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posted by Kevin Smith Apr 19,2017 @ 04:19PM

The Greed Trap

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The most revolutionary products fulfill a previously unmet need. I recall my first iPod. I never considered that every cassette, album and CD I had ever owned might fit in my pocket. With the iPod came the end of a lifelong search for the ideal music storage vehicle. 

Once they breakthrough, great products work to maintain their established beachhead. That means refining or evolving their products or services to continue to solve people's problems. In the best instances, these are problems people didn't even know they had.

In my case, now that I had all my music in my pocket, why not add my calendar, address book and phone to the mix. This kind of focus endears brands to us and forms tribes of loyalists. This is the path to category leadership, and with it comes imitators.

Next comes a crucial intersection:

  1. Take the difficult route: Continue to solve different but related problems. Limit profits by budgeting for major investments in top talent, research and development and the launch of new product lines.
  2. Go mass: Sacrifice the affinity of your base by making your product or service more affordable, thereby growing your audience.
  3. Take advantage of new revenue streams: Allow your product or service to become a means to other passive income. This typically involves taking advantage of your customers' needs or weaknesses instead of continuing problem solve for them.

Very few companies choose option A. It's not just because it is difficult; the allure of ever expanding profits is just too great. Businesses become so obsessed with growth that they cause their own undoing. I call this the greed trap.

The proliferation of social networks, constant texts and email notifications has tethered us to our cell phones. Data plans, streaming content and constant communications have lead to an "always-on" lifestyle. Adults and children alike have a growing compulsion for screen time. Being away from our phones causes separation anxiety. We are addicted – and the resulting behavior is pretty ugly.

In the 1950s and 60s people walked around smoking. There were ashtrays everywhere: on elevators, in cars, in hotel lobbies, bars and restaurants. Instead of smoking, what do you see people doing in these same places today? The smartphone industry isn't solving problems anymore; it's creating them.

The greed trap is a failure to think strategically and act responsibly. It happens when companies and their leaders stop thinking about their clients and focus on themselves. Eventually, the result is backlash. We're just beginning to see this with cell phones, and I predict a serious increase of it in the future.

Here are three questions you might consider when planning for your organization:

  1. What problem does our company solve for its clients?
  2. How would our customers be impacted if your organization closed its doors?
  3. What common customer issues in our space remain unsolved?

Asking yourself, your colleagues and your customers questions like these are the key to sustainable growth and customer retention. Take the time to answer them and your next step will be profitable for both you and your customer.

posted by Will Weatherly Mar 22,2017 @ 02:16PM

Think Slow

I own a copy of a New York Times Bestseller by a Winner Of The Nobel Prize in Economics (sounds impressive, huh?). “It’s fantastic!” That’s what all the reviews and podcasters say. I wouldn’t know yet. It’s been on my desk and my “next” list for a while now.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

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The title alone got me to buy it, because it is the idea of fast-vs-slow thinking that’s been on my mind when it comes to making great marketing.

See, in a few weeks, a team of us from Riggs will be visiting the DIGSOUTH conference in Charleston. The digital wave is advancing our field faster than ever, and change is the status quo. Waves are scary, but they're also exhilerating. We’re pumped. 

Looking over the conference topics, it hits me just how much is happening all around us right now:

  • Virtual Reality
  • Augmented Reality
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Predictive Data Analytics
  • Internet of Things
  • Geo-Mobile
  • 24/7 Live Steaming
  • Digital Automation

 And all of this forces a lot of fast twitch thinking for marketers:

  • What’s new?
  • What’s now?
  • What’s next?
  • Do this?
  • Do that?
  • Click.
  • Post.
  • Share.
  • Like.

Confession? It can get a bit frenetic and pretty overwhelming.

Now, alongside all this, the very same week DIGSOUTH is tackling all that’s new and next, there’s another event going on in Atlanta. It’s a customer experience (“CX”) journey mapping workshop by Strativity’s Journey Management Academy.

If “journey mapping” isn’t on your radar yet, that’s okay. CX is still an emerging though rapidly growing field. Here’s a definition from Harvard Business Review:

“A customer journey map is a very simple idea: a diagram that illustrates the steps your customer(s) go through in engaging with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination.” - https://hbr.org/2010/11/using-customer-journey-maps-to

In essence, journey mapping is taking inventory. In our omnichannel world, it’s becoming all the more relevant. This process of auditing every customer touchpoint can take days; require input from all corners of an organization; and involve hundreds if not thousands of Post-it notes.

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It’s slow. It’s methodical. It’s disciplined. It’s full and deep and complex.

Sound painful? Consider this...

Digital innovation is rapidly increasing the number of customer touchpoints. This exponentially increases the need for strong, creatively differentiating brand experiences. There’s never been a greater need for marketers to slow down before going fast. To get clarity before getting creative. 

