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8 posts from January 2019

Loyalty in relationship to other values, such as justice

David Brooks just published a NY Times opinion piece where he praised American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916) for developing a meaningful way to relate loyalty and tolerance. (See money quote below.)

About 5 years ago I started studying customer retention practices and became fascinated with loyalty programs. Many marketers these days worry about 'true customer loyalty' versus loyalty which is bought through financial incentives. So I decided to look at loyalty as an abstract human value and made many surprising discoveries. 

Loyalty is usually perceived as a conservative value, but the abstractness of the concept opens it up to many interpretations. Progressives are naturally reluctant to say loyalty doesn't matter because it clearly builds community. 

My own view is that loyalty is a natural impulse which is subject to abuse. I resist the idea that we should 'redefine' it. Loyalty has given me great benefits but I exercise it with a strong consciousness that it often comes in conflict with other values such as justice and truth. We each have to figure out what loyalty means in our lives. 

NY Times: Your Loyalties Are Your Life, 2019-Jan-24 by David Brooks

We should despise those causes, based on a shared animosity, that destroy other people’s loyalty. If my loyalty to America does not allow your community’s story to be told, or does not allow your community’s story to be part of the larger American story, then my loyalty is a domineering, predatory loyalty. It is making it harder for you to be loyal. We should instead be encouraging of other loyalties. We should, Royce argued, be loyal to loyalty. 


Turns out that Facebook and Twitter are terrible places to find out what's going on

While I knew that I should not rely on the current events reporting I find when checking my social feeds, I'm slowly coming to realize it's not just that we use the platforms improperly, it's that the platforms encourage very poor behavior around current events. Let's share more travel and pet pictures, people. Get your news from some journalist... there are plenty to choose from--for now, anyway!

Two recent articles with a lot of insight:

One Man & His Blog: Why political posts on Facebook will always be polarizing, 2019-Jan-22 by Adam Tinworth

New York Times Opinion: Never Tweet, 2019-Jan-23 by Farhad Manjoo


Stop hoping that inactive subscribers will revive

When I work with business owners, they frequently resist removing inactive subscribers... they know that person still exists. Sadly, being alive doesn't make you a reader or user of email. And more seriously, inbox providers are driven to eliminate unwanted messages. If you manage an emailing list you have to get ahead of the problem and take inactive subscribers off. To have a healthy relationship with our customers, we have to learn their communication preferences and respect them. 

Sailthru: Why Using Email Engagement Suppressions Works for Inbox Placement, so-called evergreen content with no date, by Nancy Harris

As users open, read and delete messages, Gmail is watching. They’re curious how long people spend reading messages and which ones they forward on or reply to. On the negative side, they’re also interested in which messages people move to different folders or mark as Spam. ISPs, especially Gmail, are looking to make their users happy. As a result, they deliver mail that they see their users engaging with.

However, Email Service Providers (ESPs) don’t have access to the same metrics. For companies like Sailthru, opens and clicks are the best indicator of an inboxing issue. Targeting users who have been engaging with the mail stream helps to maintain healthy inboxing or mitigate any inboxing issues.

It helps to suppress those people who aren’t engaging, at least for a certain period of time. Not opening or reading messages, those users are dead wood.


Brand growth in the face of the "buy local" movement

Can a brand which has grown by celebrating its local roots then turn the corner and grow past them? My hypothesis is that if the locale has a strong positive identity before the brand was launch, growing beyond the local market is possible.

We probably need to see a natural match between the values of the locale and the values of the brand. Who wants Picante from New York City? Well, if a Hispanic family had launched the brand with an authentic story, then maybe it could work. 

However, we will probably always have categories where we want to buy from a neighbor. 

GenPop: Buy local? A Q&A with MillerCoors’ Tenth and Blake President Peter Marino, 2018-Nov-28 by Kate MacArthur 

Peter Marino is president of Tenth and Blake, the craft and import division for MillerCoors where he also serves as chief communications and government affairs officer.... 

"We need to test the boundaries of what local means by pushing out beyond the direct home market. How can we become more local and more relevant in the communities that have already adopted us and already think us as part of their community?

Then for our big national brands, Miller Lite is a brand that was very much born in the state of Wisconsin, but it’s very locally relevant here [in Chicago] with the Bears, a longtime partnership. Is there a way to lean into those with alliances or other parts of the marketing mix where we’ve got a lot of legacy and equity to make sure that we hammer that local connection in a more relevant and resonant way beyond our home towns?

GenPop: Do you think the concept of local will still be relevant in the future?

Marino: If local artisans and producers can continue to make high-quality products, I think local will be a tiebreaker for consideration for many people. There will be a segment of people that will pick local offerings far into the future. It doesn’t mean that they’re not going to pick nationally scaled opportunities, either. But I do think local will be a part of their repertoire." 


