Last night Mary Meeker saved my life (AKA 2013 Internet trends)

(Drama on this post has been powered for theatrical appeal. Read post at your discretion, do not read slideshare at you peril).

In 1982 an R&B group called Indeep released a single that would alter their future.

The single was called “Last night a DJ saved my life“.

In that same year, Mary Meeker, today partner at lead VC firm KPCB, started working in Investment Banking as a stockbroker.

Also in that same year, yours truly was born in a big (everything seems big when you are a few hours old) hospital in South London.

Fast forward to last night and those three elements (Indeep, Meeker, moi) came together once again.

Last night Mary Meeker and her colleagues released their latest edition of their Annual Internet Trends report.

This is a presentation (embed below) which, if you work in anything digital related (and nowadays everything is), you should keep close, as it will prove to be valuable in many pitches and presentations.

Last night I desperately (you have been warned on the drama) needed a few slides on digital inertia, re-imagining and direction. And Mary Meeker was there for the rescue. DJ´s of the World, your live-saving days are over. 

Mary Meeker knows the internet (has studied it since the Netscape IPO in the early 90´s). Mary Meeker does her research. Put those two together and you get the unofficial (but deserved) title of Queen of the Net.

Below, the slideshare pres. Research and Insight on the evolution and direction of the internet.

Use it wisely Frodo.

Mary Meeker playing an invisible Sitar?
Mary Meeker playing an invisible Sitar?

 

Take care amigos,

Hector

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The S word explained through the F word

The S word that I use so much at work. Everybody likes to use it. It commands authority. It makes you look like you know what you are talking about. Strategy.

So what is Strategy? We love to say it, but are we using this term correctly?

Let’s take this example that might work (more or less) to explain the S word in a simple manner: through Food. The context is the following: I was recently immersed in a cooking competition amongst friends. Two of my friends that don’t cook at all would be acting as the judges of the competition that spanned over five meals in two months. In this period they visited 10 different houses (including mine) and tasted and graded the same 5 dishes.

So with this example laid out for us we now have defined a competitive environment (10 cooks) , a specific service (cooking the same 5 meals), similar restrictions (ingredients, recipes, utensils, time…) and a common goal: to win over the stomachs and the grading of two judges.

So what was my Strategy going to be with all my dishes?

S WORD AND THE F WORD

What is Strategy anyway? Let’s start by discussing what it’s not.

Strategy isn’t operational efficiency

Had I known all the recipes by heart (which I didn’t) I could perhaps have done simultaneous tasks at once (for the first dish which was lasagna for instance, prepare the cheese while the sauce simmers, etc). This is operational efficiency not strategy. Doing things faster (or cheaper for instance) than rivals is not something that can be sustained in the long-term (over an extended period of time this would even out). So whilst best practice operations are great for minimising wastage of resources (and maintaining costs down), best practices are easily emulated and not sustainable in the long run. As such they do not constitute a Strategy in itself. Operational efficiency is required to reach Strategy, but it isn’t enough.

Strategy isn’t technology or specific tools

In the same line as above. Strategy isn’t using the latest technology just for technology’s sake. I would only be able to outperform my cooking rivals if I established a significant difference in the way I did things, and if I added value to their experience in my home or through the food I prepared. So having the latest machine to cook the pasta for the first Lasagna dish, whilst advantageous, would still not be considered a Strategy.

So again, what does the S word mean?

Strategy means performing activities differently than rivals or performing different activities that are relevant to your consumers/customers/clients (in my case, my judges). This is when positioning plays a huge role as with a solid positioning you create for yourself a unique and valuable territory, that sets you apart from rivals.

And as you can’t adopt all positions, you need to evaluate trade offs between alternatives. This means that Strategy is as much deciding where/what you want to be as much as it is deciding where/what you don’t.

My Strategy for this particular gastronomical objective was not to focus too much on the dishes in themselves but more on the peripherals. My 9 rivals would be for sure delivering quality meals. The 5 dishes could be viewed as commodities. So, whilst I needed the meals to be flawless, I thought I needed something else to differentiate my offer and succeed in my goal.  I wanted to start winning the judges by the dishes, but add value through everything that surrounded them.

