March 10, 2009 • 9:10 pm 0
February 20, 2009 • 7:47 am 0
February 1, 2009 • 6:15 am 2
January 26, 2009 • 1:50 am 2
The Importance on Non-Linear Thinking Part 2 In Part 1 the “importance” of non-linear thinking, or managing non-linear thinkers was expressed as important. Perhaps expressing the importance of balance between non-linear and linear thinkers within an organization should be the focus. Left brain and right brain thinking, when combined and managed well can be very powerful.
What is the best way to inspire creative thinking? The brainstorm is dead. Sitting around a table in a conference room during a scheduled time is already missing the point. Creativity is not on a schedule. A creative person does not come into work, flip on a “creative” switch until 5 o’clock then flip the switch off. Creativity works best when it’s not constrained. That was the horse in a corral vs. horse in a pasture analogy. How about a brainstorm session among 5 people while going for a walk between 1:12pm and 2:37? Remove the constraints.
The following is a tried and true creative group activity to be used in place of brainstorming. I like to call it the Creative Cornucopia or “mental flossing”. I’ll use the launch of a Chinese Wine in the U.S. as an example. Many of the most successful marketing campaigns have come from this process:
1. Have a Plan – sometimes known as the Creative Brief. Establish the purpose and objectives of the brainstorming.
2. Appetizer – Identify who is going to participate in the group brainstorm. Send them an invitation (I use iggli.com) using something to initiate thinking about the subject. For the Chinese wine, each participant received a 3×5 card with images of Chinese culture with a date, time and location. They were also asked to bring something that makes them think about China.
3. Allow 24-48 hours for participants to think about the subject.
4. Main Course – Use a whiteboard or large writing surface. Once the group is together, start by asking questions about the subject. Not obvious questions, but abstract. In the case of the Chinese wine I asked the group questions like, “what if Cabernet never existed,” or, “what if France never made wine”… taking what’s obvious about the subject and removing them from the equation. If it were a bank I’d ask, “what if ATMs didn’t exist,” or, “what if we didn’t use money for economy?” Capture all comments.
5. Cross-Pollination – Take some of the answers in the main course and drill down further. In the case of “what if France didn’t make wine,” we looked at France and the culture. I asked for words associated with France’s culture, which I wrote on the white board. The group came up with words like, “wine, cheese, smoking, style, history”.
6. Cross-Pollination Word Smash – Take some of the key words from #5 and list opposing words. What’s happening by this point is your group is talking about the subject, but in a non-linear manner. By exploring the peripheries of the subject it gets the creative juices flowing. It avoids the problem of staring at a blank piece of white paper trying to get started.
7. Dessert – Identify and expand on emerging ideas. Some of the ideas that started to come out of the Chinese wine were “what is it like to try wine for the first time, what is like to do anything for the first time and what are some things someone can do to improve their image?” We listed a few celebrities and listed how they could improve the perception consumers had. Paris Hilton, John Elway, George W. Bush and Carrot Top were a few.
8. Recap and Connect. Leave the brainstorm with a homework assignment for each person to come up with 3-5 ideas, no matter how “out there” they might be (there are no dumb questions). Come back together in a day or two (don’t let too much time pass) and list ideas on the board. Rate them all based on how well they meet the objective, or creative brief in step #1. What are the advantages, limitations or truly outstanding ideas? The marketing message that came out for the Chinese wine was, “Be the First”. As in, be the first to discover wine from one of the last unknown wine growing regions on earth.
This is an abbreviated description of how to bring non-linear thinking into a group dynamic, especially a company. There is room for creativity here as there should be, but at the heart of the process is how to get all involved to think and talk about the subject in an abstract way. Hopefully you get a chance to try it. If you have questions facilitating the Creative Cornucopia with your group, email me any questions at email@example.com.
January 25, 2009 • 11:07 pm 5
Adam Strum of Wine Enthusiast wrote in 2007, “Many industry experts point to America’s growing thirst for wine, as well as its fluency and dominance in the field of marketing, as the driving force influencing wine styles throughout the world. The rise of the fruit-forward style of wine, rather than the more nuanced, terroir-driven and ageable style championed by the Old World, is being laid at America’s door.”
