Borrowing fame

How Prime has helped make Amazon into everyone's competitor

I find it hard to believe that Amazon's growing power will not create negative side effects for consumers. The purpose of "locking in" is to enable exploitation. First, the competitors are eliminated, then the customers are trapped. Government regulation is a normal, but not inevitable, response. 

Hacker Noon: A Map of Amazon and Modern Marketing, 2018-Sep-11 by David J. Carr

Perceptual Competition changes customer expectations. It means you set the bar regardless of whether your product or service competes in the category in question. Building on great customer experience it creates a meaningful and distinctive brand with cultural relevance, esteem and saliency. Occasionally it can involve the odd Super Bowl ad. The result is greater mental availability for your brand, driven by broad reach, emotions and associations — effectiveness not just efficiency. 

Amazon’s position as a dominant Perceptual Competitor is reflected in its $1,000,000,000,000 market value and a brand value of $207.6 billion. It is a result of selling not just low priced products with excellent customer service, but “the thing it has always sold the most — to investors, customers, the media — excitement.” Perceptual Competition means competing on brand experience rather than CX, and Touchpoints ROI Tracker studies show that this is increasingly a better indicator of market share success than spend or share of voice.... 

Prime’s ability to funnel new ideas to loyal customers drives growth and innovation.... By combining an aura of innovation and novelty with a simple subscription Amazon can generate more customer, investor and media excitement than a Costco membership.... The Whole Foods takeover offers Prime members better prices, more omnichannel opportunities to buy and pick-up, a stronger health assortment and a last mile delivery boost. It also offers non-Prime customers a very prominent real-world demonstration of what they are missing.... 

Ultimately the forces of experiential and perceptual competition that Amazon has unleashed on marketing and its value chain have helped create an “expectation economy” that brands and businesses must navigate to survive.

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Purpose = behavior, as David Allen and Neil Perkin remind us

Articulating a company's purpose may or not be a good idea. What's essential is acting with purpose. One of the things I like about David Allen's Natural Planning Model, which I keep in my notebook at all times, is the first point: 

"Why is this being done? What would "on purpose" really mean?"

Only Dead Fish: Personalising Purpose, 2017-Dec-1 by Neil Perkin

A powerful purpose can be a hugely motivating call to arms for staff and create exceptional competitive advantage, but this only really happens when employees don't just see the words on the walls of the company reception, but see it in the actions of the people and leaders around them and actually feel connected to it. The real value comes from connecting with hearts rather than minds. ... 

One of the simplest ways to do this is to put your people in front of customers and for them to actually talk to them rather than read about them in research reports or observe them remotely from behind a screen in a focus group lab. That opportunity to hear directly about the impact (good and bad) of what you're doing creates the kind of unique connection with the work that can't come from anywhere else.

So many businesses talk about being customer-centric, so few leaders actually get out of the office and meet with real customers.


Profitless to compete with Amazon?

Speculation about how Amazon will change Whole Foods is running rampant. I click on news stories only to find that experts are being quoted who have absolutely no real information about what Amazon plans to do. Why would Amazon tip their hand at this point anyway??

One thing is clear. The grocery business will be restructured. At least Krogers' CEO expects it will

Vox: The real reason Amazon buying Whole Foods terrifies the competition, 2017-Jun-20 by Matthew Yglesias

Competing with Amazon is terrifying for any incumbent business because the company’s executive team operates on a radical model whereby the company’s overall net income is nearly zero quarter after quarter.

That is by design, not because they can’t come up with any ways to make money. On the contrary, to the best of anyone’s knowledge many of Amazon’s specific lines of business — including, notably, Amazon Web Services — are perfectly profitable. But while Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook hire lawyers and accountants to amass vast stockpiles of cash legally held in overseas tax haven subsidiaries, Amazon simply chooses to barely accumulate any cash at all.

That’s an enormous problem for every grocery chain in America, which already operate on razor-thin margins. Nobody thinks Amazon bought Whole Foods in order to siphon off Whole Foods’ operating profits in order to subsidize something else. A Whole Foods under Amazon’s stewardship will almost certainly accept lower profit margins than it does as an independent chain — and that spells trouble for everyone else in the grocery business. 

... 