The best fast thinking is built on a foundation of slow thinking.

So, have you set aside time and resources for slow thinking? Your business' trajectory, your company culture, and your brand marketing – they all depend on it. And there's no time to wait.  

posted by Cathy Monetti Mar 15,2017 @ 04:45PM

Connectivity. And Uber.

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I RECENTLY TOOK my first Uber ride.

I know, I know, this is an embarassing admission. But there it is, and here is why I mention it at all.

I am fascinated by the Uber experience and the statement the phenomenon makes, not just about our culture, but about connectivity.

 ~~~

IT WAS OUR FIRST NIGHT in San Diego and we had just made dinner reservations. The weather was awful (yes, we brought rain to Southern California), so even though the restaurant was not more than a mile away, walking was out. That's when my daughter suggested we consider Uber. We had a rental car, so it took a little convincing to decide to leave it parked in front of the house and to summon "a local" to drive us up the hill to Bull & Grain. But that's just what we did.

The car arrived in mere moments, and the three of us climbed in. Eliza quickly struck up the conversation that was repeated with every subsequent Uber driver: How long have you been driving? What made you decide to do it? How do you like the work? I was fascinated by each and every one of these exchanges. They were personal (albeit short) commentaries about life and its twists and turns: It was the first night with Uber for one admittedly anxious woman, a school teacher with young children at home. Another was a longtime driver who happened to be a jazz musician with great artist recommendations (Anita O'Day) and a strong suggestion we rearrange our intenerary to include a visit to Cabrillo (we did) and the museums at Balboa Park (we didn't but wish we had).

 ~~~

UBER IS HOT, there's no doubt about that, with some experts putting the private company's value in the $60 billion range. (Billion.) While this evaluation is a rather hotly debated topic, there's no denying "mobile moment" appeal on which the concept is based. Hailing a ride requires the push of a button. Cars are (generally) close by. Fares are established up front, and because the bill is paid automatically and electronically, no cash changes hands. That means there's no worry over being ripped off by a circuitous route driver, and there's no fretting over a tip. (I can't overly state the value of this part of the model.)

