Click still needs Brick. Kind of.

People who know me know that I like to shop. Maybe it’s my early days working in sales and calling on virtually every major retailer from Wal*Mart to ToysRUs,  Office Depot to Best Buy, Target to CompUSA that’s given me an appreciation for smart merchandising, great customer service, and the benefits of being in stock. Or maybe I just like to see the constant innovation that is retail. There’s always something new.

This month I’m outfitting the new world headquarters of Fingerprint Digital. All 1625 glorious square feet of it.  I started my journey where all self-respecting start-ups do …. Online at Ikea.  Choose a couple tables, pick some chairs,  maybe a bookcase, 30 minutes and done, right?  Not so fast.  The pictures looked great. Very stylish and cheap, too. I started ordering.   Until I got to the Galant Birch Veneer conference table.   “This item can’t be ordered online”.  Why not?  No explanation given.  So I was left with a dilemma – order everything else and pay the $100 shipping or go to the store, buy it all in person and have my husband cart it home in his new Ford F-150 pick-up. I opted for the store, navigated the directions “find this item in Aisle 9, Bin 27” and purchased my entire office set-up in less than 30 minutes. Pretty cool, except  I had wanted to buy it online and avoid the whole store thing.  The store visit also saved me from buying a bright orange vinyl sofa that looked amazing online, but was dreadfully tacky in person.

The next task was White Boards.  I figured Staples was the logical place. They have the big red “Easy” button, right? And the free shipping on orders over $100. A quick online search showed me over 200 different White Board related SKUs on ranging in price from $229 to $500 for a 4X6 size, which was way out of my price zone. I then checked Amazon where prices were as low as $100 for virtually the same item.  Since it seemed to good to be true, I went over to Staples to check it out. They had a nice White Board display with a sign that said “ask us about 4×6”  and a price of  $109.  After searching for someone to ask, I went to the self service computer, typed in the SKU number only to have it say “Not Available in Store”.   Interesting. Item not available online. Item not available in store. Just where might this Staples item be available? Office Depot?  Frustrated I found a sales guy with a big red “Easy” button on his shirt. We discussed the White Board.  He didn’t bother looking at the computer. He walked me back into the warehouse and found the item and told me that sometimes the computer system just gets it wrong.  I bought the 2 White Boards and then realized that I’d have my personal delivery guy (aforementioned husband with pick-up truck) come get them. The warehouse guy took down my name on a post-it note and literally stuck it to the register. He said “tell your husband to ask for Bob”.   Bob made the big red “Easy” button a reality – even though multiple processes at Staples had failed.

In the same week I also experienced Home Depot (A+ for customer service, C for stock), Costco (A+ and the coffee maker I bought was 30% less than at Bed Bath and Beyond), Best Buy (ordered online, picked up in store A+ and the whole transaction took less than 10 minutes), and the AT&T Store (don’t get me started).  I had the best experience of all  with Wal* Next time I might start with there!

Undoubtedly I could have bought everything from Amazon, saved a lot of time and maybe money.  But like I said, I like to shop ….. and the reminder I got about creating an amazing customer experience – no matter what the business made the challenges at retail worth the trouble.

In touch with reality

Embarrassing revelation ….. I have been watching reality TV.  I’d like to say it’s because of the rainy winter we’ve had here in San Francisco, but that wouldn’t be completely true. Other than American Idol, I’m not actually a “fan” of any reality TV show, but I have been stumbling upon random episodes and finding them kind of intriguing.  I’ve never watched Survivor or Big Brother. I find the very idea of the Bachelor revolting. Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent, America’s Next Top Model are just too contrived to interest me.   But as a marketer, I find the business challenges these shows present  an  experiment in product integration and celebrity promotion that’s just fascinating.

Here’s what I’ll admit to watching at least once !

The Celebrity Apprentice is a great study in  teams and leaders at work. Set the strategy, create a plan, assign tasks, execute.  Watching LaToya Jackson develop a marketing concept for Australian Gold Tanning product and mobilize a team made up of Star Jones and one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta is truly something to see. In real life, co-workers don’t scream at each other and tell the boss you should be fired, but these Apprentices sure do.  My favorite part is watching the executives from the integrated promotional company – usually the CEO and CMO evaluate the challenges and provide feedback to the celebrity contestants.  They’re a lot nicer than bosses in the real world.

