brands

Monocle Magazine

Print is dead.

What that really means is that the old print magazine business is dead. You remember: Print a ton of copies and stack them high on magazine stands. Try to sell half of them (a sell-through rate of 50% was considered great) for dirt cheap (12 issues for only $10!). Fill each copy with no fewer than seven (7) subscription cards, some bound in and some loose so they would fall out onto the floor to beg the reader's attention. Oh, and don't forget the big celebrity photo on the cover, with another big celebrity in a bubble near the top. And use orange (or some other color du jour) on the cover. And the single-copy price has to end in $.95. Those are scientifically proven to increase circulation.

Yeah, that business is dead.

You know what isn't dead? Making a great product for an audience who cares and charging money for it.

The guys at Monocle get this. The British magazine blends crosses several different categories, as the site describes: "a global briefing covering international affairs, business, culture and design."

It's well written and well designed. And the content is interesting. But Monocle is much more than that. There are shops in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Hong Kong that sell exclusive products from small home furnishings to bikes and clothing. There are events available only to subscribers.

In other words, there's a complete brand experience.

The best part: a year's subscription is $117 (75 pounds). They're not begging you to pick them up with two issues FREE! They're making a good product and charging real money for it.

That may not be the future of print, but it may be the future of business.

An Open Letter to Marketers: Buy This Company

This TED Talk is from Eric Giler, CEO of a company called WiTricity, which has developed a technology that will power and charge our electronic devices, wirelessly. This is a company that could change the world.

Think about it. Our phones, computers, gadgets, and cars are increasingly complex and powerful. The one thing that holds them back is power. iPhone's battery life is terrible. So is MacBook's. Electric cars may be the future, but they have to be plugged in, which sucks. This limits our mobility, our productivity, and possibly the resulting happiness that comes from things like mobility and productivity.

Where am I going with this?

Imagine if Coke had bought Twitter a couple years back. Its >70 million users would be exposed to Coke branding that many more times than they already are. Think that would be significant for Coke's business? Damn straight. Now think about Facebook, Foursquare, Google, and the other companies that are changing lives and societies on a daily basis. What if instead of spending billions of dollars to advertise on these networks, major consumer brands spent just a fraction of that amount in early-stage investment capital to fund these companies? Guess what:

  1. They'd have a better understanding of consumer behavior
  2. They'd make money, possibly lots and lots of money
  3. They'd earn the goodwill of being positioned as forward-thinking and innovative
  4. They'd have countless opportunities for integration and cross-promotion

Back when I started the Rebel Organization, the premise was that major corporate money should go to investing in culture. The vision was that brands could fund records, create works of art, invest in movies. Instead of waiting for an act to become huge and then spend for a tour sponsorship that nobody cares about, put the money in early to support artist development and have a fan for life in the artist, and that artist will tell all of his fans.

We were somewhat successful in that endeavor, but we've never brought it to the scale it deserves.

Russell Simmons recently called social media "the New Hip Hop." I agree completely, and that idea is reshaping my vision for a future where in addition to (or instead of) investing in culture, brands should also be investing in social technologies.

Heed my word: smart marketers will gain tremendous advantage over their slower competitors. Which one are you?

Dear Audible.com...

So I sign up and give you my money, and then show you more support by following you on Twitter. You respond by sending a seemingly automated message to offer me a free trial, including a free audiobook. The message is very excited, with two exclamation points!

I click the link with anticipation, and am greeted by the following message:

--

I do believe I have reached this message in error. I believe it's a huge error for you to communicate with your audience in this way, setting false expectations and then failing to deliver on them. I'm not quitting you immediately, but this puts a serious crack in my faith in your brand. When a good alternative shows up, and history shows us that it definitely will, you're going to be in danger of losing my business and that of other people who care about how we're treated and valued by the brands we support.

Keep it real, Josh Levine

We the People...

There's so much evidence that in this World 2.0, it's power to the people. It's not just agency websites telling us this. The mainstream news to major universities all say the same thing: WE are in charge. Hell, it's been almost four years since Time named us Person of the Year. But this is so hard for most people. It's the opposite of the paradigm we've all grown up with. So companies, by which I mean people who make things, keep doing what they know how to do: Make whatever they make and tell people about it.

My latest example: This week I've been reviewing online project management systems, all software as a service (SAAS). If that bit of technical jargon made your head hurt, don't fret. Let's just say I was looking at websites of people who wanted to sell me something.

I probably looked at 30 websites. Most offered lengthy, in-depth photo and video tutorials of their systems. One wanted me to watch a 7 minute movie right after watching a 3 minute movie. And there were another 5+ movies I could watch after that. How long did they expect me to spend on their site?

One had video of a guy writing on a whiteboard to explain the features. In real-time, you had to wait for him to put down in chicken-scratch what he had just told you. Are you kidding?

Most did good jobs telling me what they made and how they work, often in excruciating detail. Do I need a tutorial on how to customize the colors before I've even signed up? Do I?

Some offer free trials, which is table stakes in that game. But when time is as precious as money, the free trial really isn't free. Read my previous post on free trials.

And a few don't offer free trials. They make you fill out a form for a demo or more information. What?! Assuming I didn't already hate them, this instantly fixed that. If I like you, I want to do business with you NOW. Got my credit card in my hand, ready to pull the trigger. But not you, you're too good for money, you require me to fill out an application to pay you. Thanks.

Are you ready? Here's what you need to do: Stop telling us how your product works and listen to what We want from you. Learn about us, our needs and wants. Then make it easy for us to get those things from you. You'll get our money, I promise.

Coke is a Grassroots Marketer // Random Thoughts

In a recent Advertising Age article, "Coca-Cola Lays Out Its Vision for the Future," Coke CEO Muhtar Kent talked about how his company has gotten back on track, after saying "There was a period when our company did lose its way," he said. "We were too internally focused and not focused enough on the changes taking place with our consumers and customers. In essence, we were too busy looking at the dashboard and were not sufficiently paying attention to the world outside of our windshield."

Think about it. If the world's largest brand, with all of its resources, can lose track of consumers, can't this happen to your brand as well?

Now think about this. If the world's largest brand, with all of its bureaucracy, can find its way back on track, learn how to leverage technology, and change, "from purely mass marketing to one-on-one marketing," can't your brand do the same?