A few weeks ago NPR’s Talk of the Nation ran a show highlighting that those who survive rounds of layoffs at companies suffer more long-term anxiety and depression and fare worse from a career advancement perspective if finally laid-off late in the game. Really? Going to work every day, collecting a pay check and keeping the creditors at bay is WORSE than unemployment? 

The theory has merit.  

I poked around a little and discovered back in March, Time ran an article espousing the same theory – that staying in an environment of uncertainty for long periods of time is what really causes us to downward spiral. 

Of course, not all of us. 

Somehow entrepreneurs (whack-jobs) and women (be careful) tend to fare better.  Each somehow handles the additional levels of uncertainty in a more graceful manner.  Apparently, women are just grateful to be employed – secure or not.  Sad statement, isn’t it?

So, whether you are one of the currently un- or under-employed or waiting around nervously wondering if ‘You’re Next,’ there is another theory that aligns with one of my life mantras: “It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do about what happens to you that matters.” 

Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, discusses the opposing case studies of winning the lottery and becoming paralyzed.  “It’s better to win the lottery than to break your neck, but not by as much as you’d think” he states in his book The Happiness Hypothesis.  Turns out long-term both sets of people show that whether or not they were millionaires or paraplegics they eventually regressed to their baseline of happiness – once the period of change has ended.

What in the world could I be talking about? 

In the midst of all of this economic turmoil – what is it that we need to glean and be ok with? If you’re one of the luck/unlucky – you pick – to be still employed; relax, be grateful, stop with the guilt and keep it up.  If you’re the other kind……well, the advice isn’t any different, is it?

I am still hoping to cope with the tumultuous crazy changes that come with lottery winning versus the other not-so-pleasant option; but I get that at the end of it all lies – choice. 

Choose some MarketingSmack.  It can be found at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

NOTE ABOUT NPR STORY: I wanted to link to this story for my readers, but for the life of me can’t find it.  Maybe I imagined the story….but I’m using it anyway.

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Loin Cloth Found Inside a Bun

November 11, 2009

The day after my ‘The Emperor’s Naked’ blog I was having breakfast with Paul Domanico from Innovalyst and his first words to me were:  “Blues may come and go – it’s what you’re going to do about it – that’s what I want to know.”  So, I’ve thought about that – I also found myself Googling those words and combinations of those words to see what song he ‘borrowed’ that from. The closest I got was Gregg Allman’s ‘Come and Go Blues’.  Apparently, it’s an original.

Paul wasn’t the only chimer-in-er.  Several people sent back emails or made comments on my post.  From what I can tell, and mind you I am not vouching for its statistical significance, there are many out there who are shivering from exposure.

So, to answer Paul’s question, “What are you going to do about it?”  If we all agree there is a problem and that the current state of affairs is not working – then how do we do it differently?  There’s the personal aspect of the equation – figuring out what we can live without and doing so.  While that may impact the ‘demand’ part, I doubt enough changes can be made to balance the equation.  That ‘supply’ side still needs attention. 

Maybe it’s time to address strategy.  Is your focus too wide or too narrow?  Is there an audience or use for your product or service that you haven’t explored?  Do you need to change your tactics in the short-term? 

I just read a Business Week article ‘The Accidental Hero’ about an obscure Miami Subway franchisee that in response to scarily decreased weekend traffic came up with a $5 Footlong offer.  Stuart Frankel relentlessly pushed his idea to Subway’s corporate leadership, finally got approval, and well, the fact that it became a nationwide, profitable campaign says it all.  It’s not rocket science but the somewhat obvious “more-product-less-price” concept had generated $3.8 billion by the end of August 2009.  You can get crazy and make some fancy pants and shirt to go with your loin cloth for that kinda money.

I would love to hear from you.  Have you been brainstorming your version of the $5 Footlong?  Let me know – but beware it may end up in some MarketingSmack.

Still a little chilly from the nakedness?  Well at least you can fill your tummy with an inexpensive healthy sandwich while you consume MarketingSmack.  Get it at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at www.summitstrategypartners.com.

The Emperor is Naked

November 3, 2009

So, my son is at the age now where the barrage of more difficult, nuance-filled, questions is popping up.  Curiosity of the subtle is beginning to tax my creative capacity to deliver explanations.  It’s innocent enough, a fairy tale – one of Andersen’s most popular about an emperor who unwittingly hires two swindlers to create a new suit of clothes for him.  And, while my son is still too young to truly ‘get’ the full power of the metaphor, he is starting to question and wonder why no one was brave enough to save the duped, exposed emperor.

