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    Wednesday
    Jul252012

    No, girls allowed

    Super quick observation today, I just saw an old-fashioned, print, and on the back cover of a Free weekly lifestyle-type tabloid paper, the kind you pick up while waiting for you oil to be changed or hanging around at the Dunkin' Donuts employer ad that I wanted to share, as it sends out one of the most solid, Employer Branding, Employer Value Proposition (EVP) messages I've seen lately.

    Here is a (lousy) image of the ad, then comments after the (metaphorical) jump:

    The ad is for a local auto dealership group, Van Bortel, that obviously has committed to and attempted to communicate that they have a welcoming and inclusive workplace, one that probably runs against the tide of typical auto dealerships, (or at least what we think of auto dealerships).

    What I like about the ad, aside from the message itself, is it's simplicity. No big complicated marketing spin, no slickly composed background or graphic elements, actual real people in a kind of hastily put together group pose - but adding it all up it makes for a powerful message.

    We're different here. This might be a place you want to consider as a female who might typically see the auto industry as unavailable or simply 'not right' for you. Take a look and you'll can see we're not just 'claiming' to be inclusive, just look at all these people, and look at the job titles, ranging from entry level-type roles, all the way up the management chain.

    A really cool, low-budget, no way an expensive brarding company came up with this, but outstanding nonetheless.

    P.S. - I will leave it to my friend Meredith Soleau to do two things after checking out this post. One, to let me know if gender diversity is truly an issue in the world of auto dealerships; and two, let me know of what she thinks of a potential competitor posting a whole bunch of employee names and titles in a newspaper!

    Tuesday
    Jul242012

    Flipping Supply and Demand - Lemonade Version

    Interesting story out of Spain, where a marketing company came up with the idea to install lemonade vending machines that actually decrease the price of the lemonade as the outside temperature rises, (and theoretically people will be thirstier and demand more lemonade), and increase the price as temperatures decline.

    More details about the 'Let's go crazy and turn the immutable laws of supply and demand on their head' scheme can be found here.  The basic pricing plan goes like this:

    Each machine displays both the temperature and the price, with three different price levels depending on just how hot it is. Up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and the price is 2 euros or about $2.45. From 78 degrees F to slightly above 84, the price lowers to about 1.4 euros or $1.70. Anything over 86 degrees F and the drinks are 1 euro or $1.22. Special software allows the machine to automatically adjust.

    Traditional economics and business logic of course suggest the exact opposite pricing strategy - as the temperature rises the merchant should increase prices to meet the anticipated elevated demand and maximize profits. Likewise, on cooler days, a lower price for the cold drinks seems to make more sense, as it should, according to everything we've ever learned in Econ 101 class, stimulate demand. 

    So why would the lemonade vendor enact a pricing strategy so seemingly illogical?

    Well it's only illogical if you don't consider the point of view of the customers, to them, their value is maximized, or at least greatly enhanced, by paying less for the cold drink on the hottest days when they are at their thirstiest, when they are in need of the product the most

    Long term, this kind of strategy should engender greater customer loyalty and affinity - the customers should begin to see the lemonade vendor as more of a trusted ally in the fight against thirst, as someone who is there for them when they need it the most, and not as someone trying to take advantage of a situation to extract a few more cents of profit per can.

    And forgetting the specifics of the lemonade vending machine, the broader lesson, making it easier and more convenient for your customers to buy, whomever they are, when they need you the most, (and not the other way around), is likely to separate you from just about every other supplier who has ever existed and that is holding fast to the Supply v. Demand chart they studied Freshman year.

    Stay thirsty my friends.

    Monday
    Jul232012

    He toyed with me. He lied to me. He intimidated me.

    Negotiating anything, whether its the sale price of that new, shiny Mercury Montego, or the details of a potential job offer, can be a difficult, tense, uncomfortable, and often a disappointing process.

    For many, particularly those of us not inclined to enjoy the competition of a negotiation, or simply less practiced in the art of negotiation, it can be really easy to feel like you've come out second-best, that you've paid too much for the car, the house, or settled for less money or left something on the table when trying to hammer out that new or renewed employment agreement. When most of us are up against that car salesperson, who makes deals for a living, well drawing from our prior experience haggling over the Montego in 1977 usually doesn't provide enough foundation for confidence.I have no idea if this is true

    But I think much of the angst associated with these negotiations arises from the mentality that one side has to win, and one has to lose, and that usually the 'house', (the car dealer, the employer, the merchant), has the upper hand. If someone is going to squirm and flinch first in the battle, it's going to be you with your paltry, limited experience in wheeling and dealing.

    But it doesn't always have to be that way. Sometimes you do actually have the upper hand entering the deal, even if you don't completely realize it going in. And sometimes, maybe more often that we like to admit, even a spirited, aggressive, both sides all in kind of negotiation can end with everyone keeping their dignity and moving on with the understanding that negotiation is part of the game, and business is business, and you can even gain more respect for someone willing to fight for their side and not just give up, or conversely, to bully their way to a 'win'.

    Case in point - check the comments (kind of said with a little bit of a smile, admittedly), from San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich regarding the recently concluded contract extension negotiations between the team, and their long time, and legendary player Tim Duncan, who certainly an all-time great, at 36 is in the twilight of his career.

    Here's Popovich, (representing the house):

    “He toyed with me. He lied to me. He intimidated me. He threatened me. In the end, it worked out. But I had to take much abuse to get it done.”

    What's good about this, and Popovich's attitude about how the negotiations were conducted and how they concluded?

