Tall, skinny, extra hot…

… Latte.

aka the surge of modular selling …

Starbucks was one of the first brands to give people the perception of power by letting them’design’ the exact coffee they want. By allowing them to specify size, temperature and the intensity  they gave the perception of making not one but three consecutive decisions to people who otherwise would not have any decision making power in real life….

Empower your customers to design the product they want

End of last year, Motorola announced that they are ‘almost ready’ with a mobile phone (Project Ara), of which the user will be able to choose each component… (and recently the project got Google’s blessing) Choose your camera, keyboard, processing power… The owner will be able to have a Lego-like purchasing experience at a cost of potentially as low as 50$.


The concept of building bespoke was – and still is- twinned in most people’s mind – and in reality too – with the painful consequence of paying a premium price.

Everyone remembers Nike’s failed initiative of allowing people to design their own shoes… It was expensive and at the end of the day it didn’t really add any value for the customer…

Easy and competitive pricing

Starbucks works because the consumer experience is easy, the customer actually creates added value for himself and the price level was accepted as the market standard.

What can we learn from these companies?

  • empower your customers – most people like power or the perception of power… Think about which items about your product or service you could let your customer ‘control’ when it comes to delivery. This has to make sense both for the business and for the customer.
  • in order to do the above, you have to itemise your value proposition (think about your whole offer) and break it into the tiniest organic components  (people used to sell coffee … When J.B., G.B. & Z.S.  started to sell milk type, intensity, temperature, size… mixed with coffee)
  • test with your clients if giving control on certain things would actually deliver them any extra value.
  • develop your products accordingly…itemising your value proposition will have a direct impact on what you will need to prioritise in your product development cycle, bearing in mind that it will also have a  impact on your supply chain.

M&S’ ‘dine in for two’ approaches the same concept but from the opposite angle. They already had itemosed offers (starter, main. desert, drink) based on which they went on and created package offerings but still preserving the idea of ‘empowering the customer’ to construct the ideal food palette for their evening.

Pure product development and standardisation is clearly driving the margin comversations, but whilst 80% of the requirements might be the same, 20% will always be different and when that 20% is the bit that keeps you in business or increases your market share, it will be worth every penny in your innovation strategy because at the end of the day… some people will always just like it hot.

ps- side research… What your taste in coffee reveals about you…


Posted in marketing, strategy | Comments Off

Surprise me! – why review websites are ruining our happiness

Since the massive spur of review based e-commerce websites such as TripAdvisor.. it has become close to impossible to be dumbfounded by the quality of the service we get.

Just pause for a second and think about it…

When was the last time, you were genuinely surprised about a service?

If, the overall quality increases…why would we be less happy?

I think we all agree that for any service provider, it has become increasingly tricky to fool customers about the quality of its service since the birth of review websites. Not only, people would not return to buy at the same place but they would not even consider to try it to start with. This certainly has led to an overall increase in quality.

Happiness = reality – expectations

So, if the overall quality increases, why do I still think that our happiness does not necessarily follow the same pattern? Why do I think (and feel) that at the end of the day, we are actually less happy??!!'Oh, I don't know, man ?? surprise me.'

I truly believe that most people’s happiness can be measured as follows:

Happiness = reality – expectations

In other words, if we set our expectations really high but the reality turns out to be much worse, we are disappointed.  Equally, if our expectations are low and the reality turns out to be something much better, we are likely to feel happy! And because nobody likes being unhappy, what we all do is try and ‘manage our expectations’ and lower our risks as much as possible.

Looking at 4.5/5 ranking on a restaurant will reduce our risk but will also set our expectations very high about the place. You know you are likely to get an excellent service and therefore when you eventually do get an excellent service you feel content and very confident about your internet browsing skills. However, when it comes to happiness, you will get something like:

4.5 (review – expectation) – 4.5 (our experience = reality) = 0 (happiness factor)

You do feel satisfied with your choice, but you don’t have that extra special feeling.

Stumbling upon a hidden gem

Where is that extra special feeling coming from? the feeling of stumbling upon a hidden gem restaurant and be stunned by the quality of the food is incomparable with the feeling of going into a restaurant that got 4.5 stars out of 5 and therefore the only surprise potentially awaiting for is disappointment if you happen to order the ‘starter’ that has fallen into the 5% of below the average rating…otherwise, you will be perfectly content because you got what you expected … But somehow this feeling cannot compete with a truly unexpected feeling of ‘surprise’.

Shuffle, TED and even X-mas presents…

There are many current examples, whereby the element of ‘surprise’ is built into the overall concept.

When your favourite song comes up on your ‘shuffle’ (or on the radio, though it is unlikely these days)…it does put a bigger smile on your face.. even though, you could have just manually picked it from your list at any time.

If you go on ted.com, there is an option to say how much time you have, based on which they will surprise you and propose a video.


It today’s world of ‘nothing should come as a surprise’ especially with the volume of data that is available to us, I still think ‘surprise’ has a currently undervalued role.

For some people, taking the risk of occasional disappointment is still a much better option than living in constant lukewarm happiness. I am certainly one of them.


Posted in crazy idea, marketing, strategy, Uncategorized | Comments Off

In value veritas – the unpleasant truth about value centric project delivery

Most companies buy into the ethos of value based pricing models and propositions as part of their go to market strategy. It is a widely accepted principle to charge for services based on the alleged value the client actually receives in exchange.

