Thursday, December 27, 2018

Its Time To Wake Up!

Even though it’s the end of the year, I have a lot of active projects.  And in many ways, its why I am taking the time to post this Blog entry as we move quickly into 2019.

Over the course of the last few weeks, the NY Stock Exchange dropped a lot.  

That was until yesterday.  

The Dow posted a 1,000+ point gain – the biggest percentage gain ever in the history of the Dow. Stocks in every category from high tech to retail to financial all posted nearly record-setting gains.

I am the first in line to share that I am not a financial wizard.  Nor am I the most advanced high-tech engineer. 

Many of the readers know I coined a termed called a “BGO” – a Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious. 

The 1,000+ gain yesterday was a classic BGO that the artificial intelligence, high-tech, financial experts along with many C-level managers overlooked. 

In the EXPERIENCE 2019 Trendcast Report, the driver of the next year is identified and that it’s not that complex.  The Millennial families are grabbing hold of the next 10-15 years of global economics, politics and brand cultures. 

The news media salivates to see economic collapse.  The news media outright despises the current leadership in the White House.  

And the news media as it continues to rant and rave, is missing the cues of one of the most revolutionary, historic marketplace change agents.

Over the last two weeks, I purposely went out shopping.  Not necessarily to buy Christmas gifts, but rather talk with and observe shoppers. 

And folks, the shoppers were out in droves! 

Was I hanging out at the Bloomingdale, Restoration Hardware and Barneys New York stores?  


Instead I hung out at places like Macy’s, JC Penny, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Steinmart and Pier 1 stores. 

I went to a half a dozen malls.  I hung out at Starbucks and Trader Joe’s.  I spent more time at Kroger and Publix talking to folks than picking up my groceries. 

I grabbed a drink and dinner at chain and quick service restaurants. 

And it was time well spent.

The ad agencies and digital shops are staffed with folks who seldom leave their gentrified intown bubble-hoods.  The editors and news producers – and God love them – are wired to their laptops writing their 24/7 news.  And the academics – well, they too live in a bubble that becomes more and more and more out-of-touch with reality.  

The Millennials are transitioning quickly.  The economy is transitioning quickly. 


Many still cling to a stereotype of Millennials that sits at coffee houses with their smart phone texting to friends and sending selfies via social media. 

Sometimes I truly do think that it would be best that I did not shine the lights on marketplace reality. 

The less I shine the lights in a Blog like this and presentations I make to business leadership, the more CEOs and business leadership still walking in the darkness of reality… which translates to more business for EXPERIENCE!

Will the stock market drop again… Hell yes.  It will bounce around a lot.  Thanks in part to the Artificial Intelligence … BTW, that’s an oxymoron. 

Amazon is coming to the reality of distribution costs.  Apple is coming to the reality of product market maturity.  Google is coming to the reality of flashing ads on websites does not drive brand purchase behaviors and screening out free speech does not build the best bonds.  And Facebook… well no question, it’s got both the DNC and GOP congressional leadership in its Face. 

BUT… as Millennials buy real estate and next the furniture, lawn and garden equipment, electronic gadgets… and next have kids and then buy the kids clothes, toys and games… and when the moms stay-at-home but continue to work….

We are going to see Wall Street … and Main Street wake up. 

And while I now sip on British Tea, I still brew up some great pots of insights that will wake up your brand!

Come give me a call and let’s get a new start on the day ahead!

Friday, November 16, 2018

2019 Trendcast... Grab Hold Of The Change!

Significant Changes Ahead...

Each year I issue the EXPERIENCE Trendcast in advance of January 1st

The trends get posted on our blog and I expand upon each trend in a PowerPoint presentation.  And each year I have the pleasure of showcasing the trends in front of business leadership. 

Right now the media and news editors are going crazy with futuristic forecasts post-election.  And the media flurry has been further sparked by a fixation on Amazon and its announcements.

Just as corporate and entrepreneurial America often dwells in its own market bubbles, the media does the same.