No doubt there is a homogenization in the wine business. Step into some wine shops around where you live and you’re sure to see many of the same labels. The American palate is only part of the reason (not problem). Homogenization in general is more of a larger shift happening in the age of the internet. Music, movies, shopping, clothing or anything else sold online has been felt the effect of the Long Tail.
Chris Anderson wrote a book called The Long Tail describing “Head of Tail” players versus “Long Tail” players. Using music to illustrate, Head of Tail players like Walmart would only sell the top 1,000 albums. The tried and true albums earn physical shelf space. These albums are usually pop acts. An online Long Tail player like Rhapsody sells the top 1,000,000 songs although the number of unit sales is much lower. There is no physical shelf space to worry about. Head of Tail represents the blockbuster hits whereas the Long Tail represents the diverse interests of many. Surprisingly, there are buyers for even the smallest music groups online.
In the wine business the same is true. Head of Tail players such as Constellation Brands or Fosters dominate physical shelf space by selling tried and true brands like Mondavi, Toasted Head, Raveswood, Estancia, Penfold’s, Beringer and others. They sell large quantities of a small number of brands. On a chart these appear to be a “head”. The thousands of smaller wineries appear as a tail on the same chart. The point being is there are consumers out there looking for smaller brands. To say the American palate is the driving factor behind homogenization is not true. A more accurate statement would be the American wine critic, and their influence on wine styles around the world, have a homogenous effect. Head of Tail and Long Tail wineries are aware of wine critics influence on consumers. But they also know if they make their wine, there will be someone looking for it regardless of rating. Alice Feiring wrote a great book called The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization. The title references Robert Parker, a wine critic who has had a homogenous effect on global wine making styles in the past 10 years.
The good news is, no matter what wine making style a winery decides to go with, there will be a consumer looking for it. Whether it’s fruit-forward or terroir-driven or somewhere in between, there’s no right answer. Better yet, demand for smaller producers is growing thanks in part to their efforts of marketing online. Two of my favorite smaller producers who have done a great job marketing online are Jeff Stai (Eljefe) of Twisted Oak and Lisa De Bruin of Hahn Estate. They offer good wines at a fair price, but without the internet may not have exposed their brands to as many people.
As online sales continue to grow, savvy Long Tail wineries will continue to find an audience. I’d recommend The Long Tail to any winery feeling like David going up against Goliath in the eye of consumers. Here is a closing quote from the book that I hope will give perspective, “The Long Tail doesn’t cure obscurity, it just diminishes it. But tor the vast majority of us who live, work, or just play in the Tail, the cultural shift toward minority taste is already bringing a richer, more vibrant culture. How and when the money will follow something that the next few decades will reveal.”
January 10, 2009 • 1:12 am 0
JANUARY 8, 2009
New Info Shoppers
*By MARK PENN
With E. Kinney Zalesne
With so much attention on psychological marketing these days — finding new ways to tap into people’s heads — perhaps the single most neglected trend out there is the move towards more hard-nosed information-based shopping and purchasing.
While elites were busy shoveling money into Madoff’s black box these past few years, strapped consumers have been poring over product spec sheets, third-party reviews and expert blog sites. This past holiday season they watched every dollar. A special kind of consumer has taken a major role in the marketplace — the new info shopper. These people just can’t buy anything unless they first look it up online and get the lowdown.
These shoppers have the Internet at work, typically hold information-based or office-park jobs, have some college or grad school, and are often making ends meet with two jobs, kids, and pets on a middle or upper-middle-class income.
Forget about huge, sweeping megaforces. The biggest trends today are micro: small, under-the-radar patterns of behavior which take on real power when propelled by modern communications and an increasingly independent-minded population. In the U.S., one percent of the nation, or three million people, can create new markets for a business, spark a social movement, or produce political change. This column is about identifying these important new niches, and acting on that knowledge.
They have become highly suspicious of many TV ads: in a shoppers survey we did, 78% of them said that ads no longer have enough information they need. So many of them search online for virtually everything. Window shoppers have become “Windows shoppers.” They want, in the phrase often attributed to Dragnet’s Joe Friday, “just the facts, ma’am.”
Of course, there is still a healthy role for big emotional brand appeals and mega-advertising campaigns. For every trend there is a counter trend. But that’s not the real new thing in consumer behavior.
