They say dog is man’s best friend. Sure, Fido can fetch your slippers and lick your face in the morning, but so could many of the Kardashian sisters. Even Lassie can’t find Justin Beiber’s favorite color, your weight on Mars, and the best mochachino in Islamabad. For the truly inane and random, you turn to that faithful Google search box. Like a forlorn lover, Google feels you’ve taken this relationship for granted long enough. Instead of taking a fistful of pills to get your attention, Google’s search got a sexy makeover. You’ve probably noticed this new coat of mascara in the form of ‘Google Instant’. ‘Instant’ pre-loads your search results as you type. It’s a neat trick that’s just sexy enough to re-ignite the flames of passion. That is, until you discover its dark, manipulative soul. Google Instant is the Russian mail-order bride of search, a brilliant business move steeped in ulterior motives and glorious lessons.
This is a repost of Steve Faktor’s original Forbes article
My business is helping companies speed up innovation – often by partnering with tech startups. A wilder ride compared to my days leading innovation at Fortune 100 companies. But lately, I’ve experienced enough déjà vu to get a platinum medical marijuana card. Maybe you’ve heard of “multiple discovery”. The theory says that similar inventions happen simultaneously because of converging technologies and common problems. Among mobile payments and loyalty startups, easy money is fueling what I call “marginal discovery” – slight variations on similar ideas. For every truly outstanding startup, five or six have a faulty premise, fail to solve a problem, or choose “cool” over simple. To protect the innocent, I’ve turned my list of frustrations into a set of “rules” to help budding entrepreneurs and experienced executives steer clear of the weed dispensary…
This is a repost of Steve Faktor’s original article on Forbes
To many men, shopping for clothes is like doing your own brain surgery – you’re in no condition to know when you’ve screwed up. Sure, single men must dress up to attract mates. Those poor, unsuspecting women have no clue what fashion nightmares await them. Marriage does to men’s fashion what irritable bowels do to romance. Things get even worse at work. The more casual the office, the more likely we are to see mangled toes and bloated bellies. Even billionaires wear outfits that scream “I sleep in a box.” Of course, it’s the rest of us who need to keep trying. Unfortunately, men’s clothing stores have failed miserably. The shopping experience is hardly painless, especially at department stores. They have the most resources, space, and selection, but they’re packed with men wandering aimlessly like an exiled Judaic tribe.
When I was at MasterCard, I led a project called Total Shopping Solution. Eventually, we commercialized it as two very successful services, Commerce Intelligence and Commerce Coalition. Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about intra-store shopping experiences, especially during all those wasted hours looking for clothes to fit my beefy frame. With today’s technology and some low-tech ingenuity, department stores can reinvent the men’s shopping experience. (After reading this article, I hope they’ll also reimburse me for the the years I’ve lost trying on ill-fitting pants.)
Yesterday, I had the displeasure of meeting someone at Pret-a-Manger, a thriving chain featuring something resembling food – from the 1950′s. I live in New York, which offers an astounding number of food options from McDonald’s to fresh bagels to pizza to Mexican. So I was shocked that this Frankenrestaurant was not a laundromat or a hospice by now. As I negotiated peace with my furious stomach, I came to some surprising conclusions about local marketing…and life.
So what’s my problem with Pret-a-Manger? The food isn’t even remotely fresh. They don’t even try to fake a culinary orgasm. Let’s start by introducing you to their chef: the refrigerator. I call him Fridgy. Fridgy makes every sandwich cold, pre-packaged and hours (months?) in advance from some undisclosed military installation. Prisons…and 7/11…have fresher-looking food. Have you ever bitten into a cold baguette? I hope you have amazing dental work. All the flavors blend into one meta-flavor – cold. The only thing left is texture – hard…soft…mushy…and, ouch!
Just got this confidentially from a friend working on this project for the US Post Office… Unreal!
—– Forwarded Message —–
Sent: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2012 4:54 PM
Subject: Proposal: New Post Office Business Model – Go Postal!
As I baked muffins to celebrate Facebook’s IPO, it occurred to me that there’s one HUGE, unspoken difference between the data people reveal to Facebook and what Google collects through search and other tools. It’s this: Facebook knows the image you want to project to the world – your “social resume”. Beautiful vacation photos; that perfect profile photo you Photoshopped so much that your nose is part puma, part Joan Rivers; and those photos of you surrounded by hot girls that lets the world (and Facebook) know that your party never stops.
Well, Google knows your dark, ugly, dirty truths. Your transcribed Google Voice messages reveal you argued nonstop on that island vacation as your kids yelled, “I hate you!” in the background. Your search history shows all your liposuction research, as your Photoshop bills skyrocket. Several of your eHarmony dates have jumped through glass storefronts to escape your shocking, incongruous looks. Google also knows where you’ve been – HOME!!! Your Android phone tattles like a four year old bribed with brownies. It reports your every move and it knows you’ve barely moved. You haven’t been invited to a hot party since October ’09, when you made your one friend wait two hours as you caked on makeup, trying to look your very beast…I mean ‘best’, before leaving the house.