Here is a snapshot of the 2019 trends ... actually the first seven of them!

Kids R Us

About three weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau released its new 2019 statistics. While the socio-economics stats were interesting, I was shocked by the size of “kids age 0-4” – a direct age match with what is being termed “Generation Alpha.”

The size of Generation Alpha is estimated to hit 20 million in 2019.  This is the first wave of what the Millennials are birthing. 

The top of the Millennial “bell-curve” in 2019 will be turning 31 years of age and about half are married and about half are still single. The Millennials span a 15 year spread and so what we are seeing with kids is really only the start of Generation Alpha’s “bell-curve.”

When Millennials solely occupied the group of “kids age 0-4” back in 1983, they topped out at just over 17 million in size.

This trend is going to rattle many, many models of certainty. 

If you have money invested in social media, you might want to join the wave of others thinking there might just be better opportunity elsewhere.  

And if you think that Toys R Us is an indicator that retail toy stores are part of history, you might want to grab a Red Bull and wake up.    

The Family Forum has evolved into the Family Force and Kids R Us is the new Millennial bumper sticker.

And as much as the current Washington administration believes it is the sole stimulus of economic prosperity, Millennial families forming those homesteads are a major force too!

The First Wave of Millennials Turn 40

Back in the 1980s NBC had a hit drama show called “30-Something.”

 Last night I watched a new commercial for a hotel brand that featured a bunch of Millennials gathering around a corporate conference table that was a mimic of “30-Something.”

Many of the groups I work with continue to perceive Millennials as college kids.  Sad to say, but these groups include corporate leadership, community change-makers, entrepreneurs and politicians. 

If you believe that intown luxury apartments, social media, digital apps, retail websites and view anytime-anywhere-alternative to cable are the ventures to invest in… you better have some back-up financial sources. 

Just as much of an impact kids will make in 2019, so too will the aging of Millennials and their passage into their next lifestage.

Owning homes, having kids, sporting professions and engaging in long-term investment planning is creating a new market paradigm. 

Brands Reaching Market Maturity

Sears, Nine West, Teavana and Toys R Us… may they rest in peace. 

Kroger, Subway, Target, Ann Taylor, Gap, Banana Republic, Sam’s Club…  those respirators can only provide support just so long.

Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon… join the Baby Boomers as they face lifecycle maturity in 2019 and beyond. 

There’s nothing wrong with brands that embrace a generational group.  But brands that do so, must realize that the group they embrace will age and change.

Economics and accounting were both courses required in my MBA graduate study.  I found both to be far less engaging than broadcast creative and even American history.  BUT… what I learned in both courses still remain engraved in my headset.

We will see more of what many consider to be brand icons, mature and decline in 2019.  

Certainly brands that still believe that Millennial youth is infinite and the Jetsons and technology is futuristic truth.

The Rise of Alternative Brands

This past week the Wall Street Journal reported that venture capital investments is at an all-time high.  And more money is being channeled to niche-targeted, regional and specialized ventures vs. large, mass-market concepts. 

Out are generational brands… in are personally-engaging and emotionally-driven brands where audience groups transcend beyond lifestage and embrace a sense of shared-common ground with others who may not match what they see in the mirror.

“Hands on,” “regionally rooted,” “personally crafted,” “micro & local,” “authentic and real,” “socially responsible” “cause-anchored” … these are brand platforms that drive not only consumer brands, but also B2B and tech brands.

“High Tech – High Touch” is a proven market state, so too is the balance of “Macro – Micro.” 

Digital Integration

Radio stations will go away with the advent of satellite radio.  Television networks will die with the launch of YouTube… and then next with Netflix… and then next with Sling TV.  Newspapers are history. 

In 2018, EXPERIENCE has been brought in as a business partner with the Chicago Sun-Times.  It’s been a blast of fun … and also a rich learning experience. 

I hope that we continue working with the Sun-Times in the next few years ahead.

The biggest insight to-date, as least for me, is that vast majority of individuals interact with the newspaper across a multiple mix of platforms versus the sole use of one form or another. 