    That the house respected the other side of the table, that the team knew that both sides had the right to negotiate hard, and that in the end, the house had to acknowledge the position and value of the talent, and take a little bit of abuse, in order to get a deal done that both parties could live with.

    I get the sense that Duncan too, although he is not quoted in the piece, came away feeling the fight was fair, and that both sides walked away with their heads up, and more importantly, with continued respect for each other.

    Big heavy take away from this story? Probably isn't one, unless it helps to remind all of us, no matter what side of the table we sit on, that the guy/gal across from us has just as much right to be sitting there, and if they did not possess something we needed, then no one would be sitting down at all.

    The other guy has a point of view too, and if you have to take a little bit of heat to let them communicate that point of view, well don't take it personally.

    Happy Monday!

    Friday
    Jul202012

    It doesn't matter how unique your idea is, it matters if it can be copied

    Quick one for a summer Friday and then we can all get back to the beach or backyard or ball game.

    If you have been in New York City's Times Square in the last decade or so, you've probably seen a crowd gather around this guy ---->

    Known as 'The Naked Cowboy', (real name Robert Burck), the Cowboy strolls the square, singing, posing for pictures, and otherwise working the crowd for donations in what has to be called a clever and certainly unusual way to make a living.

    I've seen the Cowboy many times over the years, and while for me, and this is not a knock on the Cowboy really, the novelty has kind of worn off and I think the entire gimmick is silly, he still seems to be getting it done with the crowds of tourists and out of town business folks that make up most of the people in Times Square on any given day.

    You'd think that his angle, parading around Times Square in a pair of speedos and boots, playing guitar and singing songs, and doing it for over 10 years, would have pretty much locked up the market for this sort of thing for the Cowboy, and probably allowed him to feel some security and perhaps even a little bit of complacency, secure in the fact that his act was/is so out there that no one else would be able or interested to get in the game. Heck, after a while I bet he stopped learning new songs or jokes for the crowd, because like any good monopolist, why keep innovating when you've locked up the market?

    Well, according to the UPI, the Cowboy might not have the range all too himself any more, enter the 'Naked Indian'. See right---->

    Same schtick, same angle, different guy, (slightly) different costume, now battling the Cowboy for the hearts, minds, and wallets of the tourists, (as well as potentially battling the Cowboy in court).

    From the UPI story:

    The Cowboy, Robert Burck, who has been playing guitar and singing in his underwear and cowboy hat in Times Square for years, now has a rival in the Indian, Adam Davis, the New York Daily News reported Saturday.

    Burck, who said there are no ill feelings between him and Davis, has nonetheless threatened to sue Davis if he refuses to join Burck’s company, Naked Cowboy Enterprises, a franchise that features Naked Cowgirls and other entertainers.

    “I’ve been here ... 365 days, every day for 13 years and change,” Burck said. “He’s only been here 16 days and missed two already.”

    Davis, who dons underwear and a headdress, said there is room in the busy tourist area for more gimmicks.

    Hard to say how the dueling naked entertainers will get this resolved, but the whole sordid, (and sad), story reminds us all that no matter how unique or unusual your idea or angle is, chances are if it works it's going to be copied. It might take a while for the 'second to market' folks to get there, but if you're only advantage over them is yelling 'I was here first', well for most customers that argument won't mean much or ensure you can hold on to your market.

    If there is someone out there willing to copy the Naked Cowboy, there definitely is someone out there willing to steal your gimmick as well.

    Better learn some new songs this weekend.

    Thursday
    Jul192012

    Watching LinkedIn Connections on a Sunday Night

    Do you have any remaining doubt that the always on, 24/7, connected at all time via iPhone or iPad life has almost completely taken over your professional network?

    Well if you do, then I recommend taking a look at your LinkedIn feed this Sunday night. I am drafting up this post at just after 10PM ET on Sunday, July 15th, and just a few moments ago I took a scan of my LinkedIn network update feed.

    Quick observation - my LinkedIn feed is littered with 'Person A is now connected to Person B' updates. More than one or two, probably about two dozen or so connections being made after 10PM on a Sunday night in the middle of the summer.

    Sunday night, which used to be the time you were crashed out from a big weekend of fun and family, maybe catching something on TV before turning in, maybe, for the younger crowd, trying to wring the last bit of fun out of the weekend before the work week hits in full force on Monday. But now, at least in part due to smart phone apps and iPads, Sunday nights are now a time where we can simultaneously be with the family sitting on the sofa watching whatever it is that is popular on TV, (I have on an NBA Summer League game on, so forgive me for not knowing what normal people are digging right now), and making sure the care and feeding of our networks doesn't need to stop for whatever passes for our real lives.

    There's nothing really novel in this observation I admit, the always-on social network is old news at this point. 

    But what is changing, at least a little, at least by implication from what you'll see on your LinkedIn feed late on a Sunday night, is the subtle expectation that if you really want to get ahead, or at least stay even with the pack, (the pack that even if they are your 'friends' on Facebook all will be quite happy to see you fail), is that you too better be grinding away on Sunday night yourself. 

    Your mortal enemies are out there at 10:31PM, making connections with people you're dying to meet.

    They're out there sending little private messages thanking each other for the connection and arranging phone calls, or worse, meetings over coffee or a beer.

    They're beating you at 10:35 on Sunday night, and what's worse is all you really want to do is turn on Bravo, have an ice cream and shut down your mind for a while.

    The game hasn't really changed. It just never seems to take a break, and the score keeps flashing in front of you as the LinkedIn connection updates scroll by.