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Viewpoint

Was there really a surprise that Donald Trump won the American election?  Or that Justin Trudeau won the Canadian one?  Or that Brexit happened?

While Americans may eventually rue their choice of president, these three results have much in common:

  • Politicians and insiders who are perceived as privileged, and think that they know better.
  • An enormous group of pundits, intelligentsia, entertainers, media, and other so-called experts, many of whom are also disconnected from the person on the street, and who also thought they knew best.
  • The echo chamber of Social Media, which has effectively replaced mainstream journalism with individual “bubbles” where an individual is not exposed to dissenting views (or corroborating facts.)
  • Individuals who actually know best… Even if “everyone” from the first three groups thinks that they are dead wrong.

Putting aside the debate performances, the health issues, the size of the rallies, and the television commercials, it is these four fundamental factors that opened the door to outsiders.  People don’t want to be told how to think, and they want to hear ideas that personally resonate.

At the same time, people do have problems with politicians who are sexist, vulgar, lying buffoons (of course I am thinking of the former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, another outsider), and there are many intelligent voters who never would vote for politicians who are this way.  But at this point in time, it seems the number who don’t want to be told how to think “trumps” the number who have bona fide concerns.

Interestingly, all of these outsiders are really just following a basic marketing 101 approach, albeit with their own unique angles:

  1. Define the needs of your target.  For Trump, this was jobs, immigration, security.  For Trudeau, this was jobs through spending and political transparency.
  2. Use branding to encapsulate and represent your service or product.  Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan, as well as his personal brand as a successful businessman helped.  Trudeau’s brand was in the legacy of his name and in his youth.
  3. Differentiate your offering.  For Trump, this was his outrageously politically incorrect statements, which served only to ingratiate himself with people on the street. For Trudeau, it was the message of hope, which was completely different than his competitor’s message of doom.
  4. Exploit your competitor’s weaknesses.  For Trump and Trudeau, this was the insider nature of their competitors, and their connection to scandal (Hillary’s emails and Mike Duffy/Senate.)

The most important lesson these elections hold for marketers is more fundamental: Markets are in the midst of one of the most significant transformations around: did the taxi industry (or taxi regulators) think about Uber a few short years ago?  Or the hotel industry about Airbnb?  Or the Republican party Donald Trump?  New players, new technologies, and new ways of thinking are rocking traditional players to the core.

This week’s action plan:  Do you really think that you “know best” for your prospects, clients, or members?  Do you really think that what you see, hear, and read provides balanced input for your decisions?  And do you really think that each year, business (and life) will continue on its incremental journey, step-by-step without disruption?  If so, your version of Donald Trump (or Justin Trudeau) is just around the corner.  This week, do something about it.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site

www.108ideaspace.com: Web strategy, technology, and design
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

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What do eyeballs and friends have in common with each other? Except for the fact that your friends have eyeballs, not much. Or do they?

Let’s go back to the year 1999, the time the unshakeable belief that so long as you had “eyeballs” on your website, unstoppable riches awaited you. This was the age of web page “hits”, greedy (or gullible?) venture capitalists, and the 24-year-old vice-president. Sadly, it was not the age of business models, integrated marketing strategy, or prudent financial management. When the dot-com crash happened a year later, there shouldn’t have been a surprise.

I was there. I built my first company in 1994 and sold it in 2000. Like today, we were focused on helping traditional organizations with their Internet strategy and then implementing it. We did this for KPMG, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail’s Globefund and GlobeInvestor, McGraw-Hill Ryerson, what is now Workopolis, and many others. These venerable organizations are still around, and are highly reliant on Internet technology as a critical part of their real-world, revenue-focused business model. And as an advisor, we learned lessons along the way about building communities, discussion forums, relationships, and yes, transactions. Because our work was not rooted in “eyeballs”, but in real revenue and real expenses, we prospered along with our clients. Those agencies, consultants, investors, and companies who focused on eyeballs, crashed and burned.