The Next Great American Restaurant features my hero Bobby Flay  and the founder of Chipotle helping wannabe entrepreneurs develop a national food concept.  This showcase is a testament to the need for General Management.  Create a brand promise, develop a product, hire a team,  and manage for performance.  Oh, and know how to cook .  It’s interesting to see that in the chain restaurant business the marketing is as important as the food and the contestants that recognize that win.  Clearly the contestant with a concept called “Saucy Balls” doesn’t see that.

The Shark Tank is a show where small business owners pitch a group of  celebrity venture capitalists.  The entrepreneurs tend to be pretty colorful and the products range from the practical  (Ride On, Carry On child seat to get your kid through the airport) to fad  (Vertigo Pogo Sticks).  The “Sharks” are led by Kevin O’Leary,  the guy responsible for $3.2 billion sale of Learning Company to Mattel.  He “helps” the entrepreneur understand valuation, investment, and deal making.  This show is separated into four segments. 1) The Pitch.  The entrepreneurs create a dramatic presentation showing the product 2) The Ask.  How much money do you need and why?  3) The Feedback.  Here’s where it gets fun. Invariably, the “Sharks” disagree and give conflicting feedback to the contestant 4) The Negotiation. An offer is made. Or not.

What are you watching?

Number 239,223

Imagine my excitement when I saw Reid Hoffman’s name in my inbox. Reid Hoffman is the founder of LinkedIn and a pretty connected guy. I immediately thought …. Wow, he’s heard about Fingerprint and wants to know more ……

Actually, what he wanted was this:

So this wasn’t as cool as having a well known investor reach out about my start-up, but it was, in it’s own way, pretty awesome. Imagine being the 239223rd person to sign up of over 100MM. Early adopter, baby.

I remember the day I joined LinkedIn. Sitting at my desk at Atari in Beverly, Massachusetts looking outside at the snow. I actually remember the person who invited me – a sales guy from AOL. I remember thinking, ugh, this is probably another Plaxo – useful only for recruiters and sales people.

But very quickly LinkedIn became important. I got excited at every milestone. 50 Connections. 100 Connections. 500 Connections. I had my own journey with LinkedIn. There was a moment one day that I realized the Mike Edwards at CompUSA was the same Mike Edwards I’d gone to Drexel with and thought – this could be pretty useful. And the first time I messaged my network asking for Marketing Director referrals and got 40 resumes in one day (which incidentally was 37 more than the Recruiting Department had generated in three weeks). Or the day I posted CEO, Fingerprint Digital on my profile and got dozens of messages asking what I was up to ( aka can I join you?).

I check LinkedIn everyday. Not quite as addictive as Facebook, but compelling still.  My top 5 uses:

1. Check to see who’s looked at my profile.

2. Check to see who wants to make a connection.

3. Check my Message Box.

4. See what’s new with my Groups.

5. Check to see who LinkedIn thinks I might want to connect with. (Very “Six Degrees Of Separation”)

So I like being number 239223. And kudos for LinkedIn for 100MM users and counting, but it would be cool if Reid Hoffman emailed me about Fingerprint, too.

Find me on linkedin

Back to School with Facebook

8 of my mom’s 10 grandchildren are now college aged. 7 are actually in college at school’s as diverse as Towson University, San Diego State, Tulane University, Salisbury State, and University of Oregon. The 8th grandson is off to the Marines, where he’ll spend the next 3 months in basic training at Camp Lejune.

All the cousins have kept in touch over Facebook from the beginning, but none of the parents or grandparents (other than me, because I am “cool Aunt Nancy Gail”). They’ve followed all the milestones – boyfriends, breakups, prom, graduation, stupid parent escapades. They’ve shared all the crazy family photos that only another MacIntyre could really appreciate.

This summer, 4 of 8 cousins all prepared for college (and the Marines). My mom, aged 74 realized Facebook was the answer. She could follow her grandkids no matter where they were and never have to rely on the Sunday night phone call or worse, a text message to find out how they were.  So she signed up all on her own. She’s at 40 friends and counting. She’s figured out how to post and tag photos. How to comment on news feeds. How to post regular status updates. How to “like” something. And most importantly, how to tell the kids she’s thinking of them and find out almost instantaneously that they’re thinking of her.  Pretty cool.