The myth long held by many is that the audience groups access the newspaper in its digital format are a completely different mix than those accessing the newspaper in its print format. 

Just as a newspaper sports a multi-platform audience, so too are those who access the retail digital spectrum. 

A story on Digital Commerce 360 reports that Walmart saw a 40% increase in its digital sales that in turn, drove Walmart’s overall sales to post a 4.5% increase in overall sales.

However, further buried in the story is that the customers shopping online are, for the most part, the same customers shopping instore.

In some ways it’s like the prodigal son parable… In 2019, more and more digital strategy will be integrated back into overall brand strategy. 

Okay… back to the Trendcast of the people!

GenXer Career Changes

While the economy will be challenged some in 2019, the pace of Millennial family-driven progress is not likely to stop any soon!  

Unemployment will remain low and the those employed will garner a sense of job security. 

At the same time, the Millennials who drew attention of marketers and new ventures away from GenXers, will exercise the power of presence and size among their GenXer co-employees. 

Trust me.  GenXers have a lot of built up frustration in being left behind by divorced parents and pushed aside by Millennial co-workers.

In 2018, we have had the pleasure to work with a multiple number of business-centric network and community groups. 

When we have profiled out entrepreneurs in particular, GenXers dominate the pack. GenXers, for the most part, fostered the Zoomers and the leading-edge of the Zoomers are now taking hold of the college campuses.    

In 2018, get ready to witness more and more GenXers now in their mid-40s to 50s leave the conventional workplace and start up new ventures.  Franchise brands should pay attention.  Banks and financial institutions too. 

Boomers on a Budget

A share of Baby Boomers is blessed with a corporate pension or retirement plan.  Another share of Baby Boomers was smart to field money to an IRA or Keogh Fund. 

But, more than half of Baby Boomers saved little for retirement and are now coming face-to-face with a hard fact reality.  The nice lifestyle of their early empty-nest years is non-sustainable.

As published by the Wall Street Journal, Only 55% of Baby Boomers have some retirement savings and, of those, 42% have less than $100,000. Thus, approximately half of retirees are, or will be, living off of their Social Security benefits.”

In 2019, it is projected that more than 40% of Baby Boomers will be fully retired… or at least claim to be retired from their careers.

Already places like Starbucks and McDonald’s plus flexible workforce employers like Uber and Amazon are farming Baby Boomers to fill open jobs.  From academics to healthcare to financial services, HR departments are beginning to see Boomers as an employment resource.

The impact of Boomers on a Budget will come to life in 2019. Projections that as empty-nesters they will move into the urban gentrified condos will be challenged.  Expectations that they will be able to meet healthcare costs will affect revenue flows.

There’s actually three more 2019 trends that will rattle the market, but one thing that has not changed is that time keeps ticking and schedules keep us moving. 

If you want to hear more and see the numbers of the seven trends featured in this blog plus “The Podcasts of Diversity,” “The Union Troops Are Coming Back” and “Further Suburban Expansion,” call me at 404.245.9378. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Stop Educating. Make Your Customers Smile.

I have shared this story in the past and so I apologize if you have read it before. 

BUT… I have to share it again because the grand MBA-laden leadership of a good number of brands are caught in like situations.

Here’s the story…

I was facilitating a formal focus group.  One of those with the one-way mirror that the clients sit behind.  It was a focus group for a bank and one that assess how various market groups perceived its service mix offering.

The participants were women age 50+ that were actual bank customers The discussion at the moment was centered around interest-bearing checking accounts.

As the participants were describing how interest-bearing checking accounts worked, the EVP of Branch Operations behind the one-way mirror began banking on the mirror and yelling out obscenities. 

I apologized to the participants for the outburst, excused myself and went into the viewing room.  Upon entry, the EVP went off rattling about how stupid the customers were and how incorrect their perceptions were of how the accounts actually worked.

I informed him that how consumers perceived a product or service was reality and how he believed they should perceive it was not reality. 

