Posted on May 3, 2013 By Danny Schuman
“Six months into the business, we got one of those Starbucks coffee machines here in the office. If I had realized the morale boost that would come from having a free coffee machine in the office, I would have got it Day One. It’s almost more exciting than medical benefits. We have one on every floor now.”
So says Darrell Cavens, co-founder and co-owner of Zulily, in a great recent piece
in Inc magazine.
Zulily is a daily deals site for moms and kids with membership of 10 million and recent valuation of $1 billion. Early on, he learned a valuable lesson:
It’s amazing how simple it can be to make a person happy.
In every ad agency in which I worked, there was more excitement around half-day Fridays than year-end bonuses.
Free is good.
Never underestimate the power of generosity.
Because nothing is ever given away that isn’t somehow eventually paid back.
Like free lattes. Or free pizza.
Every one of those cups of coffee and sausage slices fuels internal human positivity, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.
Because it leads to happy brains.
Which leads to ideas being created.
Which leads to business improving.
Which leads to more free pizza and caffeine.
It’s the most productive and delicious virtuous circle in the history of the world.
Posted on April 24, 2013 By Danny Schuman
A funny thing happened when we went to Napa Valley last week to celebrate my birthday.
We drank some wine.
Not so unusual, you say?
We drank wine in the airport.
Still not so unusual. Especially for people from England and in cowboy hats, although I still can’t figure out why those two groups of people always seem to be drinking in airports.
We drank red, white, blue and green wine. Out of aluminum bottles. Pretty unusual, right?
The product is called Flasq. Their packaging is red white and blue, and their product, they claim, is green; more sustainable than your average wine.
If only their website
was half as good as the average website. But I digress.
In a world where very good wines are being sold with screw tops, decent wines are being sold for a few bucks at Trader Joes, and drinkable wines are being sold in bags and boxes, wine in innovative new aluminum flasks is a no-brainer.
A good example of cool packaging being reason enough to try a product at least once.
How’d it taste? Not good enough for the Cowboys and Brits to take it onboard with them, but ok good enough to tell other people about it. And that’s about all a new brand can ask for.
When it comes to innovative thinking, when someone says “Why,” just tell them, “Wine not?”
Posted on April 8, 2013 By Danny Schuman
Even though it ended after 10:30 PM, I needed a nap after watching the NCAA Men’s basketball semifinals over the weekend. I was that stressed out and exhausted.
As a University of Michigan Alum (and the father of a freshman daughter there), I experienced every pass, shot, rebound, and foul with a high level of anxiety, feeling it in every bone in my body. And I know I wasn’t alone. At the Georgia Dome and in front of TV’s across the nation, Syracuse and Michigan fans (short for fanatics, remember), were going through the same emotions. Living and dying with every trip up the court.
The joy I felt when they won was pure and lasting. The kind of happiness that stays with you and coats you in a veneer of pleasant invincibility that can turn pedantic tasks like taking out the garbage into lovely moments of a-little-extra-exercise.
It’s a powerful thing, passion. Never underestimate it’s sway, in life and in business. The numbers prove it out. An example:
To get up for the game, I re-watched the fine 30 for 30 ESPN documentary on the Fab Five (see a piece of it here
), the story of the 1992 and 1993 Michigan basketball teams that featured five extremely talented and highly-hyped freshmen who came to Ann Arbor to play together. Their unprecedented story and unexpected success led to a huge following and massive fame for the young fivesome.
Among the amazing facts revealed, one spoke to the earning power of sports licensing: In the year prior to the Fab Five’s arrival in Ann Arbor, the sales of U of M licensed products created $2 million in revenue. In the two years after their explosive freshman year, the sales of U of M licensing products created over $10 million in revenue.
The country was completely captivated by the Fab Five, and by Michigan basketball. A fan base that was already crazy in love with everything U of M became even more passionate. They showed their love in many ways: through the rings of the cash register, by filling every stadium the Wolverines played in, painting maize and blue on their bodies, getting tattoos… embracing the U of M brand, in any way possible.
Everybody should have at least one thing to fall unapologetically in love with. Something they’re committed to and will stand by no matter what. Something for which they feel unbridled passion that knows no bounds.
It’s something that marketers should remind themselves of every day. Because a couple of things happen when you inject passion into the mix.
For consumers (aka real humans), you have a relationship between a person and a brand that’s impossible to break.
And for marketers, you begin to change the equation for how you do your job.
Business is hard. Technological change and global volatility have created a breakneck tempo, thinner margins, higher stakes, and cultures of fear. The potential for pain is high and consistent.