I just finished reading The Facebook Effect. Very interesting read.  Wherever the genesis of the idea for Facebook came from or how it developed, clearly Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a platform that connected people in a meaningful way is realized.

I’d love to see our parent’s generation embrace Facebook – it could be an amazing experience for grandparents everywhere.

If you’ve got a great family Facebook story, I want to hear it.

Curious about creatives

Three days in New York, 15 meetings with creative types. Game Designers. Branding Developers. IP Consultants. TV Creators. Art Directors. All guys. All developers of some of the most well known kids product (all kinds) and advertising on the planet. I don’t get it. Where were all the dynamic, amazing, creative women? Go figure that the creative develoment kids business is dominated by men. Men with children, but men nonetheless. How did this happen?

Last week I sat in a product meeting run by a group of amazing game development execs at an independent developer. All women. All specialists in developing great kids games. One of my colleagues (a guy) said to the head creative “do you think a team of all women designers can effectively design for boys?” Seriously.

Hard to imagine anyone asking all the guys I met this week if they could effectively design for girls.

Let’s do something about this. If you’ve got daughters, keep them enrolled in Art. Promote Creative Writing. Inspire them to Make Stuff. And Praise and Motivate the heck out of them.

This post is for Shara, Tanya, Stacey, Petrina, Melanee, Maureen, Mad, Antonia, Laura, Sara, Lauren, Patty, Cara, Gano, Ann, Alyssa, Megan and all the other super creatives I know. Rock on ladies!

E3 – what’s missing?

I’m dating myself, but I have attended every E3 since the beginning. And actually before the beginning …. when games companies showed at Comdex in Chicago, CES, and even New York Toy Fair. I missed two years – 2008 and 2009, when I took my detour into the toy business at LeapFrog and “didn’t have time” to visit E3. What a mistake …. because the games business marched on while I was away. Or did it?

E3 2010 was a 15 to 25 year old guys  gamer fantasy land.  Action, first person shooting games dominating – New Halo, new SOCOM, new Kill Zone. Big budget, high production value games akin to action movies stole the show – TRON.  Amazing new Star Wars games – The Old Republic and The Force Unleashed 2. New kinds of controllers – Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move got a lot of press. Nintendo DS 3D stole the show. On Live impressed. I found myself wondering ….. where are all the social games? where are all the mobile games? where are all the kids games?

Incredible to think that the most dynamic part of the gaming business was virtually unrepresented at E3.  No Zynga Farmville or Mafia Wars. No Tap Tap Revenge. No iPad Scrabble or iPhone Angry Birds. How did it happen that the Electronic Entertainment Expo became only about game product sold at retail?

Also interesting to think that even though kids may be the hardest core gamers of all (based on time spent playing), product for them is limited – except the biggest licenses like Toy Story , Harry Potter, and Mario.

In an industry that’s struggling to avoid the fate of the music business, why aren’t we   pushing harder to expand the audience with compelling, innovative game play for all audiences and working harder on the marketing side to make sure these games get the exposure deserved?

The gaming business has changed in the two years I was away. E3 didn’t, but it should have.

Transmedia …what is it?

Today I attended an event called “The International Game & Film Lounge” . The theme was “Transmedia”.  Sounds interesting, right?

I listened to over 40 speakers (and 100+other industry experts) discuss Transmedia. I came away asking “is it a buzz word”? or “is it real”.

Here’s the elevator pitch …..

Transmedia is the development of content that goes beyond traditional platform …. Movie to Game to Mobile to Consumer Products. Transmedia is the building of a community that lives beyond the movie or game …. it is the creating of a lifestyle that engages consumers in the i.p. and leaves them wanting more. It’s a way to build a brand, build an audience, and ultimately increase the average revenue per user (ie the average revenue per FAN).

There’s some great examples of Transmedia out there, but mostly in the TV world.

True Blood – millions of Truesters following Twitter, Facebook, online communities, the novels  and actually participating in the story.

Glee – millions of Gleeks downloading music, watching Glee on Hulu, posting to communities, playing the iPhone App.