He was also informed that his outburst cost him and his employer $7,500 because the focus group participants could not further have free discussion.

Why do I share the story?

Because there a whole new generation of management now paying millions to re-educate the public that they are just flat out wrong in their perceptions of the brand and its offering.

Example #1 – Arby’s

Arby’s carved out a unique brand niche when it entered the fast-food marketplace in 1964.  It was not offering a burger, fried chicken, fried fish nor pizza.  It was also not a sub sandwich shop.  It offered hot roast beef sandwiches. 

As the third largest fast food chain, Arby’s parent company spends close to $120 million a year on advertising and marketing the Arby's brand.  In 2018, Arby's has more than $3 billion of invested brand equity. 

Starting about 3-4 years ago, Arby’s elected to expand its product offering across a wide range of products spanning the lot from burgers to chicken to fish to gyro sandwiches. 

The great leadership gurus at Arby’s Atlanta corporate headquarters chucked its old brand equity and replaced it with “We Have The Meats.” 

The writing was on the wall when the replacement brand campaign broke... it would quickly destroy the past brand equity Arby's owned.

Well, a new ad campaign broke about two weeks ago. 

The campaign is all about Arby’s no longer being just a roast beef restaurant and anyone out there that thinks so is just dead wrong.  The spots even sport an accusation tone… how could you, the consumer, be so out-of-date?

By damn, that corporate marketing team is going to correct the marketplace! 

Example #2 –

This one is a BGO – blinding glimpse of the obvious. 

Home goods and furniture website starts up founded on a platform of great price deals. 

The techie entrepreneurs believed that shoppers would jump on the opportunity to go online to secure better deals than they could get in-person at physical retail locations.

The assumption and in turn, the brand name, were right on target… 

Only problem, the idea of was not unique.  Enter competition. Other house & home retail websites like Wayfair and Houzz.  Enter web side-kicks from retailers like Rooms-to-Go and Ballard Designs.

Now enter the new ad campaign. 

“Sometimes names can be confusing.  Some folks think that at sells overstock goods, but instead we sell everything right here.”

So let me get this logic right. 

If I name my brand offering something like “Fresh Brewed Coffee” and people think it’s actually coffee served freshly brewed, that because they go over to Starbucks instead, I should correct the consumer thinking set.

By damn, ignore the fact that our name is, we do not sell overstock inventory!

Example #3 – Chevy

What started out as a rip off of a focus group moderator has now evolved into a dictatorial preacher of the facts that the ignorant consumers cannot figure out on their own.

I guess the comparative illustration of this with this blog post lead-in story is the bank EVP getting up, leaving the room with the one-way mirror and entering into the focus group discussion to write the mechanics of an interest-bearing checking account on a chalk board.

Chevy is not the only brand right that is running advertising campaigns to educate the ignorant consumers.  Financial planners and healthcare providers must be members of the same 501c non-profit "educate the ignorant consumers" organization as Chevy. 

By damn, that corporate marketing team is going to make sure that those facts about Chevy are known!

Brands that do this type of advertising… Arby’s, and Chevy are only illuminating the fact that sales are not doing well and corporate management screwed up. 

In neon lettering.

When was the last time that you saw an instructional ad for Apple?  Or BMW?  Or a common, mass brand like Pilsbury? 

When was the last time you saw a corrective ad for Red Bull?  Or American Express? Or even Nike who recently kicked-off a brand campaign that generated controversy. 

AJ, the past CEO of Kmart, who we worked with in assessing which stores should be closed and which stores were worth investment is now CEO of Pier 1 Imports.  Kelly Cook also moved with AJ from Kmart to Pier 1. 

Kelly is a true marketing maven.  She is passionate about what she does.  

A year ago, Pier 1 was sitting in a very precarious position.  It had lost its brand personality and core product value.  It would have been easy to attempt to re-educate the marketplace that Pier 1 was Pier 1 and how could anyone have lost an understanding of its brand offering!

In the last couple of weeks, Pier 1 has launched a new campaign that introduces its new tagline, “This is Me.”