The recession is over, according to the experts – (i.e. economists).  In a recent Newsweek article, the New York University economist Nouriel Roubini predicts the recovery will feel like a recession at about 1 percent growth over the next few years.  The real sting – where most of us our ‘taking it’ – the unemployment rate, now at 9.8%, continues to rise.  The supposed stimulus period has had little effect on actual job creation and I think that the grand ‘good-news-only’ marketing claims of over one million jobs created or saved are actually going to tick people off.  While clearly high on the Disruptive ConversationTM scale of impact not quite meeting the evidence-based marketing criteria, if you ask me. 

As the Market Builder for Summit, I spend a great deal of time networking and making connections.  I am not exaggerating when I say that a –what I deem to be significant percentage of my network – has at some point in time in the last year to year and a half sent me an email requesting my assistance in their new job search.  Sad to report I have had a couple of those people send out more than one of those types of emails over the course of that same time period. 

Are we, as a collective unconscious, allowing the emperor to run around indecently?  I have orchestrated several networking lunches.  These fabulous opportunities to sit across the table from five other professionals over lunch and in an informal, more intimate setting, get to know one another.  Everyone is looking for the same thing—the addition of a client, a new job, a contracting opportunity—but at the same time smiling optimistically and not acknowledging the cold breeze that pierces through the magical threadless suit.

What are your thoughts? What are you looking for?

Don’t ignore the big elephant in the room pushing that MarketingSmack at you.  Get it at www.marketingsmack.wordpress.com or visit us at  www.summitstrategypartners.com.

Last week one of my clients, upon reading my blog, suggested that maybe I should go ahead and unveil one or two of those ‘smart’ clients to which I alluded.  Disclose what opportunities are being seized.

A quick glimpse into the online rental industry—as of January, the top 49 online rental sites show a “long tail,”— demonstrating the idea that “in a market with high freedom of choice, (i.e. music online), the blockbusters (i.e. Brittany Spears) can be outsold by the many smaller niche products.”  Personally, I imagine Brittany more as a ballbuster, than a blockbuster, but I digress.

The online rental data reveals that 21% of the market share is held by the top site, and that the top three rental sites collectively hold about 48% market share. As the proliferation of smaller sites increases, market share will be whittled away from the leaders.

Enter Hometownrent.com.

Hometownrent.com is an early-stage online listing service for property managers and owners.  Each geography has its own locally-identified url—chapelhillrent.com; burlingtonrent.com; blahblahrent.com; —you get the picture. The company competes with well-established, national players.

Hometownrent.com builds interest in its locations by attracting listings. In many of its markets they own the top search engine rankings, and that boosts the rental search traffic.

Some would say this is a mature market and that it’s useless to compete against behemoths that can outspend them. But Hometownrent.com understands that the present environment favors rental markets and that they are actually competing in a democratic open field that is favorable to stealing market share.

With that in mind, the company has begun a number of well-integrated, cost-effective campaigns to attract property owners and managers with multiple listings. The message is clear and the audience well understood – both key factors for success. It will be fun to watch as Hometownrent.com adds to the long tail of niche market share stealers.

Meanwhile, how are YOU doing—and what are you doing? Give us a MarketingSmack and tell us here – in other words, give us something else to write about.

–Jack

For the last nine months I’ve had in my possession an epi-pen – a just-in-case precaution for a phantom allergy that attacks without warning. I’ve often wondered if I’d have the nerve to actually jam that needle into the side of my thigh. Do I have what it takes?

Turns out, I do. I’m better now. And wiser for the experience.

What in the world does this personal story have to do with a business blog? I found myself, maybe due to the sleep and food deprivation, drawing an analogy. I wondered: “Who is going to make it to the other side of this economic down-turn? Who has the nerve to do what it takes to survive – to jam that needle and plunge.”

The companies and individuals that refuse to run scared are going to survive. More than survive – they’ll flourish.

I recently read an article in Money magazine that imparted this lesson, among other important ones: “If your competitors are in retreat, you can build your market presence.” Summit is grateful to have some pretty smart clients – clients that view this time as opportunistic and have continued to spend wisely to remain in front of their constituents. This is not to say that they haven’t changed the mix— they have, as have a lot of companies, according to a recent Duke Fuqua School of Business study showing marketing growth this year despite the economy.

In some ways, looking like you’re doing well is half the battle. People feel reassured that ‘you’re in it for the long haul’ if they see you as healthy and pursuing business with vigor.

But if you can’t change with the times, if you can’t ride the waves of technology and customer expectations, then no amount of posturing will help and you may well be the next RBW implosion. For RBW, clients reigned in their ad budgets, media outlets insisted on being paid directly, and suddenly, a great agency went “Poof!” owing more than it was worth.

Could RBW have adapted to encompass new areas to spend client money outside traditional advertising? Maybe. We don’t know all of the reasons they failed. But they did. And I can’t help but think it’s because they couldn’t take the shot.

Painful, maybe – but when death is the alternative – jamming seems like an easy choice.

I’d love to hear your stories of bravery. What, if you can share without giving away top secrets, are you doing to stay in the game? Tell us here.