From time immemorial there has been a debate raging in the caribbean about quality and taste preferences. This debate while centred around music specifically (calypso derivatives) and cricket (two major components of caribbean culture) holds an important  lesson for marketers regardless of their industry.

In each case the purists are displeased with how each has evolved and are quick to point to the ‘new’ manifestation as a degeneration of something so sacred.

Cricket traditionally played over 5 full days by players wearing all white has over time seen a contraction to present day where a group of colourfully attired players can now complete a game in under 5 hours. in this form of the game players now command higher match fees as well as performance tied bonuses. At this time the Caribbean is hosting a tournament that has created carnival like atmospheres at venues and attracted stadium capacity crowds along with higher viewership rates (locally and internationally) than has been the case for a long time for the traditional game.

This tournament has created a surge in interest from the persons previously disillusioned and disinterested in the traditional game.  it has even attracted international celebrities Mark Walberg who purchased a franchise team and my personal idol Sir Richard Branson who has been posting about it on his personal blog and twitter. Richard even attended a game wearing an official uniform with his name on the back. (though his team trounced mine i still love him)


Our carnival season has just finished and one of the stand out songs is by a group known as ‘Porgie and Murdah.’ These guys are in no way our greatest musicians, lyricists or producers but what they succeeded in doing is capturing the hearts of the listening public with satire. This has seen them achieve veritable celebrity status in a island that is generally apathetic to fame (especially on the local level). I witnessed teenagers at  a summer camp singing the song verbatim and heard tales of mothers treasuring their autograph. The song as expected did not win any official competitions but the group which debuted a few months prior found itself as a main feature on the artist lineup at several (almost all) high profile party events over the season. How well will this translate for them in the future i can’t predict but this is the most fame a satirical group has garnered to my recollection.

What’s the lesson here? You can’t make people have a deep appreciation for the highly technical and when creating or marketing a product only the innovators and early adopters are willing to put in the effort because of their very nature. if you want to achieve mass adoption changes must be made to allow easy acceptance by the early and late majority.


The purists have their opinions but as with most genres the populace doesn’t want a deep relationship fraught with nuance and cadence. Very few people can appreciate or even identify espresso but most just want a nice foamy drink in the middle of the day.



skyfall-adele-sourceI recently learned that R&B singer/songwriter Adele wrote the theme for the James Bond movie Skyfall in ten minutes and it got me thinking about creativity. There are two schools of thought on the length of time necessary for good creative products to emerge. One view is that creativity is as fleeting as a lightning strike, while the others hold the opinion that creative products are the result of  long process of edits and revisions.

Some creatives believe that revisions result in a less valuable product. Singer/songwriter Jack Johnson has pointed out that often it’s the raw first version of a song that will ultimately be placed on his album.

Though I’m  a believer of the “spark of creativity” waiting for it to occur is not a sustainable strategy (especially if you get paid to be creative) and so I prefer to enable it to occur. Take a look at the creative process that I use. I follow this in my ideation for branding, marketing campaigns and blogging.

1 Entertain options 

This stage is essentially an uninhibited brainstorm. I like to use  a whiteboard or blank sheet of paper. Each item is jotted on the board with generous space between it and the next item. The most important thing here is to NOT edit. Allow all options equal value no matter how absurd.

2 Make connections

From the list of of possibilities some will be similar and others will naturally lead to another. In the second instance i will usually draw wide sweeping lines and arrows to represent the “path.”

3 Trim

Be honest, some of the options that emerged just aren’t that great and some are completely irrelevant. Whittle the options down to the few (or one) that works for the situation and then…step back

4 Return

Return to the whiteboard with fresh eyes this may be after a cup of coffee or in some instances it may take days. (this post has been in draft for weeks partly due to procrastination) This time you will be better able to edit and explore angles that previously eluded you.

Do you follow a similar process? leave a comment below and share your creation process.


Let’s be honest, customer service in many businesses sucks! We almost unanimously agree that this is unacceptable so we grumble among ourselves, rant on facebook or launch twitter campaigns against the “evil doer.” Regardless of medium, when sub par service is encountered customers call “bullshit!”Image

Companies don’t like when this happens and so they build extensive standard operating procedures (SOPs) and dialogue scripts for frontline staff to confront this. The thinking here is that customer service can be improved and “standardised” by implementing these tools.

The problem with this approach is that customers and prospects have a factory installed filtration device inside them. (I didn’t study Anatomy 101 but trust me it’s there.) This filter analyses every interaction and marketing message from your business. When discord is identified between words and actions the BS filter will flag the incident.

I had an experience in a fast food restaurant where the servers and cashiers each rattled off the obviously scripted lines never pausing between phrases in case i had a response or query. Its at this point that my BS filter kicks in and i call “bullshit!” on this interaction. The words they so freely spewed were the carefully crafted product of the marketing department but there was no matching emotion or interest in me beyond being transaction number 476 for the day.  