Here is a link to that campaign…

The brand culture is smack on target. These ads are not educational lectures, but rather mirrors. 

When I see work like this, it makes me smile. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Watershed Event As The Next School Year Begins

Next week, a “watershed” event is taking place and the news media is not covering the story.

The first wave of Generation Z or the Zoomers will be starting college classes as the Fall 2018 Semesters begin. 

Generation Z officially started with those born in 2000 and ended with those born in 2014.  These are the kids born primarily to Generation X parents.

Generation X parents made history, but very little news media paid much attention to them.  Shoot, there are only 52 million of them vs. 76 million Baby Boomers and 78 million Millennials.  For many residing on Madison Avenue and Wall Street, Generation X and Generation Z are way too small to invest money and time.

Some quick background…

The leading edge of Generation X is turning 53 this year and the trailing edge is turning 41. 

Generation X was produced primarily by the Mature Generation that preceded the more famous Baby Boomers.  

The Mature Generation struggled through some very odd times.  The majority of the Mature Generation came into the world during the Great Depression when one worked hard just to survive.  

While some of the Mature Generation fought WWII, it’s a generation known for its survival instincts and playing hard too.  As a result, the Mature Generation posted more divorces than any other generation to-date… so nearly half its kids were raised by parents who split up!

Where Millennials are known for being raised in a world of mobile and social media, Generation X was a generation that grew up in the world of Cable television with landmark shows that captured their growing up like All in The Family and the Brady Bunch. 

When Generation X got to a stage of coupling and forming families, it was adamant that as married parents it would stay together and give the kids a home-life that was stable and sane.  For many sex was used to make kids and after they were delivered, sex no longer was a production option for engagement… nor enjoyment!

While the Millennials were raised in households of idealism and peace, love and harmony… Zoomers were nurtured in households of commitment, self initiative, entrepreneurship and realism… and even a tad of survival instinct nurtured by grandparents that are outliving all past lifespans.

At the same time that Zoomers were growing up, the academic circles shifted to embrace the Boomer and Millennial ideals related to social, environmental and political ideals. 

The cost of the four-year degree has exploded and student debt reached new heights. 

The impact of Zoomers now turning 18 will rattle the walls of academic convention with an explosion of alternative pathways of pursuit and a new configuration of ADHD – academic deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

My bet is that before the end of the year, there will be news of students resisting professors, others walking out of the classroom and others tuning out the lectures with the content of their smartphones. 

Just as the press has diverted on news that Millennials are electing not to have many kids… which is an incorrect assessment… the press will divert with stories of just how much the Internet has overtaken the desire to focus on the classroom lectures and textbooks.

Given the explosion of information, media and global exposure, Millennials see bunches of more options than simply a college degree. 

Technology and mechanical skills can be better cultivated in the context of “trade skills” and models of “apprenticeships” vs. liberal arts and pre-packaged graduate degrees. 

About 10 years ago, I took on an intern who was going directly from high school into a graphic design trade school based in Atlanta.  He was the son of a regional ad agency creative director. 

I was most struck by his commitment to “learn a skill” versus the glamour of the ad agency job scene. 

What is happening right now is the very beginning of a wave of change that will disrupt a wide field of convention. 

I could care less if its technology, housing, restaurants, retail, healthcare and/or entertainment, many product categories are at a point of market maturity and the brands at a point of revenue decline. 

Here is my bet. 

The 52 million Zoomers will impact the marketplace over the next 5-8 years more with new paradigms and models of configuration than the 78 million Millennials have accomplished to date... more than 20 years since the first wave entered college. 

The Millennials embrace the world as it exists, only they do so through their smartphones and Apps. 

The Zoomers use smartphones and Apps to create and fuel new models that are more efficient, and better-engineered to work.

This mega-trend is getting started just as this blog gets posted!

Want to discuss more... call me at 404.245.9378 or Email me at!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Comfort Is Stalling

The comfort is stalling.