A whopping 92% of respondents said they had more confidence in information they seek out online than anything coming from a salesclerk or other source. They believe the information they find, not in the information that is spoon-fed to them, and the vast number of clicks today prove that they really are devoting time and energy to ferreting out detailed info before they buy.
A good example of how information can transform a marketplace is the series of ads a few years ago for the Dyson vacuum cleaner. Founder and inventor James Dyson took a commonplace item and explained how he had transformed it with new scientific principles. Consumers weren’t bored with the technical approach. On the contrary, sales took off — and changed the marketplace for vacuum cleaners.
When we asked shoppers whether they would do online research before buying a vacuum cleaner today, a surprising 58% said that’s exactly what they would do. His ads helped turn vacuum-cleaner buying into a largely information-based marketplace.
We have seen many of the big market areas convert to an information-driven model — cars, homes, personal computers and medical care are areas where nearly 4 in 5 shoppers say they gather information on their own from the Web before buying. “Do-it-yourself doctors” (that is, info patients) show up at their doctor with the Web-derived diagnosis in hand, and a list of the medicines they need prescribed. Customers appear at the car dealership with the wholesale price and the model already picked out.
Information-seeking is not just an activity, it’s a way of looking at the world. New info shoppers are proud of the progress they have made in putting facts over pablum. More companies should treat their customers as Dyson did and let them in on the secrets of their unique success. And they should invest more than ever in helping form their consumers into citizen corps, arming them with PCs, cameras and even asking them to use the phone’s new video cameras to document their product usage and put them online.
But how many marketers today work back from what this new consumer is thinking and doing? Not many. Based on the advertising budgets in the U.S. where a typical company will spend 60 times as much on advertising than they spend on generating publicity, most lag way behind in creating a new model of consumers and the steps they take before they buy.
Some industries got it right away. Movies and restaurants have huge word of mouth and impulse components, but they are also very information-driven. Zagat’s pioneered the concept of survey ratings and reviews, and smart restaurants use them. We’re seeing the same in entertainment, where Metacritic and others provide professional and customer ratings of every movie.
Now this trend is spreading down the product chain. In our survey, 24% said they are doing online research before buying shampoo. The Breck Girl is being replaced by a shopping bot.
And they have questions. How does this shampoo work on different hair types, thicknesses and colors? Are the bottles recyclable? Has the product been tested on animals?
It used to be that the only time people expected 30-page, pre-purchase, inspection reports was when they were buying a house. Now some people want them just to buy a tube of toothpaste.
The point is that advertising isn’t just moving to the Web, it’s got to grapple with an entirely new kind of shopper and way of shopping. Marketers now have to balance traditional media, online media, and content that is generated by experts, bloggers and consumers themselves. An astonishing 70% of Americans now say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before they make their buying decisions. Sixty-two percent say they spend at least 30 minutes online every week to help them decide what and whether to buy. Among Americans under 45, that number shoots up to 73%. Seventy-three percent — that’s more than four times the percentage in that age group who go to church every week. For some, smart shopping is more than a hobby. It’s a religion.
Information aggregation sites – the ones that don’t generate content themselves, but link to others’ content, weaving a story about the industry and its products — will become even more important. Much as the Drudge Report tells its readers where to find stories they will like, so consumer aggregation sites could grow and do the same for car buyers, PC buyers, and other consumer groups. Most of the sites so far have been too cheesy to really catch on.
Information shopping also means manufacturers have to get back to generating more information on their products, even offbeat factoids that are highly memorable if not always useful. Timex sold a lot of watches by showing its watches were still ticking after being thrown into a washing machine. To catch the eye of the info-shopping consumer, manufacturers should start hauling their wares up to Mt. Everest, drop them out of windows, put them in boiling water and reporting on how they do. In an info-seeking world, facts can again become the great differentiator.
New Info Shoppers are bigger than a microtrend. They represent a broad shift in the marketplace brought about by the Internet, higher education, and changing economic times. But the question is when is the marketplace is going to really catch up to them.