Accepting mediocrity is like a disease and disguises itself as a need to not be negatively perceived by peers or even independent contractors.

Caribbean Business Traveller

Yesterday, I realised I’d done a silly thing. I’d paid for a product before I received the final thing and now I will not get the full revisions that I’d asked for. Why did I do it when we all know that’s folly? Well… I’d been taking a while to get back to him with updates due to the heavy workload and then various times I needed to be out of office for a stretch. After he sent the “final draft” I was anxious to get him paid because he intoned that his staff had been waiting for a while. I felt terrible and I thought of all those poor people expecting their money and not being able to get it, or of him having to pay out of pocket and recoup the expenses. So I rushed to have the final invoice approved and get him paid immediately. “Ah, I…

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At every touchpoint my opinion of you goes up or down, there is no neutral. Scott Stratten. Unmarketing

When we think of brands we immediately begin to picture the Coca Colas, Apples and Sonys of the world but brands aren’t restricted to the “big boys.” Every business has a brand whether it is created on purpose or not.

Do you know what your brand is? Not what you say it is and have neatly typed in Arial font in your marketing plan, what it is in the eyes of your customer!

If you wanted to start running as exercise what brand of shoes would you go out and buy? More than likely your response was Nike. Am I right? But Nike isn’t the first choice of the more serious athletes (I’m not referring to the “I’m paid to wear these shoes athletes.”) Take an informal survey of the 47,000 runners in the New York marathon and you’ll find that they gravitate toward Brooks, Asics, or even Newton. Brands you probably never even heard of. Nike understands this and they are not phased by it. Rather they focus on the “newbie” market  orienting their marketing messages to the goal of community building and motivation through the use of mobile apps and social media integration. All the while setting the aspirational benchmarks through the use of their sponsored Elite athletes the likes of Mo Farah and Alison Felix.

Now back to you and your brand. Are you and your customers in agreement on what exactly you stand for and represent? Are your customers buying what you think you are selling?

A brand is built every day through every communication and action. Regardless of whether you consciously create and push an idea of what your business is to your customers, they will aggregate all of your actions and create one for you.

So what’s your brand really?


Everyone has heard repeatedly about the amount of startup businesses that fail within five years of operation. What we aren’t told is that most startup businesses suck! While there are some genuine bad luck cases, most of the businesses that make up this “statistic” were built on poorly constructed ideas, and comprised of misinformed assumptions held together by poorly honed skills. Many of these businesses ignore or place too little emphasis on the product, the marketing, and the market.

A good business starts with a good product. So too a crappy business starts with a crappy product. Every business should set out to create “the next big thing” or a thing that is so different that you can’t ignore it. At the very least it should be exceptionally well crafted.

This leads naturally to the next point; even if you have a great product no one will buy it if no one knows about it. Most startups suck at marketing and most of it leads to an automatic “facepalm.” Comon examples are names that makes no sense or are too difficult to read, names that mislead, cheesy and unnecessary slogans, strings of words masquerading as slogans, poorly selected price points, and mismatched customer profiles with marketing voice.

These touted failed startups market to the wrong people, with the wrong products, using the wrong voice, in the wrong places. Of course their customers didnt want to buy from them… they ignored or didn’t cater to their ideal customer with their marketing.

Get these three components and you don’t have to worry about going out of business within five years.

I came accross this image recently and more than the quoted prices I was shocked at the suggestion that this model of headphone was retailing under two separate brands as well as the generic version. I did some research to see if this product was in fact introduced at the most recent Apple launch event. It however was not overshadowed by the iphone5 because this image is a hoax and these are not infact Apple brand over ear headphones.

So after feeling duped i realised a powerful lesson on branding and brand equity is on show in this photo.  With no spec modifications how would Beats by Dr. Dre be able to charge $149 more than the generic version?  More importantly how would Apple be able to charge $311 more than Dr. Dre?

Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio produces headphones and devices designed to allow listeners “to hear the music the way the artists intend it to sound from the studio.” This emphasis is embodied in the statement “leading the revolt against inferior sound.” Dr. Dre goes beyond the product and targets the hip –hopper (proably not a word) lifestyle using djs, hip hop artists and their iconic founder in their marketing .

Apple would be able to charge the suggested price point because while the place a high emphasis on product specs and quality, they dont merely have customers they have fans. Each Apple product is designed and marketed to fit as the missing piece of their fans’ ilife. These fans eagerly anticipate each new product and even have entire communities dedicated to speculating what new products will look like  and what features will be available. it is common for Apple “fanboys” and “fangirls” to wait in line for days prior to a new product being released in stores.

Apple nurtures its tribe of devotees and the tribe rewards them by paying a premium for every new product and growing the tribe’s members.