When I page through the house & home magazines and watch many of the nets, life is painted as high-end 24/7 comfort and fun. 

Buying a half million-dollar house is nothing.  Shoot, the first time home buyers are eager to take on the monthly payments. 

Traveling at a whim and taking off for an experiential adventure is easy with high-tech and work-from-home.

The ads for the latest and greatest $40K+ cars fill the airways. They race against one another or speed off at record-breaking speed.

Spending $6+ on that small cup of organic, drip, environmentally green coffee that supports the sub-culture of some remote farming town is like nothing. 

The comfort is stalling.

I have written recently in blogs about the observations I make of corporate marketing teams.  Hiring in folk from outside their self-anointed, vertical product and service categories is totally unheard of and conveys a sense of engagement with the unwashed.

Shoot, for many, the Internet is where everyone shops.  Self-driving cars will overtake the highways in just a few years and rolling out another App is what will escalate sales. 

What?  You are asking us to step back and dig deeper? 

What?  You are asking us to roll-back under our sense of comfort and order to a degree that just might mess up our landscape?

The comfort is stalling.

Every day I wake up and read the Wall Street Journal.  Everyday once I get past the headline coming out of Washington or Wall Street… there’s interesting headlines I see.

And as I scan down to the bottom of the first page.  Turn over to pages 2, 3, 4 and 10.  Read the latest news coming out of New York.  Move over to the editorial section.  Go on to the next section, “Section B.”

“Starbucks sales have flattened out and the coffee houses have reached market maturity”.

“Netflix missed its forecast… shares fell”

“Nissan sales miss the mark” … and so have Ford, Fiat/Chrysler, BMW and Audi.

“Apple iPhone sales have leveled out.”

“McDonald’s is trimming back its corporate staff due to stalling sales.”

“Smucker is pressed to raise prices.”

“Lowes sales continue to slip even with its new CEO from JC Penney”

And the marketing firms, are they too experiencing challenge?

Another headline… “At WPP (global holding company of ad agencies), chairman advocates an overhaul.”

The comfort is stalling.

Technology has produced a sense of false security and a sense of “what I say is what will be answered, accomplished and resolved.” 

I can hear readers now… “Isn’t that right, Alexa?”

No need for me to encounter challenge… my car self-brakes, Alexa finds the answers and my iPhone Apps are there to do as I instruct.

Business… in its truest of sense… is not comfortable. 

There are highs… but there are also rude awakenings. 

Categories have matured and the calling is for departure from the masses and the norm. 

If you are seeking a comfort consultant that marches to the beat of the masses… and, by the way, digital firms right now serve as the band leaders … continue on until that bank account runs out.

The comfort is stalling.

If you are seeking to disrupt, re-start, re-focus and re-ignite… call us.


404.245.9378.  Ask for Mark.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Memorial Models Of The Past... Let's Journey Beyond!

When I started my career working at an ad agency, we called them the “media mavens.” 

I know… I know… I am starting this Blog being gender-biased… but I am only doing true factual journalistic reporting… something many in the press fail to do today.

No joke… there was not a single guy in the media department at this $80 million in billings ad agency. 

When EXPERIENCE has been brought in to work with ad agencies – regional ones and national ones – while there might be a guy or two in the media departments, there are still not many to be found.

In the past several months, we have been working with a “digital shop” in the Southeast that specializes in using social media to “build relationship dialogue” with brand customer groups – folks who recently purchase a product from an online website.

Again, I hate to be gender-biased, but in this “digital shop,” all of the team interfacing with the clients’ customers are male.

The digital team is all Millennial too.

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a feeling I get when I see just part of the 2018 ad/digital media agency world that says there’s something “just not right” that’s going on.

I am writing this blog post on Memorial Day.  As you read more if this post, you will see just like me, that writing it on Memorial Day is actually very fitting.

Last night, I made dinner at my city house and kicked back with a nice glass of cheap Whole Foods wine and watched Flea Market Flip that airs on HGTV’s sister station, Great American Country.