My strategy was to offer not only a quality meal, but a unique dining environment and as such I did two main things:

1) Stacked up on what were the judges’ favourite music bands and made a play list for the dinner (subtle environmental edge was gained here…)

2) For each of the five meals I invited friends we have in common along to my house (kind of bending the rules for the competition…but bending them within reason!)

My strategy was based on providing a superior dining experience. My aspirations were that they would enjoy the dinner (food+music+company) so much that they would forget that it was a test. And that was a good thing. The insight here was that tests are boring not only to people who take them, but also for people who grade them. I wanted my judges to feel like they weren’t judging anything at all as I thought this would improve their overall perceptions of the meals.

So every one of the five meals along those two months they would find different people at the table, and we would discuss different things (at the same time they tried and enjoyed my cooking).

The Food was only the start, the rest was the Strategy.

I leave you with a great video where Michael Porter, leading authority on company strategy, talks  in more detail about the S word (without mentioning the F word)

Take care amigos,

Hector

(post finished to the tune of Selling The Drama by Live)

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Who watches the Swatchmen: Innovation in marketing strategy

To Innovate comes from the latin word Innovare: to renew, to restore, to change.

By default, when the word innovation pops up, people tend to think about technological advancements. About improvements in processes, methods, services, and products. Innovation seems to be about hardware, materials, machines.

But what about innovation in marketing concepts? What about renewed ideas in how to approach similar products? With technological advancements today being more easily replicated than ever, innovative ideas, finding new ways to address markets, are more important than ever.

Products can be designed, manufactured, and distributed, but it is marketing strategy and the powerful ideas behind it that truly move customers to the new products.

An example of various types of innovations (processes, materials and marketing concepts) can be found if we briefly analyze the evolution of the watchmaking industry

Since the 1800’s and until the 1940’s Swiss watchmakers were the pinnacle of their industry. If it wasn’t Swiss, it wasn’t truly a watch. The Swiss took pride in the intricate mechanical movements that composed their precious watches, almost a jewelry item. Brands like Beaume & Mercier, Longines, Omega, Piaget and Rolex were back then marketed around values such as quality, exquisite elaboration, expertise and heritage. Highly priced and considered as “investments”.

In the 1950’s in post war US, a technological innovation took place around the TIMEX brand. The first watch to fully employ mass production, enter and own the low price segment. Manufactured with lower quality materials they drove costs down. A watch wasn’t a jewel anymore. A watch was something that told you the time, and anyone should be able to afford one. Along with the manufacturing innovation with cheaper processes and materials came an original campaign that directly addressed consumer’s concerns around the quality and durability of the TIMEX watches (their tagline being “It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin”). They developed campaigns with live demonstration tests in a distinctive manner that stuck with consumers.

Within a decade a third of all watches worn in the USA where TIMEX.

Fast Forward to the 1970’s when Japanese brands like Hattori Seiko, Citizen and Casio fully leveraged the new Quartz technology and blended it with a me-too strategy (Swiss appearance, Quartz insides) all still within a lower price segment. Quartz components also allowed for multifunctional watches.

By this time, the Swiss watch industry was in crisis. Their whole way of developing and marketing their product was now largely updated, and their share of market had shrunk massively.

1980’s. Enter Swatch. The landing of the Swiss Industry into the low price segment. Theirs was a wholly new approach marketing a watch brand. Swatch innovated not on technology. It innovated in design and in positioning, and managed to reinvent a country industry.

How did they accomplish this? Swatch created a message. Swatch was not only about the watch in itself. It wasn’t the cheapest, it wasn’t the best. Swatch was the watch that had something to say and wasn’t afraid to say it. It managed to position itself as a new form of expression. Loud colors, cool designs and low-ish price, creating even a collectors vibe around the brand. Where predecessors internationally had established connections around functional values, swatch built a brand that bonded emotionally with consumers through an innovative marketing strategy. Swatch changed the rules of the game and relied heavily on TV campaigns to fully extend their image (In the 90’s Swatch was ranked among the top 100 advertisers in Europe in Television)

The three waves (US, Japanese, Modern Swiss) were waves of innovation. The first two were more technological in nature: US more geared in processes, the Japanese in materials. Swatch originated no doubt from the technological advancements, but it’s main strength was innovation in its marketing approach. Swatch innovated in the way it connected with consumers. Not so much hardware but ideaware.

Take care amigos,

Hector

(Post ended to the tune of Beautiful day by The Eels)

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