But what would happen if we inserted more joy into the mix? If we found a way to methodically work towards answers to even the toughest challenges, but did it in a way that would allow us to celebrate the journey…to recognize victories along the way?
And most important, feel passionate about what we’re doing. Embrace our clients, not just work on their behalf. Advocate, not just sell.
When was the last time you painted the colors of your favorite brand onto your face? Where on your body is the tattoo of your favorite brand?
Do you have to go that far? Maybe not.
But you can pretend it’s there. I worked on a brand for over 15 years that I felt passionate about every day. My partners on that Gatorade team felt the same way as we helped it reach new heights every quarter, expanding it with double digit growth and creating marketing materials that won awards and resulted in new and powerful loyalties to the brand.
I didn’t have a Gatorade tattoo. But sometimes it felt like I did.
So maybe, as you head to work and envision the challenges at hand, you can picture your brand as your favorite team, tying the game with an improbable long-range three pointer and winning in overtime. Or imagine your brand’s logo tattooed somewhere on your body or the colors painted on your face.
So that even within the toughest challenges, you’re armed with the knowledge that you can come out of it stronger and happier than before.
The power of passion. The Joy of Solving. In life and in marketing.
Give it a shot.
Posted on March 26, 2013 By Danny Schuman
The basketball stadium at the University of Michigan was called Crisler Arena for 44 years, from the time it was built until last year. That’s when they added more goodies for fans and players, like a $23.2 million player development center, a jumbotron, and hopefully, much better food.
Now they call it the Crisler Center.
Much more befitting for a modern-day arena. Better suited to attract bluer-chip athletic talent. And charge a few more bucks to get in.
Innovation can be much more than a new product or package on the shelf; in fact, it can simply be how you package your brand. The University of Michigan knows this.
So does Anthony.
As you can see from the photo above, Anthony sells hot dogs. But he also sells something that gives his hot dogs, and his brand, far more value.
It’s called community. Offered up at the Anthony Hot Dog Center. Which, of course, is a hot dog cart packaged a little differently.
The community that Anthony has created comes from an insight: Given the choice, people would prefer to eat with someone else instead of eating alone.
There’s nothing more powerful than a powerful insight, and Anthony had a doozy. Revenue aside, it’s what enabled him to create a business that looks more a Crisler Center than a Crisler Stadium.
The photo was taken on a Caribbean island, where many little kiosks and botegas vie for attention. Anthony’s was always full.
I wonder why?
Posted on March 18, 2013 By Danny Schuman
Listening to sports radio one day recently I was struck by callers talking about a pro basketball player. “Bob from Berwyn” and others like him were savaging the player, ranting about what a waste of money he was and how he added nothing to the team.
But I was most struck by the caller who simply said, “He just isn’t good.”
This referring to an athlete who, from the time he could dribble a basketball, wasn’t just good, he was significantly better than everyone within a 500 mile radius. You have to be that good to make the NBA.
But then one day, he just wasn’t good anymore.
It can happen in the blink of an eye.
One day, you’re the man. The next day, The Man tells you you’re not so great. Not so necessary any more.
Maybe they brought in someone flashier or smarter or younger or just plain newer.
Maybe a technology is developed that makes you less relevant.
Or maybe it’s you. You’ve become less inspired, less motivated. Inertia has taken over.
And one day you’re just not good. It happens.
But then something else happens.
As the sting of rejection relentlessly stabs at you, and the hole in your heart forms where the thing you used to be good at used to be, a different feeling begins to creep in. A sense of relief starts to form in the midst of the disappointment.
A realization that the situation you were in wasn’t perfect.
It was causing you stress and filling your days with unease. Maybe you weren’t doing as good a job as you used to. Others who had come up behind you were doing it better. You weren’t working as hard.
At the same time, you were putting more energy into other things, getting satisfaction from them. Enjoying the new challenges you were creating.
A switch pops up in your brain that goes back and forth between shock and relief, embarrassment and relief, pain and relief.
But finally, it just stays on relief.
There are flashes of panic now and then but they’re quick and temporary and greatly outnumbered by optimism. You have faith in yourself and awareness of your ability, and trust that something great will be around every corner, as long as you keep your legs and brain moving.
So you keep your legs and brain moving.
Even though you may trip up once in a while, it doesn’t take long to right yourself. And in time you’re walking strong. Stronger than the time when the people said you weren’t good any more.
Because good isn’t just one thing.
Good can take many forms. You can be good on the basketball court or in the broadcast booth. In a boardroom or on a construction site.
Someday someone may tell you you’re just not good. And the really good thing is, they’ll be right.
The more important thing is what you do next.