The network must be going through post-May election day blues because there were a whole bunch of ads promoting GAC, HGTV and DIY-TV programming. 

One of the ads that ran is on that has actually been cited in a host of Emails and two snail-mail letters I’ve sent to leadership at GAC.

It’s the ad that promotes GAC’s Wednesday evening RV show. 

The ad runs over and over and over and over and over and over and over… again in each commercial block at least 5 of 7 nights of prime time GAC TV each week. 

Here we are in the year 2018 and with all the hoopla you read about high tech, artificial intelligence and Millennial geek expertise, the marketing-advertising-digital experts continue to brew the alchemy of strategic thought that “if you bang away enough times with high frequency and reach, consumers will ultimately go out and purchase the product.”

If you think that I am making this up, take a glance at the job postings for digital and marketing talent that runs on job websites today. 

If you think that I am making this up, take an inventory of how many online ads travel with you over the course of a week, let alone a month.

There are some very, very high budget brands that air the same commercials over and over and over again.  The same content.  The same actors.  The same music.  The same old sameness over and over each time.

In the world of technology advancements and lower cost, I would think that producing fresh content would not be an issue.

BUT… then again, there’s a vast array of brands and their brand leadership that live and die by the same dumbmass (note the spelling!) marketing mirage of reach and frequency.

Back in the early 1980s when I started working in the ad agency world, women gravitated to media because of a very gender-biased belief that a good looking lady could sell those male marketing VPs on buying whatever media could look the most charming. 

Just like today in 2018, there’s a very gender-biased thinking set that the geek-looking guy can more brilliantly program the computers to be even smarter in finding more niches of online, mobile and social media to run the banner ads.

On this Memorial Day, we need to honor the past and those who defended it.  In the situation within the marketing world, we need to finally put the mirage to rest and focus on reality and truth.

The truth is really not that scary. 

People connect with brands that emotionally engage and connect.  And just like in human relationships, brands that can evolve with them and be there to support as well as celebrate through the course of their life-journey. 

The truth is not scary… but making the change for many is.

This week, it was announced that the past CEO of JC Penny was leaving and taking on a new role as CEO of Lowe’s.  JC Penny continues to be challenged by generational change.  Lowe’s is facing generational change and competitive challenge. 

Industry after industry clings to their own kind as much as they cling and hold on to the past models of advertising and marketing.

Think about it.

What if Lowe’s hired instead the past CEO of Red Bull.  Or head of sales for Subaru.  Or EVP of marketing of Apple iPhones. 

I can hear the chorus now… “but what do those folks know about house & home supply stores?”

Banks keep hiring bankers.

Healthcare groups keep hiring healthcare execs. 

Automotive keeps hiring automotive peers.

Here too, it’s time to celebrate Memorial Day and venture out beyond the constraints defended. 

I will end this blog post with something that just might be politically incorrect for me given that EXPERIENCE works with a good share of politicians.

However, we are not party-aligned nor issue-aligned. 

On this Memorial Day, focus for a moment on what’s going on in Washington… and even more specifically the White House. 

A different mantra… a different model… a different course of leadership… is all churning up there. 

What’s been defined as the working model of the past ends up tossed out with both the baby and the bath water. 

It challenges many. 

And yet… there are some cool things that no one could predict or support that are happening that are driving the U.S. economy and marketplace.

The Media Mavens, the Geek High Techies, the formulaic models of the past… the comfort of coloring in the lines with leadership, the belief in some ways that the world is flat and if you go too far you will fall off the face of the marketplace…

It’s time to let go and journey beyond the conventional. 

Call me.  EXPERIENCE is ready to travel with you!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Is Your Brand Getting Killed By Technology?

If you follow along with the media, you'd think that technology will continue to excel at record pace. 

Shoot… according to the media, customer live interaction with the shopping experience and personal customer service will be gone in the next five years. 

This past Monday’s issue of the Wall Street Journal highlighted technology advancing within a wide array of businesses at an unstoppable pace. 