Penn, Schoen and Berland conducted a New info Shoppers survey of nearly 300 U.S. adults October 15-21. Margin of error is +/- 5.69 points. Detailed Results available at http://www.psbresearch.com/files/ResultsOfMicrotrendsNewInfoShoppers.pdf
January 2, 2009 • 11:32 am 2
Anyone who knows me, knows I love a few things in particular: Bacon, my wife and Chateau Musar. If you have not discovered Ch. Musar, I suggest you seek it out. I use the word, “discovered” because it really is that kind of wine. Chateau Musar is from Lebanon, more specifically, the Bekka Valley. About 30 miles outside Beruit, you’ll find a winery high up in the mountains with head-pruned vines dating back to the 1930’s.
Chateau Musar is unique for a number of different reasons. The first being the man behind Musar. Serge Hochar is a one-in-a-million character. He could talk to you about moss on a tree for 3 hours and you’d be sitting on the edge of your seats, completely fascinated by every word he said.
Serge was trained in Bordeaux. In 1956, he took over the family wine making business, and immediately put his stamp on the winery. First, he started what we’d refer to as a “sustainable” or “green” growing program. Nowadays it’s so trendy to say a winery is “green” but Musar has been doing it for over 50 years!! In fact, Musar just won an award for their sustainable winemaking pracitices. Second, Musar is made with the idea that every bottle is unique, just like Serge. In fact, each bottle is hand filled. You might get a bottle filled up to the top under the capsule, or you might get a bottle filled to the shoulder.
Chateau Musar wines are fermented in cement vats. That alone gives the wine interesting character, sometimes bordering on Brett. I was fortunate enough to attend the Chateau Musar vertical tasting in Aspen June 13th. It was one of the most complete nights of my life. Serge was there speaking about each wine as we tasted two vintages from each decade going back to 1959. If you were there, it would have changed your mind about wine, and about yourself. These wines are in an entirely different category than any wine you’ll ever taste. Serge will tell you that his biggest and best wines aren’t his red, but rather his whites. They are legendary. They challenge you as a wine drinker. We were fortunate enough to have the 1967 Musar Blanc (white) and it was truly the finest white wine I’ver had in my life. So good in fact that I didnt’ even finish drinking it. I just kept smelling it. It went from Tawny Port on the nose to nutmeg, to caramel, to asian spices to God knows what. The nose was complex. It’s a blend of Obideh and Merway, which are anscestors of Semellion and Chardonnay.
The Musar Rouge (Red) is made from Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Cinsault. The 1972 and 1959 are stuff of lore. Some people would peg it for Burgundy while others would swear it’s Rhone. No matter what, Musar wines will challenge you as a drinker, while at the same time reward you like no other.
This evening, for my birthday, we had Filet wrapped in Bacon with Lobster Tails and lemon vinaigrette. A 1990 Musar Blanc and 1972 Musar Rouge were picked to go with. Already I was feeling good because Bacon, my future wife and Musar were involved. But holy cow! The Musar Blanc showed how beautiful an aged white can be with caramel, truffle, white chocolate and spice box filling the glass. A bit restrained at first on the palate, but opened up nicely. The 1972 was so good I had to step outside for a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke. Silky, refined, complex, dynamic, otherwordly and totally unrepresentative of any particular grape. It was youthful without being too oxidized. Wow! This is why we drink wine..
If you aren’t ready to drop $45+ on Ch. Musar, try stepping up to the Cuvee line, which sells for around $17 retail. It’ll give you a good idea about a winery that has been kept secret for far too long. Enjoy a glass with a friend.
January 2, 2009 • 11:22 am 0
First off, let me say how much I love the fact Alice Feiring wrote a book earlier this year with a subtitle that reads, “How I Saved the World from Parkerization.” If you haven’t heard of Robert Parker, he has accomplished what Martha Steward and Oprah have, which is he has created an empire around Individualization – is name is synonomis with his chosen industry. Martha did it for home stuff, and Oprah did it for book clubs and whatever else she does.
Robert Parker, bless his heart, has created a problem for the wine industry. His palate, or better yet, opinions, have become the standard. Wineries have stopped making wines that express their “terroir” and have leaned towards making wines to get that magical “Parker Score” because that’s what sells their wines. Alice was right to call attention to this. You see, Robert Parker has great palate and a photographic memory, but he likes a certain style of wine. Usually it’s an overly extracted fruit bomb that technically is out of balance. He likes big wines.