And there is the fact your driver is not a distant, impersonal professional but a "regular" person who has a particular set of circumstances that brings him/her to Uber driving in the first place. The whole experience feels more pedestrian, somehow, like these people are your neighbors--human beings with complicated lives and jobs and families, challenges and charms, flaws, dreams and failures. You might be strangers in a car, but there is also between you a sweet window for connection, somehow, a quiet understanding you are just people going about life and doing it the best you can.

 ~~~

THIS CONNECTIVITY is a very real part of Uber's appeal, that's what I think, and it's the point I want to make. It's an acknowledgement, however understated, that we are all in this together, that whether you're the one giving the lift or the one paying the fare, both sides of the Uber equation are actually doing something good, something that helps a brother out.

It's a pretty compelling business benefit, I have to say, even if it's a quiet one.

posted by Teresa Coles Mar 08,2017 @ 01:07PM

When all things work together

I’m a big believer that the right people come into your life at the right moment, as long as you recognize you’re not the one who’s in control of making those things happen. Call it Alchemy. Karma. Faith. Whatever your position on these matters, it’s enough to acknowledge that encountering and sensing the impact of a new human being along our path — often in a single, ordinary moment — is a true gift.

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That’s exactly what happened here at RP on a cold and dreary morning about a year ago. A young woman had reached out to me with the possibility of engaging us on an assignment, and I suggested we gather for coffee one morning in the Green Room. There in that quiet corner, I was immediately struck by this one in whom I saw remarkable insight and a sense of self-awareness I wish I’d had 20 years ago.

While it was not the right time and place for us to connect at that time, I felt there was perhaps a different purpose to our meeting. Today, I’m happy to announce that my hypothesis has been happily proven with the addition of Stephanie Owens as our newest account manager.

Stephanie brings with her the perspective of working in both agency and corporate marketing environments, no doubt a factor in her thoughtful and intuitive approach to collaborating with clients and RP team members. Her experience in managing the development of cross-channel programs that incorporate every modern marcomm element is a strength she’s already putting to work for a number of RP clients.

And did we mention she’s loads of fun? One look at her when we walked into the recent ADDYs celebration, and we knew it was all just as it should be.  

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We think she’ll fit in just fine.

 

posted by Michael Powelson Feb 15,2017 @ 02:46PM

My Left-Hand Man

(Or, How Fatherhood Taught Me To Stop Explaining and Love the Brand)

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 Parents are a greedy lot.

And us newbies can be the worst offenders. By the time he was six months old, nearly every aspect of my son Charlie had been spoken for.

His chin? Mine.

Eyes? My wife’s.

We claimed his laugh to have once belonged to my mother and that a certain restlessness was all Maria’s dad. Even the name we’d chosen wasn’t truly his, but a derivative of his great grandfather.

On the surface, this seemed normal and harmless. But somewhere in that six-month delirium of cortisol and dopamine, Maria and I lost our grip. Charlie became not so much a baby, but a blank screen on which his parents could project a lifetime of family pride, doubt, vanity and loss. At every stage of development, each new wrinkle he showed was an invitation to fire up that projector and retrieve an old slide carousel from the hall closet of our memories.

It was heartwarming. And self-indulgent. And more than a little ridiculous. Fortunately, I had something to keep my sappy, sleep-deprived mind from completely scattering to the winds of nostalgia.

 

---

 

For months I’d been working on a client project that was finally coming to fruition. It had begun as a purely theoretical effort — an exercise to show a non-profit, community hospital how broadly their brand might define itself. The goal was to prove to them just how unique they were. In today’s healthcare climate of corporate consolidation, their independent, indigenous spirit made for something bigger than a series of loosely connected service lines. They were doing more than mending injury or fighting disease. They were providing a real, omnipresent sense of support and security for a close-knit community.

Hokey as that may sound, it’s the God’s honest truth. Which always increases the pressure on a creative team to do that truth justice. As such, scripts were written with great care. A subtle, symbolic story arc emerged that blurred the line between caregivers and community members, showing how this place and its hospital are inextricably linked.

Preparing the presentation, I realized how attached we’d gotten to the concept and, for the first time, regretted that it was only an exercise to show our partners what could be. A shame that it would never be produced, I thought.

Enter the first link in a chain of surprises.

“We love this,” the marketing director said. “More importantly, we need this. Let’s go.”

So we went.

Locations were scouted, shooting boards prepared; FAA airspace was granted and a helicopter commissioned. The creative team’s vision was set to become reality.

Then reality decided it had something to say about the creative team’s vision.

Prior to the shoot, our client began to question the amputee athlete we’d centered the narrative around. They acknowledged this was more exception than rule where their patient population was concerned and felt more comfortable casting a weekend warrior who’d recently received physical therapy for hip pain. They then decided against using professional talent for other key scenes, opting for real patients instead.

Soon after, Hurricane Matthew buzz-sawed the Carolina coasts and chewed through the largest autumn watermelon farm on the eastern seaboard — nixing one of our most anticipated setups.

And on day one of production, a shrimp boat we were to film ran afoul of the tides and was prevented from entering the harbor.

I phoned my wife late one evening, midway through the shoot. She picked up on the third ring.

“Charlie’s a lefty,” she offered in place of ‘hello.’

“Huh?,” I said.

“I think he’s left-handed. Every time I give him a Cheerio he switches it to his left hand before lifting it to his mouth.”

“Hmm.”

“Yeah. Crazy, right? So how’s it going down there?”

“Eh. Okay I guess.”

“Real convincing,” she offered sarcastically.

“I dunno. It’s not exactly what I imagined.”

“That’s normal though, right? Organic approach and all that?”

“Yeah. But the scripting was pretty intentional on this one. I knew how the dots connected on paper. I could explain it. What we’re shooting — I just don’t know.

“Could be a good thing.”

“We’ll see."

 

---

 

We started to see in the edit suite a few weeks later. Yes, some of the beats had morphed. And several of the scenarios had to be adjusted to accommodate a cast with no acting experience. But all in all, the spot began to hang together.

It’s been running for a couple weeks now. The audience response has been overwhelming. And I’d be lying if I claimed the concept’s evolution wasn’t a big reason why.

The truth is, allowing the vision to evolve and finding ways to make the changes work produced a more telling reflection of the community. The audience responded because we had offered it a mirror, not a projector.

In a song for his young son Sean, John Lennon famously wrote that “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” The experience on this spot leads me to think the same can be said for brands. Brands arise organically. Advertising doesn’t create them, it simply amplifies them in the direction of an audience. Marketing is a means, not an end.

As creatives, we can (and should) research and strategize and concept and script and explain until we’re convinced we’re offering clients the most insightful, dynamic work possible. But it's all for naught if we don’t recognize when to get out of the way and let the essence of a hospital, or a community, or a 6-month-old shine through.

 

---

 

Two months later, Charlie’s still fielding his Cheerios on the left. And while Maria and I tried to find precedent for this on both sides of our families, we could not. He is the only southpaw for at least three generations. Which makes it damn near my favorite thing about him. On Saturday mornings, I like to grab a cup of coffee and pull his highchair into the living room where I can watch him eat. And wave. And conduct imaginary orchestras like only a baby can.

I know the more time passes, the more ways he’ll find to defy our explanations. “Who will he be?” I wonder. At six? Or 16? Or 22? What other wonderful things will he show us that we can’t account for or lay claim to?

We’ll see.

As Lennon said, “I can hardly wait.”

 

- # -

 


 

 Special thanks to Greyhawk Films, our production partner on this spot.

 

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