Recently I’ve been giving a lot of thought to digital content, content strategy and what makes truly good content. Fittingly I stumbled across a series of short videos featuring local bartenders making signature cocktails. These videos are made for tv and web distribution. At first glance this type of unorthodox (for this market) marketing should get me excited but I find them painful to watch for the simple reason that the execution could be so much better.

These are the points of my rant:

10 separate sponsors are way too many to properly execute a branded content strategy.

Mixologists/ bartenders seem uncomfortable with their lines and often make “cheesy” comments either ad-libed or scripted.

Live read ads and long winded brand plugs to explain why a sponsored ingredient is used seem out of place.

Gratuitous product placement which actually blocks the view of the bartender working.

In an attempt to justify the spend to their sponsors, the creators have crammed too many touch points into the videos and are sidelining the actual content.

Logo snapshots when the product is used inclusive of the brand tagline which breaks the flow of the video.

The instant replays are unnecessary and overused.

And then I discovered this!

This appears to have been the pilot episode which was shopped to the sponsors as proof of concept. Though it carries a different show title the theme music and design characteristics point to this as the root idea.

Effortless presence and delivery of lines.

Clean video flow.

Compelling blend imagery and monologue.

Product placement was not as overpowering because there was only one, however it could have been tempered and still be as effective with clever camera angles.

Mixologist was able to fit in the live read at the end for the benefit of the sponsor.

Kudos to the creators for having produced a flawless piece of content and then completely deconstructing it beyond the point of utility. What you are left with is a very long commercial.

“You can recognize a pioneer by the arrows in his back.” – Beverly Rubik

A case can be made for first mover advantage but equally or more important is who comes after. Those who follow in the wake of the pioneer have the opportunity to examine all of the missteps and successes and build a near flawless strategy.

First Mover Advantage

The principle holds that the business/brand that goes to market first with an innovation, not only creates but becomes synonymous with the product category even in the wake of new entrants. This is true in such cases where for example every vacuum cleaner is a ‘Hoover’, every photo copier is a ‘Xerox’ and all hand tissue is ‘Kleenex’.

Late Movers

Facebook did not create the social network concept nor did Google make the first foray into online data collection and search. These two (2) companies have not only usurped the pioneers and incumbents but have become so dominant in the case of Google that they’ve become synonymous with online search regardless of the actual search engine used. This is because these ‘late movers’ were able to assess what their predecessors were doing and be more aggressive in pushing the product category forward.

The Equalizer of the Learning Curve

Every pioneer has the burden of creating the path of least resistance. ie. a viable working model that is proven in the market. The more complex the industry or product category, the steeper this curve. As a result it usually sides with the pioneer as all comers are forced to play the role of pioneer and figure out the viable model, thereby allowing the originator to make up more ground and strengthen their position or even make it as difficult as possible for the newcomer to take a foothold. This is true of very technological, capital, or infrastructure heavy fields.

In fields that are not so heavily specialised it is quite possible to craft your offering and strategy solely based on what is proven by the pioneer. This also allows you to avoid much of the financial outlay associated with failed components, ideas and concepts.

The path to success is drastically shorted not by reinventing the wheel but by innovating on the wins of those that have gone before and learning from their mistakes. Plus it’s much more fun shooting the arrows than to be the one with them in your back.

You can’t win a fist fight with an 800lb gorilla! …or can you?

Our 800lb gorilla of choice is the all powerful, ever present, search titan and collector of all your web activity: Google. One would expect that when Google sets its sights on your specific market that you might as well shut shop and move to Florida. In recent times however, the “little guy” has been holding his own against the behemoth.


Two recent product launches serve as the fuel for my POV: Google+ burst on to the social media scene as the hottest game in town and inciting talk of a mass exodus from Facebook and taking over as the social network of choice. This to my knowledge has not happened. Rather Facebook is bigger and stronger than ever (albeit $1B lighter thanks to Instagram *snicker*) and G+ has all but been relegated to obscurity alongside its sister Google Buzz.

The most recent launch to set the interweb ablaze is the touted “Dropbox killer” Google Drive. Beefing up/replacing Google Docs (depending on your opinion) they’ve set about to conquer the cloud synching world, thereby rendering irrelevant the incumbents Dropbox, Box, and SugarSync. After the initial collective gasp, it seems (to me at least) that there is sufficient push back from current cloud sync app users that the anticipated mass exodus will not come to light. This is due to comparisons in ease of use, difficulty of migrating files to the newcomer, and the necessary degree of buy in from the market given that many users use these tools to collaborate with others who would also need to migrate their data as well.

So the question is why is Google with its power, brand strength, money, expertise, and product arsenal not dominating every market segment that it takes a fancy to? Are they overstretched? Are their products not good enough or innovative enough? Or is Google being perceived to be outside of their realm of expertise?