Of course the nightmare scenario for the supermarket industry is that acquiring Whole Foods does allow Amazon to fundamentally crack the grocery home-delivery game in a way that leads Kroger to go the way of Borders.

But the reason the takeover is such a disaster for the industry is that the financial implications are bleak even if Amazon doesn’t succeed in bringing incredible game-changing innovation to the sector. Introducing a player into the market that doesn’t care about profit margins is going to be devastating to competitors who have to.

They won’t necessarily be put out of business, but they will be forced to respond to lower prices and lower margins with lower prices and lower margins of their own — making the current round of dividend hikes extremely difficult to maintain. From the standpoint of an executive at a conventional business it must seem extraordinarily unfair. 

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Is there a movement I can join to ban election polling, or at least its reporting?

We won't know if a ban on reporting election polls will increase turnout until we try. 

Apophenia: Put an End to Reporting on Election Polls, 2016-Nov-10 by danah boyd

...there’s a more insidious problem with the polling data that is often unacknowledged. Everyone and their mother wants to collect data from the public. And the public is tired of being asked, which they perceive as being nagged. In swing states, registered voters were overwhelmed with calls from real pollsters, fake pollsters, political campaigns, fundraising groups, special interest groups, and their neighbors. We know that people often lie to pollsters (confirmation bias), but when people don’t trust information collection processes, normal respondent bias becomes downright deceptive. You cannot collect reasonable data when the public doesn’t believe in the data collection project And political pollsters have pretty much killed off their ability to do reasonable polling because they’ve undermined trust. It’s like what happens when you plant the same crop over and over again until the land can no longer sustain that crop.

Election polling is dead, and we need to accept that.


How to write a personal email that will get noticed, from the Boomerang App

I read many articles from mass email service providers about how to write more productive emails. Now I'm getting a fresh perspective from the GMail app called Boomerang. The application reminds its users if an email has not yet received a response, among other features, and is now available for Outlook as well. 

Boomerang decided to analyze the 40 million emails that used their application last year, and recommend...

  1. Keep the writing complexity down to 3rd grade level (use the Flesch Kincaid analyzer to measure)
  2. Include a couple of questions
  3. Write with gentle emotion (see below)
  4. 75 to 100 word-long emails do best
  5. Keep subject lines to 3 to 4 words (surprising, and counter to most ESP recommendations)
  6. Make your position clear because people are more likely to respond to opinions than information

Boomerang Blog: 7 Tips for Getting More Responses, 2016

Another significant factor in determining response rates is how positive (words like great, wonderful, delighted, pleased) or negative (words like bad, hate, furious, terrible) the words in the message are. Emails that were slightly to moderately positive OR slightly to moderately negative elicited 10-15% more responses than emails that were completely neutral.

Flattery works, but excessive flattery doesn’t. Response rates for positive emails peaked about 15% higher than neutral for emails with a slightly warm tone. After that, response rates declined as the amount of positive language exceeded what would look “normal” in an email.

Sentiment analyzers output a “sentiment score” that ranges from -1 (for piss and vinegar) to 1 (for saccharine), with 0 representing a completely neutral email. To give you some context, here’s what some positive emails look like:

  • Hey, I was thinking about you earlier. Do you want to get pizza? 0.0, true neutral. A little positivity would boost the response rate.
  • Hey, I’d definitely like to get together next week. Do you want to get pizza? 0.35 positive sentiment. Perfect! It’s easy to add positive sentiment to an email – this is all it takes.
  • Hey, it would be really great to see you and catch up. Do you want to get pizza?  Positive 0.55 sentiment. This will also work better than a neutral email, even if not quite as well as the version above.
  • Hey! It would be absolutely wonderful to see you! Do you want to get pizza? I’m so excited! Over 0.9 positive sentiment. This email would be about as effective as a neutral email – not bad, really, but not optimal.

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"Problems are inevitable and solvable" says optimist Chris Anderson

Just getting ready for today's problems!

Ozy: The Man Behind TED Talks on Persuasive Speaking, 2016-Apr-19 by Neil Parmar

Optimism is the stance that problems are there to be solved, that problems are actually solvable and that if you want an operating manual for life, you carve two tablets: One of them says problems are inevitable, and the other says problems are solvable. It’s kind of a great way to stay calm and keep moving.

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