Shoot, there was a story that Walmart someday soon will be nothing but a place to drive up to and pick up orders made via a smart phone or iPad. 

There was another article that self-driving cars are all the rage with Millennials who have no desire to even engage in driving while they sit in their cars and text friends.

For entertainment value, during the last couple of weeks, I hit a number of the online job posting sites. 

I could care less if the employer was a bank, hospital, hotel group, consumer packaged goods company, insurance group or a B2B manufacturing company… nearly 80% of the postings were for technology and database related jobs.

“CRM” is the acronym that peppers many of the postings.  Shoot, even customer personal interaction and relationship building sports an acronym! 

Customer retention is NOT something that tech-geeks are good at doing.  Management might think so, but many are currently, or soon to, paying the price.

Let’s take a look at Starbucks.  Talk about killing brand equity, Starbucks can take center-stage.

The Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz has conceded his ability to understand and deliver the historic Starbucks EIP or Emotional Ignition Point. 

There is no place in the “third place” anymore.  That kitchen table has since been sold at the brand equity flea market.

Gone are the days of personal interaction at Starbucks replaced with Apple iPads and iPhones, payment apps and mobile drive-thru wired orders.  

Have to pay for the coffee, just swipe that electronic credit card.  A number of Starbucks have replaced the order counter with tap-screen order kiosks. 

Wall Street posted an article yesterday afternoon on its website that Starbucks has entered into a deal with Nestle to sell its coffee on the supermarket shelves. 

This morning, Wall Street is running a follow-up article that Starbucks financial growth has stalled and marketing leadership is going to launch an “online” and “social media” strategy to route customers back in the afternoon.

More times than not, I joke with indie coffee house management when I see how they become transfixed on the historical, ecological and roasting time character of the beans from which they churn out their coffee. 

I tell them that coffee is not their product.  The experiential environment is instead.  The attribute aspects of the coffee means little to vast majority who buy their coffee.

Here is what I saw this weekend…

Indie coffee house… folks sitting out on a patio chatting and interacting with real folk. No iPhones out... iPads and MacBooks stored in the computer bags. 

Starbucks three store fronts down… individuals sitting alone at tables interacting with their computers and folks standing in line interacting on their iPhones. 

I know… I know… my observations are not quantifiable and projectable… but that version of ethnography often is much more on target with key insights than the numbers!

The “Third Place” has now been replaced by the smart phones… right?

Technology has management hooked on the idea of linear progression of advancement and change. 

Brand equity?  Emotional Ignition Points?  Sustainable Brand Engagement?

Sure the buildings, tables and cushiony chairs are still there inside the zillions of Starbucks stores, but the experiential Starbucks brand has faded and the Starbucks brand now sits next to its peers like McDonald’s, Macy’s and Coke. 

As I share with clients and business leadership… do NOT get addicted to the opium of technology. 


As I have shared in past blog posts, the world does not progress along a route of linear change.  Brand choice is not rationally motivated.  

Brands have a life-line and as they reach market maturity. 

Deciding to capitalize on everything, everywhere and losing focus on equity of investment only accelerates the dismantling and ultimate death of the brand.

EXPERIENCE just received a second project assignment from a brand rooted in its agricultural past.  It’s a brand driven by its organic and eco-sustainable roots.  I am personally excited to be involved in the growth and expansion of this brand.

Sure there's Whole Foods, but its new daddy, Amazon is re-engineering its wardrobe like the show, "What Not To Wear."

No question that technology is part of our client's brand... its cultivation, production and harvest of product.  Even in the translation of the brand experience online.

BUT… our new client's focus and priority moves beyond technology with real people and real-time, in-person, interactive experiences.

What?  Computers are smarter than people, right?

My advisement to management reading this blog?

Take a moment and track how much of your operational, marketing and sales investments in the last 24 months are rooted in technology.  Compare that with how much of your investment is placed in actual people. 

The 80/20 rule has rich holistic roots transferable across one business platform to the next. 

If you find that the “80” is rooted in technology… give me a call. 

Your brand equity is in trouble.