Posted on March 11, 2013 By Danny Schuman
I saw this sign on a recent visit to New York City. Haven’t been back since so I don’t know if the $1 pizza store opened up.
I loved the idea because new ideas that help products become more available to more people are a wonderful thing.
But an even better thing is building enough equity in a brand that it’s value can never be questioned.
So I’m not so sure about a store that sells cheap pizza. Pizza I know and love (and trust) doesn’t cost that much more than a buck. The $1 pizza strategy may lead people to think of the $1 pizza in the same category as $5 Rolex’s and $10 Gucci bags.
A better idea? Make better pizza and charge more for it.
In the long run, the stories people tell about a product are what stick, and Cheap isn’t a great story. Just look at brands that were formerly considered premium, like Tropicana Orange Juice, now fighting for shelf space with store brands because they stubbornly kept putting their product on sale over and over and over.
If the $1 pizza people envision stores going up in Chicago, LA, and beyond, they may want to consider a different story. If they want to sell out of a card table on Broadway, they may soon have their wish.
Posted on February 25, 2013 By Danny Schuman
For every time someone has said, “There’s got to be a better way,” someone else has said, “I’ve got an idea…”
With that tirelessly optimistic perspective, we’ll be featuring new ideas on this blog for most of the foreseeable future.
We became aware of this first one from a mailer we received in the US mail (those paper things that get delivered to your door). It’s a brochure for Steve and Kate’s Camps, a series of new summer camps with locations in California, Illinois, and Washington.
From the looks of it, a parent (Steve? Kate?) got plumb tuckered out by his or her kids complaining about camp and decided to invent a better one.
Steve and Kate’s camp gives kids the ability to…well…just about anything. It’s proof that ideas can swing from trees, pop up online, and be the icing on the cake. Literally. As it says in their little brochure:
“Instead of a rigid structure, we give our campers choice. Instead of teaching kids the typical way, we give them tools and gentle guidance to help them become autodidacts.” (Yes, I had to look up autodidacts; it means a self-taught person. I hope Steve and Kate use smaller words with their campers).
While I’m all for kids staking out their own independence, I also hoped to find cool-as-heck activities. No disappointment here.
They do all the usual stuff like soccer and tennis, but they also have filmmaking and six specialty studios with activities from animation to style to food (actually, they call it culinary, furthering their penchant for multisyllabic words), plus amazing stage shows with violin prodigies and Cheetahs.
Not at the same time, I hope.
They claim 480,090,240 ways for kids to design a day at their camp. Whether that’s true or the product of a marketing department that likes big words and big numbers, their approach alone is different. It solves a problem in a highly creative, and productive way.
And the world could certainly use some more autodidacts.
Posted on February 10, 2013 By Danny Schuman
In the city in which I grew up, there was a two-block downtown strip with a bakery, shoe store, drug store, sport shop, bookstore, and clothes store. Everyone who owned and worked at those stores knew your name and vice versa.
Business was personal. You wouldn’t think of going to the next town over to buy what you needed.
People cared about what they made and sold, and they cared about the people to whom they sold it.
I was reminded of that little strip of care and connection when I went to a meeting in the Monadnock
building in Chicago. It’s a grand old building, designed by Burnham and Root
at the turn of the century.
In the lobby, between the local watering hole and other small businesses, there’s a row of three shops that might make you think you’re back in the late 1900’s.
One is a shoe repair shop that could double as a Hollywood movie set. The machines look like they should be a couple miles up the street in the Field Museum of History. There’s the unmistakable smell of leather and a whirlwind of activity as men with dirty hands and aprons practice their craft and customers kibbutz and wait in line.
A haberdashery next door couldn’t feel more different. A white-glove-clean shop with windows on every side, filled with endless glass-shelved rows of knobby wooden hatholders on metal stands. One woman sits with perfect posture at a table with a laptop open in front of her, talking on her cell phone. She could be part of a global haberdashery operation. It feels highly polished.
A bespoke clothes store that falls somewhere between the technologically-inclined hat store and dirty-work shoe store has the uber-orderly feel of a Saville Row tailor shop. The walls are covered in different cloths and samples. Old-school measuring devices are paired with laptops used by a couple of perfectly dressed gentlemen to make sure they outfit their customers properly. Their concern for their craft is unquestioned.
Among those ancient and futuristic machines, there’s a lesson to be learned for marketers. Where there’s care and craft, there’s loyalty. And where there’s loyalty, there’s life.
I’ve never seen a corporate brand team take a field trip to the Monadnock building, but they should. Pull out your calendar and block out an afternoon to head down there. Marvel at the architectural wonders of the building itself. Breathe in the craft.
It looks amazing. And it smells like leather.