Perhaps we’ve learned something over the last decade, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Instead of chasing eyeballs, people are now chasing Friends, Connections and Followers. We use terms like Twitterverse and Blogosphere, as if everyone truly understood what they meant. While it is true that the number of Friends may be a proxy for influence, unless there is a strong connection to the business model and bottom line, at best the chase is for a chimera.

And like the heyday of 2000, there is a sordid cast of characters who have become instant experts (Social Media Experts) who are whipping the gullible and the greedy into a frenzy. They used to be (and probably still are) experts in advertising, technology, selling information products, market research, and just about every other field. Some probably sold real estate, vacuum cleaners, and all manner of merchandise, before they too jumped on the bandwagon, started a blog, and are now the new gurus.

And what do we see when we look at the companies that are “successful”?  Twitter still doesn’t have a business model – yet they are able to raise millions of dollars without blinking. Groupon – which does have a business model, turned down a six billion dollar takeover bid several years ago.  Facebook, which does have a business model, is a public company with $350 billion valuation: incredible. And explain the 26 billion recently paid by Microsoft for LinkedIn?  (I did try in an earlier post.)  Beyond these players there are 500+ other Social Networking sites that are clamoring to be our Friends.  Its “eyeballs” all over again.

What does this mean? I may be proven wrong, but I believe we’re in line for another huge tech crash. Yes, there will be a number of big deals, but we can only have so many Friends. And investors will eventually wake up.

This week’s action plan:  Is your organization’s strategy dependent on any particular social site?  If you don’t have a plan to collect your relationships in an owned-by-you database, now would be a good time to start.

Action plan #2: It might also be a good idea to look at your stock portfolio.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
www.RandallCraig.com
:  Professional credentials site
www.108ideaspace
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
www.ProfessionallySpeakingTV.com
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

Viewpoint: Microsoft LinkedIn

by Randall Craig June 24, 2016

What do you do if you have a spare 26 billion hanging around? If you are Microsoft, you buy professional social networking site LinkedIn.com.  What do you do if you are an avid LinkedIn user, or if LinkedIn is central to your organization’s engagement and marketing plans?   Be happy, but just maybe, also be careful. Firstly, […]

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Viewpoint: Software as a Service – a Rocky Transition

by Randall Craig April 22, 2016

There is no doubt that software as a service (SAAS) holds great promise, but are there downsides?  And for both software vendors and their customers, is it a disaster in the making?  (Maybe.) If you are not sure what SAAS is all about, it is the movement to rent software on a monthly basis, rather […]

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Viewpoint: The End of Twitter?

by Randall Craig March 25, 2016

Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Twitter is in its death throes. It won’t be around in just a few short years. And when this happens, there will be no shortage of pundits who: “saw it all coming”, or perhaps “Twitter is dead – long live Twitter!” It wouldn’t be the first Social Media death. Consider those who […]

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Viewpoint: The decay of personal responsibility

by Randall Craig December 24, 2015

In his 2003 Australian best-seller Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language, author Don Watson rails against lifeless, plastic corporate-speak.   He complains that too often, organizations hide behind their words, instead of connecting with their audiences with an authentic voice.  While he was writing about traditional communications, his point is doubly true in today’s digital […]

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Viewpoint: the Unintended Consequences of Low Fidelity

by Randall Craig July 10, 2015

It wasn’t that many years ago that both people and organizations craved higher and higher fidelity: 7.1 Dolby Digital sound, Ultra High Definition TV screens, and so on. Today though, mobile (and digital) is driving size in the other direction: smaller. An unintended consequence, however, is that the fidelity of the user experience has also dramatically shifted downwards: Mobile phone operators […]

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Viewpoint: Expert-writers and Writer-experts

by Randall Craig June 19, 2015

While the internet has changed the world of publishing fundamentally, the world of writing has been fundamentally shifted as well. Consider who is actually doing the writing: Professional writers are educated in the craft of investigation and written expression, and spend an entire career learning how to convey complex concepts to their audiences. Over time, […]

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Viewpoint: “Branded” Content Builds Brands?

by Randall Craig April 2, 2015

Back in the early days of journalism, there was a clear distinction between the “news” and paid advertisements. It was considered of the highest ethical imperative that journalists could not be “bought” or even influenced – by an advertiser looking to make a large ad purchase, or a threat to pull their dollars. If a […]