But how many of the same companies extend the logic of value based propositions to value centric project delivery?

Value centric delivery

No secret to anybody that the majority of companies expect most of their revenue growth from up and cross selling opportunities into their existing client base. Millions are spent on marketing initiatives promoting a wider product range in order to increase the size of wallet share with their key clients. value delivery

But shouldn’t in a well functioning relationship, the idea of happy clients always come back for more result in a natural increase in ‘up-demand’?!

What is the main blockage?

So.. What is blocking companies to focus on generating ‘up-demand’ rather than promoting ‘up-selling’?

whilst value based proposition is a well accepted concept, value centric project delivery is much less so.

Not many of the companies truly understand what value their clients see during and after their engagement.

How many of the suppliers have a value creation and extraction plan in place? How many of these companies have any process in place to adapt projects to changing clients needs?

Traditional project and client managers, even consultants, they tend to deliver against a scope that was defined at the very beginning of the project. Even with the best intentions, it is often impossible to predict what exact value the client is actually going to get before we even started it. Changing business environments, new technologies and internal politics are stakeholders that often influence (should influence) where the client is going to see the quickest return on investment.

However, there is very little evidence of any agility when it comes to constantly adapting the ‘value creation and extraction process” !

I think the problem is twofold…

Firstly, suppliers are reluctant to adapt project scopes either because it has a bad impact on margins or simply the people in charge of running projects and managing accounts lack the skill set of understanding – not to mention – challenging clients’ needs or taking any risk of creativity. Quite often they excel (and they are hired on that basis) in doing the exact opposite and instead of focusing on scopes, they should focus on the value and ROI.

In addition to , It is also often in companies’ interest to prolongue the value extraction process and charge more money instead.
What is my fundamental problem with that?

In my view, project rigidity, lack of creativity and fixed scope based delivery slows down innovation…if you don’t adapt projects to real ROI, unnecessary circles will be ran resulting in missed opportunities. And if innovation is slowed down, ultimately revenue growth will be slowed down too.

If clients get slower access to real value, they will be more reluctant to spend more money on any other services.
Say bye to up- spelling and embrace up-demand!

so, companies should spend much more time on analysing what exact value they deliver or more importantly could deliver to their clients and generate ‘organic’ up-demand coming from clients rather than spending fortunes on promoting solutions that their clients might or might not see the benefit in.

Because even in difficult economic times, most companies will find budgets for projects that deliver value.

Posted in marketing, strategy, Uncategorized | Comments Off

What Marketers can and should learn from F1 teams

Whilst for some people F1 racing is just cars going around in circles, for F1 fanatics, it is the sum of absolute precision and passion, where small changes make a massive difference.

This year Vettel won the championship with only 3 points ahead of Alonso. 3 points out of 360 distributable throughout the whole season. This is the equivalent of less than 1%.

In a business where, the 1st team gets c$90M and the 2nd team c$84M only in prize money (not to mention sponsorship) every mill seconds count.  (to contextualize it, total team budgets are between $150M and $400M)

But to gain one tenth of a second (just try to measure that on your stop watch!), it costs constructors a lot of investments in R&D budgets.

So how do they do it?

Data plays a critical role.

McLaren understood the importance of data and the potential of developing a BI tool to analyse information. They developed an information gathering and analyzing platform (in layman terms) called ATLAS (Advanced Telemetry Linked Acquisition System) that enabled them to know every single detail about the car and the driver on the circuit. They gather information on stuff like

  • acceleration (G force) in all 3 axis
  • temperature readings (brakes, tyres, engine, transmission, etc.)
  • wheel speed
  • suspension movement
  • hydraulic pressure
  • brake pedal movement
  • accelerator pedal movement
  • steering angle
  • gear position
  • track position

Everything that is in ‘action’ can be measured and therefore ‘exploited’ to optimise behavior.

By combining all these measures, they know exactly when and why a driver loses time at one corner on the track compare to another driver. When you see drivers looking at very long data sheets before they start their laps (essentially during qualifying) they are not looking at anything else but ‘big ‘data’ and intelligence from their behavior.

Similar to standard businesses, F1 teams recognized the importance of gathering information, analyzing data and turning it into meaningful intelligence that drivers can put into practice.

However, unlike a lot of traditional businesses, real innovation happened when instead of asking the question ‘what can I do with this data?’ they asked the question “what type of data would help me make this decision easier?’. Once you can answer that question, you just need to capture it! (Nowadays, they use 130 sensors to capture information. Some of which are auto generated and some of it are sent by the driver himself)

I often here Marketers saying that they do not have data (or not the right data) about their marketing activities. Of course they do but they might not gather it the right way or they might not gather the right information or they might not analyse it, but given that they are in ‘action’ they automatically generate information that can be used to optimise behavior.

If we believe, that one phone call or click-through or tweet can make a difference in our buyers’ decision (I certainly do), then it’s worth just keeping a bit closer eye on some of the World’s finest engineers.

Posted in fun, marketing, strategy | Comments Off

CMO forum – ‘101 comments cloud’

Based on 101 comments on the question:

What’s the biggest problem in marketing right now?

Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Network – #1 Group for CMOs

this is how it looks (removed all the English common words)

cmo forum comment cloud

Posted in marketing, strategy | Comments Off