

In 2015, Walmart closed 247 stores.
According to Price Waterhouse Cooper, 56% of all worldwide retail shopping is done online.

The world of retail has changed.
You can no longer compete on price.
We knew that 23 years ago when Walmart started killing the competition.
We know that even better today as Amazon euthanizes Walmart.

So don't try.
Decide that you are not going to be the best price.
Decide that you are going to be the best at something else.

Some products are commodities, where the only thing that matters is price.
That's why Dollar Stores exist.

If you are trying to compete with these giants in a commodity type industry, you're like the chickens we used to kill every October. You're still bouncing around, but your head has been cut off.

"Customers" (I use the term loosely), are coming to your store, benefitting from your expertise, acquiring knowledge, checking out reviews and prices on their phone, and then making a purchase decision that probably doesn't include your store, unless they need the product now.

The future of off-line retail is dead, unless something changes.

Consumer prices are generally higher in traditional retail because someone has to pay for the expensive rent.
Offline retail cannot compete on price with online retail.
The metrics don't work.
Time is also a problem
Consumers are busy.
The old way of shopping is inefficient for these time sensitive buyers.

Despite this, off-line retail has a huge opportunity.
The king of off-line retail, Costco, knows this better than anyone else. Offering samples at the end of each aisle helps them sell more food but it also helps them stay ahead of online retailers by offering samples to create enjoyable shopping experiences.

CNBC reported in 2016 that Millenials are spending less money on stuff and more money on experiences. They'd rather ride a scooter and travel to a foreign country twice a year than own a Lexus and have a $50,000 debt.

Experiences over Stuff

I asked my millennial friend Craig about this and he smiled. He and his wife earn almost $150,000 per year. They own a modest home, no kids, and a dog. No fancy cars, but they travel four times per year.

Experiences over Stuff

The experiential shopping factor at a Walmart on a scale of 1-10 is 0.
The experiential factor on Amazon is close to the same.

They both sell stuff. You buy it. It shows up.

Off-line retail has something Amazon does not. It can offer an experience.
And I'm not talking about the cliche experience most retailers currently offer, like friendly service, nice posters, inviting music and well dressed employees.

Experience is deeper than that.

Imagine wanting a baseball bat.
Before you buy it, you can try it out while you hit a baseball into the stands of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. Half virtual, half real so the customer can test the "feel and performance" of the product.

You can still buy the bat online for $20 cheaper, but maybe the "trial" comes with a $10 handling fee that is credited to the purchase of the bat if you buy it.

You can do that with almost any retail product. But it takes guts to move in that direction.

The world of retail is constantly changing.

Amazon will sell cheap stuff until the next General Store emerges. Technology will decide what that will look like, as it always has.

So the only way the new face of retail will survive is if it changes the way it offers new, exciting experiences to its customers.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Get customers to break down your door

Apple Pie is best 10 minutes out of the oven with a scoop of french vanilla ice cream.
The ice cream slides off like a 5 year old boy screaming with joy on the playground.
The first bite reminds me of that one apple tree in my grandma's back yard. The grandkids would pick the tree bare each autumn so grandma would bake us a pie.
We called our grandma, memere, which is slang for grand mere in French.
Her freezer had an endless supply of Napoleon (neapolitan) ice cream.  

In the fall, she traded it for french vanilla.
Without ice cream, apple pie is disappointing.
My memere made a great apple pie. Your grandma did too. Mine is gone and so is her apple pie, so we will never be able to settle who's was better
It's the first day of Autumn and I can't help but think of those apple pie days in my youth. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer never had so much fun...

This is part of a previous blog I wrote. Can you smell the apple pie cooking in the oven?

The point of the the story is to bring out an emotion. The type of emotion is not important.
If the story brings out an emotion, then it has done it's job.

What does any of this have to do with marketing?
If you can create an emotion in your target audience, they will remember the ad. They will personalize your story for their own perspective.

Through personalization, they will find comfort with your brand.
You never have to sell to a group who wants to buy.

You can sell anything with this story. You're not limited to ice cream, apples and ovens.

You could finish off the ad selling ice cream:
...Nicholson's old fashioned ice cream.  Like the kind grandma used to put on your apple pie.

or apples:
...Nicholson's Orchard. Grandma said wild apples make the best apple pies.  We think she was right.

or books:
...Richard's Bookstore. Your imagination is waiting for you.

The job of the ad is to get into a customer's head. Most of us have eaten apple pie. Most of us have memories of grandma. Those emotions get exposed in a story like this.

Go write a story. It doesn't have to be about your product. The product is secondary to the story.

The story is the hero.
The product is like the supporting cast to the story.

If the customer participates in your story, you were persuasive.
If you're product is relevant to the customer, they will buy,
When he is ready to buy.

If you're ad is neither relevant nor persuasive, then you've wasted your marketing dollars.

Persuasion can be about price, limited time offers and limited stock. But that's the quick route to selling that loses effectiveness with any passage of time.