Harry Potter –  many million of fans and their parents reading books, playing games, watching movies, buying the toys, going to the theme park, writing fan fiction, engaging on the facebook page, playing online games.

There was a lot of discussion about the best “process” for developing Transmedia properties. In other words, how do you get the creatives for Games and the creative for Movies thinking about the i.p. holistically. Sounds suspiciously like creating something by committee to me!

Net, net, anyone creating i.p. today is thinking about how to dimensionalize it (or to put it more crassly, MONETIZE it) across platforms.  This isn’t easy and as stated by one of the speakers today …. “the expertise doesn’t exist in the studios or the games companies” to create a property from scratch that lives across all platforms.

I don’t believe that. I think the next generation of content will live everywhere.  It’s all about the Concept, the Character, and the World. If the creator can figure that out, she need only get some smart people to help her execute it …. just like Stephanie Meyer with Twilight or Toy Story 3.

More to come, but an interesting Pre-E3 day for sure!

Have Phone, Will Travel

I just returned from a 3 day road trip that involved a BMW Convertible and 4 adults, so we were very close the whole time. Even though we were technically on a mini-vacation and theoretically completely unplugged from work (ie No Laptops in the trunk) I got a kick out of watching cell phone use.  A word of background on the 4 road trippers …. #1 Investment Advisor #2 Realtor #3 Attorney #4 Marketer in search of the Next Big Thing.

#1 Investment Advisor (aka my husband Nick)  claims  “all my positions are stable, so I can unplug”. He’s driving so he can’t use his phone except when we stop. He has the Blackberry Pearl. It beeps incessantly because he’s getting texts from my daughter (home alone and sworn to hourly updates). When we stop he asks for quotes from the iPhone …. because it’s a pain  to text the symbols into the Pearl.  He keeps the phone because it’s “small and fits in my pocket”.

#2 Realtor just got a Droid, after years of Blackberry. She got the phone because they were offering a buy one, get one. After 2 months with the Droid, she still can’t use it properly. She asked me to show her how to change airplane mode and change the volume – because it wasn’t intuitive to her.  I got to check it out a bit – and thought that it seemed just like Windows and was super familiar. There’s a sound for just about every function on the Droid and the thing makes a lot of noise. The phone with soft case is bigger and heavier than the iPhone.  It’s an interesting combination of keyboard text and touch screen.  As a realtor, she needs to look at a lot of docs and send them to people. The Droid has a nice bright screen and combined with the keyboard is really a super small computer.  The biggest problem is that she needed to keep it plugged into the charger all day – because the battery seems to drain even faster than the iphone. Interesting to note – she attended a class to learn how to use the phone. (obviously didn’t work). I asked her what feature would she like to see for the Droid. She answered “a mirror app” …. so I can apply lipstick without a mirror.

#3 – The Attorney has a Blackberry Bold. I call it the “classic blackberry playpattern” …. he’s texting and emailing all the time. He mastered the simultaneous reading the map and texting with his thumbs behavior. He’s also mastered the checking the blackberry every 10 minutes behavior. He hasn’t changed to an iPhone because of battery life and because he “needs to be able to text as fast as possible” …. “people expect me to respond immediately” . I asked him about Apps and he said the Blackberry had everything he needed just the way it came out of the box. 

#4  – The Marketer in search of the Next  Big Thing has an iPhone. The phone does it all, just like the commercial says. I used the GPS to find our way when the guys couldn’t read the maps. I supplied the road music from my playlist. I easily found the reviews and location of the “best jazz brunch” in California.  I got the stock quotes when asked. I checked Facebook. I took pictures of some amazing stuff and texted it to my kids.  And yes, I checked email, did a conference call, and played a couple rounds of Scrabble.

One thing is clear,  there is no such thing as unplugging once you’ve got a smart phone.    I realized that whether you want your phone to do everything or whether you want your phone to do just one thing really well there’s something out there for you. As a marketer, the phone business is interesting – huge market, complex customer segmentation, and numerous business models.

My Favorite Things This Week

Why is it that Oprah’s “Favorite Things” become instant hits and the things that Everyday Jane or Joe do not?  She can singlehandedly make a new book a best seller, a book reader the most sought after gadget, or a macaroni and cheese recipe cause millions of people to break their diets. Fortunately, most of us don’t have that power. But I do have the power to give you my favorite things list for this week.