Reasons to believe

While reading a biography of H.L. Mencken, I ran across Mencken's analysis of how 'facts' became so important to civilization. He points out that after Darwin's The Origin of Species was published, facts began to outpace tradition as a test of truth. 

I believe we've now come to another turning point in civilization where facts have to compete with another test of truth. More and more people want to maintain coherent views based on their values. If a fact is inconsistent with their values, they deny it. More importantly, they ignore it. 

It remains to be seen if this approach to life is sustainable. It certainly seems to be doing pretty well right now. 

H.L. Mencken, George Bernard Shaw: His Plays: Introduction, 1905

...before Darwin gave the world “The Origin of Species,” the fight against orthodoxy, custom, and authority was necessarily a losing one. On the side of the defense were ignorance, antiquity, piety, organization and respectability—twelve-inch, wire-wound, rapid-fire guns, all of them. In the hands of the scattered, half-hearted, unorganized, attacking parties there were but two weapons—the blowpipe of impious doubt and the bludgeon of sacrilege. Neither, unsupported, was very effective. Voltaire, who tried both, scared the defenders a bit, and for a while there was a great pother and scurrying about, but when the smoke cleared away, the walls were just as strong as before and the drawbridge was still up. One had to believe or be damned. There was no compromise and no middle ground.

And so, when Darwin bobbed up, armed with a new-fangled dynamite gun, that hurled shells charged with a new shrapnel—facts—the defenders laughed at the novel weapon and looked forward to slaying its bearer…. And then of a sudden there was a deafening roar and a blinding flash—and down went the walls. Ramparts of authority that had resisted doubts fell like hedge-rows before facts, and there began an intellectual reign of terror that swept like a whirlwind through Europe, America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. For six thousand years it had been necessary, in defending a doctrine, to show only that it was respectable or sacred. Since 1859, it has been needful to prove its truth.”


When sales people have to create change

When launching a new product or service, the selling organization must have the time and incentive to go slowly and learn as much about the prospects and their challenges as they do about the new offering. 

Harvard Business Review: How to Sell New Products, 2018-Nov/Dec, by Michael Ahearne and Thomas Steenburgh

Early in the cycle, not only must the salesperson provide the right product information, but customers must feel they have the right information. That involves establishing trust and demonstrating a deep understanding of the customer’s challenges. Later in the cycle, the salesperson must help the customer understand, assess, and manage the risks and the people issues associated with change. Too few companies help salespeople learn to do this.

Sales teams would be better off spending their time developing a psychological profile of the ideal customer. What traits suggest that a prospect might be willing to adopt a new way of doing business? What behavioral clues signal that he or she is serious about making a purchase rather than simply learning about a new technology? Does the prospect’s organizational culture support learning and change? For prospects who best fit the profile, the sales team should map out all the steps that will need to be taken—and all the people who will need to be met. This exercise is creative in nature, because the goal is to envision what should be new and different in the sales process. 


How newsletters and crowdfunding are improving the prospects for book authors

Craig Mod shares some amazing insights for people in all professionals who want to make a living from words. The primacy of the newsletter in finding an audience is the most reassuring. Having a direct channel with one's readers doesn't necessarily lead to big income, but it does lead to crucial connections and feedback that fuel a writing career. 

Wired: The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected, 2018-Dec-20 by Craig Mod

Crucial Tech for an Author: Email ...

Almost every writer or artist I know has a newsletter. One way to understand this boom is that as social media has siloed off chunks of the open web, sucking up attention, the energy that was once put into blogging has now shifted to email. Robin Sloan, in a recent—of course—email newsletter, lays it out thusly:

In addition to sending several email newsletters, I subscribe to many, and I talk about them a lot; you might have heard me say this at some point (or seen me type it) but I think any artist or scholar or person-in-the-world today, if they don't have one already, needs to start an email list immediately.

Why? Because we simply cannot trust the social networks, or any centralized commercial platform, with these cliques and crews most vital to our lives, these bands of fellow-travelers who are—who must be—the first to hear about all good things. Email is definitely not ideal, but it is: decentralized, reliable, and not going anywhere—and more and more, those feel like quasi-magical properties. [end Sloan quote]... 

Newsletters as Books

In 2008, WIRED co-founder and technologist Kevin Kelly predicted how the internet and email would allow creators to be independent. He called it the 1,000 True Fans theory of market building. Now the payments and funding and production pieces are in place to allow someone—given 1,000 fervent and supportive fans—to reliably publish for fun and profit. Stratechery is just an archetypical example of Kelly’s 1000 True Fans theory in practice.

Folks like Ben Thompson are effectively writing books. Take a year of his essays, edit them for brevity and clarity, and you’d have a brilliant edition of This Year in Tech. And so in a strange way, Stratechery in paid newsletter form is as much a Future Book as a bounded Kindle edition.... 

For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year. The Future Book is here and continues to evolve. You’re holding it. It’s exciting. It’s boring. It’s more important than it has ever been.