Those pesky price offers only work in the short term.
I hope you'll be in business longer than that.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cliche is predictable and unrewarding

Do you live a cliche life?

No one wants to average, but everyone wants to be considered normal.
We feel unique, but most of us don't want to stand out.

Cliches are based on predictable patterns, words, solutions, and problems.

Go to school, get an education, get a good job.
You have to spend money to make money.
You can't save your way to success.
A life without struggle is not a life worth living.
First in wins.
Curiosity killed the cat.

A cliche thought followed by cliche action creates predictable results.

We cannot win by fighting the same battle as everyone else.
Winners in battle change the rules to their advantage so they can win. All great generals of war know this.

To win the game, you must change the rules, or wait an extremely long time with many casualties.

I'm impatient, and I don't want any casualties on my side.
I'd rather change the rules in my favour.

The United States military is the greatest military force the world has ever seen. In 2000, they developed War Game called Millennium Challenge. Paul Van Riper, a lieutenant in the Vietnam war was hired to act as a Middle Eastern rogue nation, otherwise labelled as "Red Team". The good guys were called "Blue Team".

Paul Van Riper knew the traditional steps in war. He prepared for the big slow moving machine to start their process. When "Blue Team" knocked out communication towers, he had already incorporated Morse Code to keep the lines open. When Blue Team attacked the ground head-on, Red Team attacked the back line, taking down aircraft carriers, and battleships. Blue team was highly predictable and Red Team was not. Using guerrilla warfare tactics that weren't conceived by the intuitive mindset of the opposing generals posed a major challenge for Blue Team. Within weeks, Blue Team was defeated despite its resources. Van Riper wasn't predictable and Blue Team didn't know what to do each time he struck.

Marketing works exactly the same way. The battle to gain attention is harder every day with each piece of new technology demanding our attention.

The way to win at marketing is by doing things differently.

Roy H. Williams of Wizard of Ads teaches his students about Broca's area of the brain. Broca is the gatekeeper to our brain. If the received information is not new, exciting or different, Broca slams the door shut and doesn't pass the material to the area of the brain that will retain it for future use.

Cliche is not new, exciting, or different.

Your life works the exactly the same way.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel bothAnd be one traveler, long I stoodAnd looked down one as far as I couldTo where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,And having perhaps the better claim,Because it was grassy and wanted wear;Though as for that the passing thereHad worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally layIn leaves no step had trodden black.Oh, I kept the first for another day!Yet knowing how way leads on to way,I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sighSomewhere ages and ages hence:Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by,And that has made all the difference. 

- Robert Frost "The Road Not Taken"

Friday, November 24, 2017

Revealing secrets

As you go through life, there are things you are striving for.

Simple or complicated, there is something on the horizon that you want for a better tomorrow.

Instead of thinking about all the things you have, try to think about all the things you've done. 
How did you achieve them?
What were the obstacles?
How did you overcome them?
Was there a solution to the obstacle that seemed complicated at the time.
But now it was so simple?
Could you solve that same problem again with little effort?

I believe the life you want is the life you have.
I also believe the life you want is one simple solution away.

At Wizard Academy, Mark Fox teaches a class called Davinci and the 40 Answers. Mark is a rocket scientist who worked for NASA. He teaches a problem solving protocol that can be used for any problem you could imagine. 

There are only 40 solutions to any of your problems.

Once you learn the usage of his techniques, you see the world differently.
Roses tingle your nose.
Wine dances on your tongue.
And elephants tango with the stars in your dreams.

One of the 40 solutions is to turn the problem upside down.

Walk into dark room, and turn on a flashlight.
It will help you see, unless you turn the light toward your face.
You'll be blinded by the light and won't see anything.
Turn the light off. And your eyes will dance with glee as the darkness reveals her secrets.

The absence of light can limit your vision, but can also enhance it.
And light focused in the wrong direction will also limit vision.

Talking to a computer engineer named Dustin, he reminded me of Mark Fox's 40 answers. He boldly stated that he believed cancer was the key to humanity's immortality. 

Is it possible the thing we're trying to eliminate is the thing that is trying to save us?

As you think about your problems, look at the problem from a new angle.

Albert Einstein said, "A problem cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created it". If Einstein had met Mark Fox, they would have enjoyed each others company.  

How have you changed your thinking to solve your problems?
Maybe the light is pointed toward your eyes too long.
Turn it off and your darkness may reveal your secrets.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Pigeons pecking on the playground

There was a time when reality was something your teacher would tell you to come back to. You would look out the window to watch the pigeon peck on the playground while in the background there was a voice talking about the multiplication tables.

The voice would bellow, louder and louder until finally, it would awake you from your day slumber.

It is easy to go into that slumber as things around you become less interesting as the object of your attention.

Grade school was a million years ago, but those same tendencies still exist in all of us as adults.

Television was the first impactful distraction away from the dullness of life. Then came the internet, and the ability to watch anything, anywhere, anytime.

But the thing that has taken the most of our time and our interest is Social Media. With technology advancements with cellular phones, Social Media has become an all encompassing distraction.