Generally speaking, you want a red wine to be around 13-14% alcohol. More often than not, these wines have great balance and finesse. Robert Parker tends to like wines that are more like 15% alchol and above. People are under the illusion they like these big monsters, but the problem is they overpower most foods. You have a food pairing problem. Take for example the Molly Dooker phenomenon. Molly Dooker wines are from Australia and feature a few different offerings. All of the red wines are 16% alcohol. To me they taste like Robitussen and Vodka, but some people fall over one another to pay $150 for them because Robert Parker gave it 96 points. What I’m about to tell you demonstrates what I’m talking about. The only bottle of wine that I haven’t finished off with a friend in the last 10 years was the Molly Dooker Blue-Eyed Boy. We got halfway through and just couldn’t choke it down. It burned too much. It was better suited to clean engine parts with.
Pairing wine with food is what it’s all about. Sharing with others how to find the right combination of flavor and balance is a hunt. I’ve found pretty much 99% of the red wines that pair well with food are under 14.5% alcohol. When I explain to people how we test pairing recipes, it boils down to where the flavors register on the 4 taste regions on your tongue, and how intense the flavors are. Next time you sit down to taste some wine, really visualize where you taste it on your tongue. Is it on the front? Is it everywhere BUT the front of your tongue? Same with food. Where do you sense sweet, salt, bitter and sour?
Chances are, if you’re enjoying a 99-point Parker wine, you won’t have any taste buds left to taste anything The more in tune you become with your palate, the more you start to appreciate and understand the nuances of wine and food pairing.
December 29, 2008 • 3:07 am 8
1. Slow-cooked Bacon – that’s it, just bacon. The reason plain old bacon makes it to the top 10 is the “slow-cooked” part. This year I discovered a new cooking technique that changed everything. Cooking bacon on, say, medium-low for longer results in a better finished product. Try it and see the difference!
2. Chicken with Rosemary, Bacon and Balsamic – The recipe calls for pancetta, but I use bacon…sweet savory bacon. The bacon laid across the chicken keeps it moist while baking. Towards the end when you are reducing the pan drippings, I like to finish cooking the bacon separately, then dice it up and sauté with some fresh green beans. epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chicken-with-Rosemary-Pancetta-and-Balsamic-Vinegar-4296
3. Bacon-Wrapped Dates – So simple, yet so tasty. Technically you’d want to wrap dates in Prosciutto, but it costs more and we’re in a recession. So wrap some dates with bacon, stuff some manchego cheese in the date, then bake it until that sweet, savory bacon is crisp.
4. Roasted Beef Tenderloin Wrapped in Bacon – Do I need to say anything about this? I think it speaks for itself, and it’s perfect for a nice bottle of your favorite red wine. epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roasted-Beef-Tenderloin-Wrapped-in-Bacon-107705
5. Curly Endive and Apple Smoked Bacon Salad – If you’re like me, you’re trying to lose some holiday pounds, so eat a salad. A salad with bacon in it. epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Curly-Endive-and-Apple-Smoked-Bacon-Salad-105099
6. Grill-Roasted Whole Fish Stuff with Fresh Herbs and Wrapped in Bacon – I have to admit, I haven’t made this recipe yet so it doesn’t have the Bakas Stamp of Approval. But we wanted to have a fish recipe on the list making good use of slow-cooked, crispy, savory bacon. epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Grill-Roasted-Whole-Fish-Stuffed-with-Fresh-Herbs-and-Wrapped-in-Pancetta
7. Penne Pasta with Spinach and Bacon – One of those simple, yet tasty recipes perfect for after work when you don’t have the time to make a sick meal. allrecipes.com/Recipe/Penne-Pasta-with-Spinach-and-Bacon/Detail.aspx
8. Bacon and Potato Soup – We’re deep in the heart of winter. What could be better to warm your spirits than a hearty soup made with my favorite friend: savory, yummy bacon. allrecipes.com/Recipe/Bacon-and-Potato-Soup/Detail.aspx
9. Bacon-Wrapped Scallops – Emeril is to bacon what Gary Vaynerchuk is to wine 2.0. In other words, he makes good use of it. planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/emeril-bacon-wrapped-scallops.html
10. Bacon Brownies – Oh God! I think I’ve found the meaning of it all. Are you kidding me? Brownies with frickin bacon in them!! thehungryengineer.com/cooking/bacon-brownies/