The Nervous Breakdown. I just discovered this blog written by and for people who read and people who write. Not only are the book reviews good, but the books they choose to review are good and you’re likely to find something new you won’t discover in the New York Times Book Review. In addition, they have a daily 3-word exercise that’s really fun, such as “What are 3 words to describe 4th of July”  (Hot, Beer, Fireworks)

Sperry Topsiders. Classic boat shoes will never go out of style and the more broken in the better. You can now buy them in metallic leather, which just seems wrong.

Jim Cramer’s Mad Money.  Who would have thought that there was entertainment on CNBC.   Jim Cramer yells at callers and CEOs alike, seems to say whatever comes into his mind, and uses props like a gong, bull horn, and cowbell to make his point.  The one-minute financial advice round is something to see.

Keynote.  Apple’s version of presentation software blows Power Point away. So easy to use and it makes every deck look great.

Kashi Go Lean Bars.  There may be over 100 different granola and snack bars on the shelf at Safeway, but these  are amazing. At only 150 calories you’ll want to eat 3 at one sitting.

Plantronics Noise-canceling Handsfree Headset.  You can literally drive down the 101 and over the Golden Gate Bridge with the top down and conduct a phone call without interference. Until you go through the tunnel, that is. With 5+ hours of talk time, this is well worth the $120 price tag.

So here you have it.  An interesting mix of  new “old” brands  (Sperry Top Siders, CNBC), the new “new” brands  (Plantronics, Keynote),  and new ways to look at something “old”  (Kashi, The Nervous Breakdown).

What are your favorite  new things?

True Mass Market Shopping

Over the last couple of months I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of shopping.  Shopping Online (Amazon) Shopping in the App Store (iTunes) Shopping at Mass Market (Target) Shopping at Specialty (Barnes & Noble, Williams Sonoma) Shopping in the Suburbs (Salisbury, Maryland), Shopping in the City  ( San Francisco, New York,  Hong Kong).  How people shop. Where they shop. What  makes them shop. When they shop. What converts shopping to buying.  I got to see the art of shopping (and the art of marketing) up close this week in Hong Kong.

A couple of observations.

The lower the price, the more merchandise in the store. The 7-11 store is stocked floor to ceiling with everything from Bananas to Cigarettes with opened boxes of product stacked up and

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down the aisles so tightly you can barely pass through.  The Louis Vuitton store, in contrast, has one of every item, beautifully displayed like priceless merchandise.

A mass market brand like H&M next door to Gucci or Armani gets the halo effect.  I saw 20-somethings shopping in H&M carrying bags from the big  luxury brands  and grabbing handfuls of t-shirts and dresses. Great for H&M.

Unique displays wake up the consumer. The luxury retailer Lane Crawford (similar to Neiman Marcus) reinvented the shoe department. Instead of rows of shoes on displays within a department, they displayed shoes throughout the store tied to specific themes – Ferragamo pink kid skin slippers in the lingerie section. This totally unexpected merchandising undoubtedly works as a great cross sell.

Trained sales people and a lot of them. I visited an Apple Authorized Reseller in search of an adapter. In the 500 sq. foot store there were 6 sales people and I was greeted within 10 seconds and checked out within 5 minutes (after being upsold from a simple adapter to the “official Apple universal travel kit for $400 HK”

Demonstrators.  The  cosmetic companies have invested in pop-up make-up studios throughout the malls.  Dior, Chanel, NARS, and Benefit all had standalone displays fully staffed by beautiful, professional make-up artists soliciting consumers as they walk through the malls.  These are so popular that girls and women wait in line for hours  for their turn – giving the impression that the product is something special and rare.

Outdoor Kiosks. Various manufacturers have set up throughout Hong Kong.  The mobile/wireless companies are leading the charge here. Consumers can touch every phone and price is announced on big posters carried by salesmen on the streets. The merchandising isn’t that much different than the open air markets and really grabs the passersby.

All-in-all, great opportunity to experience a shopping when the “mass” doesn’t relate to big box retail, but relates to “masses” of people all shopping.  Interesting tactics to think about from an experiential marketing perspective.