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Viewpoint: Cuba, Data sovereignty, and the Cloud

by Randall Craig February 27, 2015

Information wants to be free.  Unless it doesn’t want to be.  Nowhere was this more clear than on a recent vacation to one of the western hemisphere’s last bastions of non-freedom, Cuba. The Cubans we met were super-friendly, happy, and entrepreneurial.  The culture was replete with amazing music, history, architecture, and national pride.  And the […]

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Viewpoint: Building Credibility and Legitimacy

by Randall Craig February 20, 2015

There has always been a fringe element in society; and now, Social Media has provided an unwitting channel to help advance their agendas.  Short of regulating Social Media explicitly, can anything be done about it? In the traditional channels, there have long been built-in checks-and-balances to prevent abuse. With so few TV and Radio stations, […]

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Social Media Slimming Down: Costly or Gone

by Randall Craig April 25, 2014

There is no question that LinkedIn is one of the most powerful networking platforms around. It connects, credentializes, and recruits. It provides a glimpse into the professional lives of those we know, and those we don’t. But it has been providing less, and less, and less. Consider the following: LinkedIn answers – gone LinkedIn polls […]

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Viewpoint: Competing with Free

by Randall Craig January 24, 2014

Are you involved in your professional association? Or do you run one – either as a director, staff, or volunteer? If so, you’re probably concerned with one aspect of Social Media: How do you compete with free?  (Or perhaps, you’re concerned with a more existential question: Does social media make associations irrelevant?) Consider the evidence: […]

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Viewpoint: The End of Social Media

by Randall Craig November 8, 2013

Here’s a bold prediction: The End of Social Media. Yes, despite the success of the Twitter IPO, and before that, Facebook’s public offering, social media is quickly moving to its end. Consider the evidence: Over a billion users on Facebook, and hundreds of millions each on LinkedIn and Twitter. All of these platforms (and others) […]

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Viewpoint: Social Media – Going Out of Business

by Randall Craig March 21, 2013

Before Social Media really took off, the number of tools for engaging stakeholders online was very, very small.  You could create a bulletin board on your site.  An interactive calculator. A “guestbook” (remember those?)  Or get people to sign up to a ListServ and participate in a discussion via email.  These all had one thing […]

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Viewpoints and Social Opinions

by Randall Craig December 27, 2012

During the last year, I have written a number of opinion pieces on the issues and trends around Social Media, along with the (sometimes) ominous implications.  With the fullness of time, some of these are even more important today.  A few selections… Does Free Always Mean Free?  Beyond the embarrassing photos, new found friends, professional […]

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Viewpoint: Facebook – Billions Served

by Randall Craig October 4, 2012

Facebook just announced that it now has one billion users – an astounding number. On the other hand, you (or your organization) may have but 1000 or 10,000 – hardly a dent, and at best, a rounding error. Whether your number is on the lower side or hovering at a billion, this singular measure of […]

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Viewpoint: Email, R.I.P.

by Randall Craig July 12, 2012

Picture this scene from a few decades ago: you’re working in your office, and your assistant bursts in, with an important announcement:  You’ve received… a FAX!  The correspondence was critically important – and you were too. Then a few years later, the FAX was replaced by AOL’s chirpy voice, announcing to all, “You’ve got mail!” […]

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The Social Bubble: Finding Your Tribe

by Randall Craig June 21, 2012

Do you actively seek out different opinions than your own, or unwittingly reinforce your personal world-view by only consuming “agreeable” content? While we may think it is the former – who doesn’t have a self image of being open-minded – too often we live in a bubble. The promise of the social web was connection […]

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Viewpoint: EBook Lawsuit? Next up is iCensorship

by Randall Craig May 4, 2012

Consider the newest words entering our vocabulary: Kindle, eReader, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo.  Let me add one more:  iCensorship. If the stats are to be believed, our eBook purchases on these devices are fast eclipsing traditional print books. This isn’t surprising, as eBooks are not bulky, don’t kill our forests, and they’re cheaper. Despite these […]

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