What I’m saying is – you have two lives. The pretty, inauthentic one you construct on Facebook and the one where Mistress Sally from Craigslist walks on your face with stilettos wrapped in bacon. (Don’t ask…I just write whatever my imagination conjures.) Point is, that disparity creates a very different value proposition for the two companies. As Google mines your dark side, Facebook scrapes away at your veneer to get to it.
- Define yourself. What are you? Are you Mexican, American, Middle Eastern, sandwiches? No one knows. You’re trying to be all things to all people. Stop.
- You have too many menu items. It’s impossible to do 90% of them well. Pick a cuisine, then get rid of everything that doesn’t fit. Have you seen a Chipotle menu? Simple.
- Your prices are too high, lower them. You’re a tiny take-out joint. Act like one.
- Change your name. There is no such thing as a blue food and no one describes food as “cool”. Fresh, delicious, spicy, savory, not “cool” and definitely not “blue”. Plus your awful premise for a restaurant badly needs to be forgotten as quickly as possible.
These are triumphant times for humans. We are decisive winners of Darwin’s game. Sure, an occasional rhino might trample your safari group, or a Xanax-addled chimp might not like your friend’s new hair cut. But in most situations, the human is king. Like prepping Alec Baldwin for a love scene, we can shave down any forest, barbecue any animal, even send a bullet-proof Pope to The Bronx. We are invincible! With all natural threats eliminated, what’s a conqueror to do? Wait for the aliens? No. We create our own enemies. I’m not talking about dirty bombs, Terminators, or Chinese milk. I’m referring to the weapon of doom in your pants right now – your cell phone.
This week, Google was sued for $100K when a woman got hit by a car after following Google Maps to the bitter end. She lived…and will likely procreate. Sadly, she is not alone. In New York, we’re surrounded by people who listen to music, operate iPhones, read Kindles, or craft winkey faces to their mistresses – as they CROSS THE STREET!
A few years ago, the New York subway system was plastered with ads for a drug called Claritin. Mostly, these were photos of lush, green landscapes and pretty models having some kind of ‘moment of clarity’. I had no idea what Claritin did, but I’d never seen a woman that full of clarity before. Too bad Claritin was hardly more effective than a sugar pill at treating allergies. You could have poured honey in your underwear and gotten the same results. Demand creation is not new, but it’s proven its resilience in a society flush with borrowed cash and surplus leisure time.
When you think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there’s little ambiguity at the bottom. Food, clothing, shelter. Without these, you are probably cold, naked, and cranky. Everything else is based on feelings and perceptions. Even safety is just a feeling that an invading army of Persians can’t take away your favorite skinny jeans and Weaver Chicken Nuggets. In markets where even the homeless have iPods (in France, they also have chambermaids), the challenge is to make you want things just because you can afford them.
Here is my list of the top ten triumphs of demand generation and why they worked:
It seems you’re likelier to find Amy Winehouse up bright and early, going for a run, than to find an American politician untainted by special interests. Unfortunately, that’s the usual angle we see when talking about the relationship between politics and business. Let me suggest another: innovation. That’s right, innovation. The Democratic campaign has been a real-life example of Apple vs. Microsoft, or Google vs. Yahoo. The innovator vs. the stalwart. I’ll explain…
There are now two contenders for the democratic nomination, Senators Clinton and Obama. Despite their virtually identical voting records and positions on issues, one is clearly an innovator.
I recently read a scathing review of several new services offering free or nearly free phone calls over the internet. Assuming you get past the fact that this mystery has already been solved, the mere existence of these services raises a few confounding questions:
- Why would anyone design such bufoonish, overly technical services?
- What kind of uber-geeky cheapskates are they targeting? Who in their right mind would take that many steps to make a phone call? We live in a world of free off-peak mobile minutes, Skype, and $24 per month unlimited VOIP service.
- Finally, after sitting through the ponderous description of how these services work, what venture capitalist would have funded these unintuitive, consumer repellent services?
However, if you have a good (or marketable) product, you are doing it a disservice by selling it in a depressing environment. Case and point: Burger King. Last night, my friend was craving a Whopper, so we stopped in at a midtown Burger King. My GOD, the FLUORESCENCE!! Who designed this lighting? Surely, it was Satan. These places are the same as when I was a kid, grease stains and all. As an adult, I am aghast. While, my obvious disdain did not preclude my friend from devouring his Whopper, I know there is a way for Burger King and its brethren to grow up and attract new customers along the way.