It allows for the distribution of information unlike any other media has been able to reach. It takes the  benefits of television, radio, newspaper and internet and puts them into one ball and allows you to consume whatever information you desire. But it adds one other component the others are not able to do.

It interlaces all of this information with opinions and photos of people you know. And if that wasn't enough, it allows for any of their connections to reinforce or debate the original position.

Social media allows not only for communication, but also drama for all of its participants. Like television, some of the stories are interesting. But most of them are garbage and only interesting to the poster and his close connections (ie. REAL friends and family).

Social media gives us 4 million channels and 3,999,954 give us nothing but a feeling of anger, emptiness, sadness, unworthiness, and uselessness. Social media at its core is nothing more than reality television with people we know as the stars of the show.

It is the pigeon pecking on the playground.
And your life is calling you, but it's easy not to hear it. It's not that interesting and there's better things to do while we wait for something better to come along.

For these reasons, I have decided to limit my time on social media.
For these reasons, I have decided to limit my ability to communicate to you.
For these reasons, I have not been on social media for 5 days.
For these reasons, I do not know what's going on in your lives.

But when we meet, I will have more to say to you.

I will not feel like I know your whole life.
You will feel like I am more interested in you...because I will be.

So if you try to reach me on social media, I will not respond. The phone is disconnected for the time being.

Your life needs you. And you need it.

Friday, October 27, 2017

You shouldn't embrace change

Change is an emotion.

It's a feeling scratching at the backside of your eyeballs while hammering your pinky toe with a heavy object.

In the movie, Inside Out, you were told a story about how "Sadness" brings you to "Happiness".

Change is like "Sadness". It brings us to a happier place, when we embrace it.

No one likes change happening to them. It has to do with safety and security. When things go well, why would anyone want change? That would be a cross between insanity and masochism.

Despite not wanting change, it is inevitable.
A life void of change is unsafe and insecure.
There used to be jobs that people would do for a lifetime.
Changes in technology, competition and a shrinking global marketplace got rid of most of those jobs.

Change happens to you or by you.
It's your choice.
Your circumstances will change undoubtedly.
You can navigate the uncertain waters or be swallowed by their unforgiving ferocity.

If you captain your ship, and not blame the changing weather for your misfortunes, you'll get to a better place.
When you blame circumstances beyond your control, you victimize yourself. You limit your growth, your potential, and future opportunities. Living in past glories fogs your current judgement and denies you the realization the world has changed...and leaving you behind in the mud while all the change agents move forward to the next "Happy" place.

Unless you want to be sad for the rest of your days, you should stop changing.
Stay the same.
That only works for dogs, in my opinion.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The battle of your brain

If you're like me, the decision to do or not do is a battle every day.

The world pays attention to doers and ignores the non-doers. To live and have the world not notice you is a choice. It's a poor choice filled with limited opportunities, self-loathing, unfulfilled desires and regret.

But it's still a choice.

To not do is safe.
According to Abraham Maslow, safety and security is what you need after your belly is full.
Physical security is important for survival.
If you're facing physical danger with lions, tigers and bears.

Most of your fears are not based on physical danger.
They are based on mental ones.

One mental danger is the fear of not belonging.

You don't want to be shunned from a tribe, laughed into the wilderness, and cast off to a desert island.

That fear haunts you with every step.

As it does me almost every day.

Imagine a room filled with people you feel are smarter, and richer than you.
One of them knows Oprah.
One has his own TV show.
Another has a private jet.
You've been invited to this room, just like all the others.

I know how I'd feel because it happened to me. I was like Wayne Campbell in the movie, Wayne's World mouthing silently,

"We're not worthy. We're not worthy."

It's hard not to be the bumbling idiot in the room. The imposter syndrome shows up at just the wrong time.

In my room, we were asked if we had anything to share.
I had two pieces of writing: a radio ad and a blog post that I was proud of.

When it came time to share, I stumbled. I shook. I hesitated.
Ultimately, I lost an opportunity to demonstrate what I was capable of.

And now I live in regret, which is much worse than getting cast out of the tribe.

Deconstructing my own behaviour I noticed something.
I am insecure at my core.
As an artist, I don't want people to critique my work.
I don't want people to tell me my baby is ugly.
To be judged scares the crap out of me.

At the same time, I'm a proud papa.
No matter how ugly the baby, I love him just the same because I created him.

While my two minds of Insecure artist and Proud papa argued what to do, time slipped away.
The bumbling fan watched the superstars be great.
And instead of being on the same field, I became a fanboy.

And another opportunity was lost.
Until next time, when the battle rages again.

I encourage you to be vulnerable. To let your greatness loose.
Regret is a powerful pain that cannot be measured.

When you're vulnerable, people notice you.
Most people wear a mask to protect their flaws.
Shedding your mask is attractive to others as they struggle with authenticity for themselves.
And when they see you doing it,  you become more likeable.

It's ok to be afraid.
If you weren't, you wouldn't be human.

But act despite it. Opportunity is exponential.